A mental health advocate who has shared her own mental health journal with CTV over the years has died by suicide.

Kristin Legault-Donkers of St. Thomas was known for raising awareness on mental health issues and pointed to how the system could be improved.

“She was very kind and passionate about making a difference in mental health,” said Antonette Lane, a family friend.

Those close to her describe her as a young woman who never stopped finding ways to help others.

Her grandmother Joanne Donkers said, “a lot of people came to her for help and she would talk to them for hours. They all turned to Kristin.”

Last Friday, Legault-Donkers died by suicide at the age of 25.

Kristin’s family said Kristin was a gifted student who was working on getting her Masters degree in social work at the university of Windsor. Previously, she had earned a degree in psychology and disability studies from King’s University College, her grandmother said.

“She would’ve been happy to go to school forever. She could whip off a paper in an hour and it was beautiful. She was a very gifted writer and scholar,” said Lane.

Even though she was studying social work, her goal was to eventually become a lawyer.

“Because as a lawyer she felt that she would have more clout to make some changes in policy for mental health because she thought that it was the best way to improve the mental health system. She was very sweet, she was kind, she was thoughtful, said Lane.

Kristin began struggling with depression and Bipolar Disorder after her mother died. She had attempted suicide years after and was taken to the hospital throughout her struggle with her fighting mental health issues.

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“She was in and out of the hospital. There was no help there at all,” her grandmother said.

“The system failed her in the end.”

Despite her challenges, Kristin’s friends say she was an advocate for change.

“When I heard of Kristin’s passing my heart broke because of all these years she’s been crying out, pleading, being an advocate for so many people,” said Saidat Abari-Vandenberg, who met Kristin at the school she attended in St. Thomas.

“Over the years I began to see the beauty of not only Kristin wanting to help others but being able to also be so vulnerable about her own journey.”

In 2016 she wrote and published a series of children’s books focusing on depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and ADHD. She also created mental health coping kits for those who are struggling and in crisis.

She was awarded a grant through Rising Youth, an organization that helps youth develop life skills by giving back to their communities, to help her create the kits. In 2020, Legault-Donkers teamed up with the CMHA Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Center in London. The center distributed the coping kits to those who needed them.

“There is more work to be done and Kristin was one of many people who was crying out for that help,” said Abari-Vandenberg.

People in need of mental health services can contact the following resources:

Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA))

Crisis Centre: walk-ins welcomed 24/7 at 534 Queens Ave in London

Support Line: call 519-601-8055, toll-free 1-844-360-8055 24/7

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519-433-2023 or toll-free at 1-866-933-2023

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