Editor’s note: This article discusses bullying, suicide and self-harm.

Timothy Henderson was born at Stanton Hospital on Oct. 12, a day after his mother’s birthday.

“He was a gift from right from the beginning,” his father, Ian, told Yellowknifer.

Timothy died at Stanton Hospital on April 26, 2015, from self-inflicted injuries. He was 17.

What happened during Timothy’s short but colourful life that caused his early demise?

He suffered from a mix of poor health, childhood bullying and lack of psychiatric support, said Ian. In other words, he says his son’s death was “totally preventable.”

By his first birthday, Timothy began showing signs of developmental delays. His parents assembled a care team including an audiologist, speech and occupational therapist and a pediatrician.

As he was too young to formally diagnose, “they recommended as much socialization as possible so he had a full schedule from a very early age,” said Ian.

Under his care team’s guidance and support, Timothy made excellent progress academically and socially.

“His peers, teachers. and family were impressed with his passion and dedication to music, drama, and art,” said Ian.

At age 7, Timothy was diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome. He was prescribed Ritalin, which gave him negative side effects.

Timothy’s uniqueness and aptitude made him a target for bullies. But there was little Ian could do.

“There’s no recourse at the school. All (victims) can do is report it. There’s no real consequences as they are all underage,” said Ian.

He noted that “not much had changed” since he was bullied at school.

For a while, Timothy “took it,” said Ian. His peers would call him names and sometimes it would get physical.

Until one day, Timothy asserted himself and told his bullies, in no uncertain terms, to back off.

While not an ideal situation, Ian said, this was the turning point and Timothy’s school life began to improve for a while.

The years of bullying coupled with his illnesses saddled Timothy with self-doubt.

“Unfortunately, he never believed the accolades, praise or credits coming his way and was extremely hard on himself,” said Ian.

In his latter years of high school, Timothy began solidifying friendships and pouring himself into music.

He wrote, recorded and mixed his own music and assembled him own band, not before teaching himself each instrument so he could instruct others.

At 17, Timothy’s life started to unravel — again.

“He no longer qualified for pediatric support,” Ian recalled.

He was accepted into MacEwan University in Edmonton and his high school helped write a report to convey his needs to the post-secondary institution. However, the report was “totally ignored,” Ian said.

In the interim, “school counsellors attempted to fill the chasm he was hurtling down,” he explained.

Despite the pitfalls, Timothy excelled at the beginning of his university program, with one music professor telling him he had the best natural ear that the instructor had ever encountered.

During his second term, Timothy’s mental health — and academic progress — plummeted.

He called help lines and self-admitted as suicidal at a hospital in Edmonton. Yet he was sent back to school, said Ian.

Timothy medically withdrew from classes and came back to his family in Yellowknife with a plan to get help and return to his degree the following year.

“On returning home, he became even more frustrated with the continuing revolving door of locums unqualified and not authorized to prescribe medication,” Ian said. “None offered any solution other than the same entry-level anti-anxiety exercises, so Timothy researched and tested solutions himself.”

He even self-diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, which Ian said was confirmed by a healthcare professional.

His condition had deteriorated to dangerous levels of self-harm, including experimenting with cutting and suffocation, his father says.

Ian found thousands of messages on Timothy’s Facebook account where his son and his son’s peers were counselling each other in the absence of professional guidance.

In April 2015, Timothy checked himself in to the psychiatric ward at Stanton Hospital and two days after he was released for a second time, he died.

The official word from the hospital is that Timothy died as a result of head injuries, but his father says his son was self-harming; restricting his own breathing as a way numb the pain.

Nearly seven years on, the family remains angry at the mental healthcare system and the lack of support. Their hurt is inflamed by the fact that Timothy was doing everything in his power to get better. But ultimately, “He never recovered from some unfortunate social occurrences,” said Ian.

More than 400 people attended Timothy’s celebration of life at the Multiplex.

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