Jason Parreno had been dating Stefanie Van Nguyen for nine years.
His social media feed told a story of a couple in love until Saturday when Parreno posted a photo of Van Nguyen with her beloved dog and wrote in the past tense.
“Today was supposed to be our ninth anniversary. You were so special, so precious to kind,” he said, explaining that Van Nguyen is no longer here with us anymore.
“I wish I could have done more. I wish I could’ve picked apart your brain and figure out what’s wrong.”
Two days earlier, 25-year-old Van Nguyen died by suicide.
Her death sparked sadness and concern by those who knew her. A frontline health-care worker who had been working steadily through the pandemic, apparently few knew about her depression.
Humber River Hospital, where Van Nguyen had worked since August, put out a statement with respect to her unexpected passing.
“Although Stefanie was a Humber colleague for a short period of time, she embodied the values of our hospital in every interaction she had with colleagues. She left an indelible impression on everyone she met,” the statement said.
Parreno started a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign after Van Nguyen’s death to help with funeral expenses and her parents.
“If you know someone dealing with depression or even just feeling sad, overwhelmed and stressed, please talk to someone, call your loves ones or seek professional help.”
Doris Grinspun, the CEO of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, said the death of Van Nguyen is devastating and highlights the need of more mental health support for frontline workers.
“I just want, and the family wants, and there will come a time where they will speak, for the sake of honoring Stef, let’s check with one another, say to one another, ‘How are you doing,’ even if the person looks strong,” she said.
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“Love one another, be kind to one another, don’t blame one another. And then for the province, put the supports that are needed and clamp down on this virus. And to Ontarians, please stay home if you don’t need to go out.”
Grinspun said if intensive care units in hospitals are full, nurses and doctors are the ones who bear the brunt of the work and many are burning out.
Dr. Naheed Dosani, a palliative care physician and health-care advocate, echoed Grinspun and said hearing about another loss in our health-care community speaks to the fact many workers are overstretched, working overtime and double shifts without enough mental health supports.
“At the same time, mental wellness and health and well-being are often put to the wayside,” he said.
“It’s a tragic scenario that causes everybody to stop and think, are we really processing what we’re experiencing? What are the long-term effects of what we’re seeing on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis?”
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
For a directory of support services in your area, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.
Learn more about how to help someone in crisis here.
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