Remembering Cody Smith

It’s devastating for any parent to lose a child. But it’s absolutely unfathomable to me that my son Cody took his own life. And yet, that’s exactly what he did.

There weren’t any of the signs you might have expected. Cody was a beautiful person who went out of his way to help others. He was pretty active and generally positive. He’d struggled with some anxiety, and was on a waitlist to speak to a crisis centre counselor. But he was still making plans and looking forward to the future, right up until the night he died. It just doesn’t make any sense.

Two days after he died, I received a message saying there was an opening for Cody to come in and speak to that counselor. We’d been waiting for six months. I was so angry. It was too late now. It just wasn’t fair. Maybe if he’d gotten in to speak to someone sooner…maybe he’d still be here.

And that’s why, even though it’s painful, I’m sharing our story with you.

I don’t get a second chance. But I’m willing to do whatever I can to give someone else that second chance. To help other parents avoid this devastation and confusion… this never knowing if there was something more I could have done.

I desperately hope Cody’s story will inspire you to give whatever you can to bring essential Child and Youth Mental Health services to Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre. Our region is the only one in Ontario that doesn’t yet have a Child and Youth Mental Health inpatient program. I can tell you that we desperately need one.

Did you know that suicide is the leading cause of non-accidental death for children aged ten to nineteen? Ten percent of teens contemplate suicide. One out of every five youth experience mental health challenges—that’s as many as 16,000 young people in our area! And yet there’s a huge gap in services to get our kids—and our families—the help they need.

Your special gift today will help Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre bridge the gap and implement vital Child and Youth Mental Health services for kids in North Simcoe-Muskoka.

RVH is currently in the planning stages for a Child and Youth Mental Health Inpatient and Crisis Services program, which will include eight inpatient beds, a day hospital, outpatient services and crisis services. With your help, our children and youth will soon have quicker access to more high-quality mental health services.

It’s possible that your generous support today will help save a youth’s life tomorrow and give hope for recovery.

We thought we did all the right things.

We took Cody to his doctor. She talked to Cody for an hour and a half and said he was fine. We took Cody to a Crisis Centre to talk to someone. They talked to Cody briefly, and then put him on a wait list for counseling. By the time someone came available, it was just a few short days too late.

I learned so much more about Cody after his death. I suppose that’s normal. Teenagers are pretty private creatures. And yet Cody did talk to us about a lot of things. He actually liked to hang out with us, and would often choose to stay home and watch TV with me and his dad  rather than go out with his friends.

I don’t think Cody realized just how loved he was. I think that’s probably the case for many youth.

After his death, so many of Cody’s peers told us stories of how much he meant to them. He would give everyone a hug, listen to how they were doing, help them to see they meant something to someone. I can’t tell you how many kids said some version of the same thing:

 “I changed my life because of Cody. I changed my life because he showed me that I meant something to somebody. He loved me and he would spend hours on the phone talking me down off the wall at night.”

There were at least two kids who came and told us that Cody had literally saved their lives. One girl had tried to drown herself in a lake and Cody came and pulled her out of the water, covered her with his sweater and called 911. He held her in his arms while they waited for the ambulance to come. He visited her every day at the hospital, spent his lunch money on treats for her.

She couldn’t believe he was gone.

Cody got kicked out of camp for helping another boy, a fellow camper. The boy had left the camp property to take his own life. Cody found out and went with him to talk to him and make sure he was ok. He knew he was breaking the rules, but he cared about this boy and knew he had to try and do something.

Cody promised to never tell a soul about that night, and he kept his promise. But after Cody’s death, the boy came and told us that Cody had saved his life. Cody had showed him all the good things about his life… that he was valued and that tomorrow was a new day.

It still baffles me. Why didn’t we know this stuff about our son? He was the kindest, gentlest person. And now he’s gone.

Cody helped so many people, yet he couldn’t help himself.

And that’s why I’m so passionate about getting teens in this region the help they need. We have to get the message across to kids and youth that they matter. That they can ask for help… and that the help will be there when they need it!

Since Cody’s death, I’ve learned so much more about our health care system and the gaps that I didn’t even really know were there. I’ve heard stories of families struggling to find help for their child, but it just doesn’t currently exist in our region. Stories of teens, as young as 16, who have been admitted to the adult mental health units, because there’s just nowhere else for them to go. (And yet it’s better than being sent home with no help at all.) 

I’ve learned that the earlier a mental health issue is diagnosed, the better the chance of receiving effective treatment. Whether a child or youth suffers from depression, schizophrenia, self-injury, eating or mood disorders… or suicidal thoughts… there is hope that they can get better, with the proper treatment.

Will you join with me today? Will you send a special gift to help ensure children and youth with mental illness in our community have access to the full spectrum of care that they need?

Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre has been working for years to put a strong foundation in place to support a Child and Youth Mental Health program. They’re currently working hard on the design, in consultation with local and regional community agencies and with mental health experts across Ontario. Soon it will be time to start renovating space at RVH for this unit. If everything goes according to plan, the new unit should be ready for patients in 2017.

Now is the ideal time to lend your support. Let’s join together. You and I can do something to try and prevent another parent from losing their child... to help families with sick and vulnerable kids get the help they desperately need. I urge you to take a moment and send your special gift to Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre. It could make all the difference in the world.


Yours for a world where no mother loses her child too soon,


Kari Smith
Devastated mother who will always love her son
Cody (Jan 19, 1996 - Feb 17, 2013)

Cody Stephen James Smith
Lovingly remembered always
January 19, 1996 to February 17, 2013