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Grieving Surrey parents call for answers on in-school suicide supports

‘Our daughter could have used more information’

WARNING: This story discusses suicide.

More than two months after their daughter’s suicide, Felicity Donovan’s parents continue to search for answers, hoping that along the way, their efforts will help ensure the teen’s death was not in vain.

READ MORE: South Surrey parents honour daughter by shedding light on teen suicide

“I just want to know a proper review will be done and if steps were missed, acknowledge that and take any steps that need to be taken to ensure others are supported and it is taken seriously,” David Donovan told Peace Arch News.

Felicity – who attended Elgin Park Secondary in South Surrey – was taken off life support on Dec. 25, six days after being found non-responsive in her bedroom.

The Donovans have made being open about her story a priority, and want to better understand what happened in the days, weeks and months ahead of her death.

At the school level, the Donovans want a review to look at the support offered to their daughter to determine if any improvements can be made for current and future students.

“Our 16-year-old daughter could have used more information not less,” they said.

David and Felicity’s mom, Laura, have asked Surrey Schools officials for a formal review of policies, procedures and protocols in place for when a student expresses thoughts of suicide. They’ve also connected with officials from Fraser Health Authority’s Short Term Assessment Response (START) program – which provides assessment and short-term services for children and youth who are experiencing mental health and/or substance-use crises.

Felicity began weekly START appointments in late October 2023, but her parents want to know why an alternative wasn’t offered when Felicity’s appointment was cancelled due to the team member’s illness.

The Donovans say they are not looking to blame anyone for what happened to their daughter, who would have turned 17 on Feb. 26. They just want to know what was in place leading up to her death, if anything was missed, and how guidelines and steps can or will be improved.

They’ve also asked what supports are in place for school counsellors dealing with students who are in crisis.

Surrey Schools communications manager Ritinder Matthew – describing the situation as “deeply challenging… for everyone involved” – told PAN that “comprehensive measures” to support the EPS community have been taken in response to Felicity’s death. Those include a review of mental-health support policies and procedures, and prioritizing mental-health awareness and resilience-building for staff, students and families.

“School staff underwent a review of crisis response protocols, emphasizing the importance of immediate reporting if a student is in crisis,” Matthew said in an emailed statement.

“Additionally, we’ve improved accessibility to resources for students and families by updating the school’s counseling department page.”

In general, Matthew said, the school district has comprehensive guidance documents and protocols in place in the event that a student confides to a staff member that they are thinking about suicide.

Staff are trained to handle reports of a student’s suicidal thoughts “sensitively and promptly,” she added, and to connect the student with counsellors and appropriate community supports.

The Donovans hope the BC Coroners Service will make recommendations that lead to improvements.

“Given the right policies, procedures, programs and support in place and followed, Felicity’s death may have been preventable,” David said.

A Coroners Service spokesperson confirmed Feb. 26 that an investigation into Felicity’s death remains open, but would not provide any further details.

READ MORE: Better suicide prevention needed for B.C. youth, group says

Fraser Health said in a statement that they have reviewed Felicity’s care plan and have connected with the family, but couldn’t comment further due to patient confidentiality.

Typically, when a scheduled appointment is missed or cancelled, the team will connect with the client and their family, the spokesperson continued, and “will emphasize that if the client requires immediate medical attention or if there is a significant threat of serious physical harm to themselves or others, they should call 9-1-1 or visit the nearest Emergency Department.”

In a Feb. 26 email to the Ministry of Education and school district, David said that while he and Laura have appreciated the school district’s willingness to listen to their concerns, from what they’ve learned so far, suicide prevention seems neither a provincial or district priority.

They hope that through sharing their experience, and continuing to ask questions, that will change, and that gaps can be addressed and resources put in place.

“We believe that teachers and staff, supported by outside agencies and the district, would love to play a role in keeping their students alive,” David said.

Meanwhile, plans are coming together for an event to honour Felicity.

A Celebration of Life is set for 2 p.m. March 30 at the Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club, at 1284 184 St.

The venue is one that Felicity enjoyed spending time at, her parents said. Felicity’s older sister, Cordelia, will sing a song for her sibling, and the Donovans hope a local Indigenous Elder will speak and perform a ceremony.

If you feel like you are in crisis or are considering suicide, please call the Crisis Centre BC suicide hotline at 1-800-784-2433.

Other resources include: Canada Suicide Prevention Service at Toll free: 1-833-456-4566. You can also text 45645 or visit the online chat service at

Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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