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Stephenville woman shares story of her dad's suicide in hopes of more help

Sporting their orange shirts, three area women lead a World Suicide Prevention Day Awareness Walk in Stephenville including from left: Joannie Coffin, Audrey Barter and Mary Gibbon that had a total of 90 participants.
Sporting their orange shirts, three area women lead a World Suicide Prevention Day Awareness Walk in Stephenville including from left: Joannie Coffin, Audrey Barter and Mary Gibbon that had a total of 90 participants. - Frank Gale

Sarah Chaffey-Legge believes there has to be more help for people suffering with mental health issues, especially those who are suicidal.

During a reception following a Sunday World Suicide Prevention Day Awareness Walk in Stephenville, she shared a moving story of the loss of her father.

Finding it difficult to talk publicly, she got Tianna Butler, Western Regional Coordinator

Canadian Mental Health Association NL, to speak on her behalf.

Sarah Chaffey-Legge
Sarah Chaffey-Legge

Butler said Chaffey-Legge has amazing strength and has a shining spirit that helps her get through the most difficult days — even when she doesn’t realize it.

“This story is as much about her as it is about the man we’re about to honour and remember — her father Glen Chaffey,” Butler told 90 people in attendance who took part in the walk, three times the amount of the 2017 walk.

Chaffey was born in Stephenville Crossing on May 19, 1949 and grew up much the same as many from the area, married and stayed in his hometown.

Just like in most families there were good times and bad and when Sarah was born, he found joy in being a father.

Butler said when telling her story, Sarah was overwhelmed with emotion.

“She laughed and smiled while telling me about growing up with her dad as there was nothing they didn’t do outdoors — from hunting to making ice rinks in the backyard.”

Reflecting back, she said before lunch she’d call her dad and say she was taking some friends home with her. Despite grumbling, he’d have meals ready for about 10 kids.

When Sarah was asked her favourite story she smiled through tears and said the days leading up to her wedding.

Her dad was so excited as he couldn’t wait to be part of his “baby’s” big day and counting down the days to when she would marry Jamie (Legge).

That joy would be overtaken by grief not much later. In the days leading up to his death, Sarah was by his side going for help, her father also going for help but she said they were turned away.

She was six months pregnant at the time and her dad knew he would soon have a grandson, which he was looking forward to but his illness took hold and overwhelmed him.

Chaffey-Legge said the biggest thing was that there was zero help for him despite him making it known he was having suicidal thoughts.

Despite all that was going on, Chaffey didn’t show outward signs of the battle he was waging. Sarah admitted she was in denial to some degree and didn’t believe he would die so soon.

On July 30, 2016 she was with her dad at 8 p.m. and when she left had a bad feeling and when she returned to his home at 8:30 p.m. he was already gone.

She said it makes her sick to think of how many people have died like this with not enough help.

Chaffey-Legge used to call suicide a selfish act but not anymore, knowing the battle her father went through with his illness, wanting to live but finally succumbing to his illness.

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