Standing outside Her Majesty’s Prison in St. John’s, Michelle Pike holds an urn with her son’s ashes close in her arms.
“Gregory should have been watched … I would not be here with my son today in this,” Pike said, hugging the urn closer to her chest.
“His little heart would beat, and he would be at home with his family where he belongs.”
Pike and her daughters led a protest outside Her Majesty’s Prison on Saturday morning after her son, Gregory Pike, died by suicide while in jail. He was found unanswered in his cell on September 16 and was rushed to the hospital, where he died three days later.
The family said Gregory was unsupervised and desperately needed help with his addiction and mental health problems, but instead fell victim to a dangerous system.
Opportunity for rehabilitation
Gregory’s sister, Courtney Pike, said her brother was actively seeking rehabilitation services. She said he had written letters asking for someone to help, but his cries went unheard.
Courtney said Gregory violated his bail, which was not to use drugs or alcohol, but he fell back and was sent back to jail. She said that while he was in jail, his family was able to get him into a rehab center, but the court denied him bail.
Gregory Pike took his life two days after being denied bail.
“How many more people [have] to die before they say enough is enough? said Gregory’s sister Courtney Pike and tears streamed down her cheeks.
“These are people who beat hearts. They have families and many shouts go unheard. I know my big brother did and he paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
Joanne Power drove from Gander on Saturday morning to take part in the protest. Power’s son is imprisoned and suffers from similar addiction and mental problems as Gregory did.
She said Gregory’s story and others around the province have made her fear for her son’s life. She said she also demands answers and a promise of more support in the future.
“We know there are flaws behind these walls, but Gregory Pike should never have ended up behind these walls. Gregory Pike was an individual in recovery,” Power said.
The Department of Justice and Public Safety denied several CBC News interview requests after Pike’s death, but the department said in a statement that it is conducting an internal review and cannot discuss details regarding specific inmates of privacy.
“The Ministry of Justice and Public Security takes the responsibility of having inmates in our care very seriously,” the statement said.
“We recognize that mental health and dependence in our institutions is a complex issue, and changes are currently underway to allow Eastern Health to play a greater role in situations requiring medical attention in adult corrections.”
The ward said medical care is provided to inmates through certified physicians, including nurses, doctors and psychiatrists contracted by the ward.
It said that if it is determined that an inmate requires the help of a psychiatrist, an appointment is made and the psychiatrist develops a treatment plan.
The statement also lists a number of addiction programs that it says are offered to inmates and said the department’s detectives receive training in mental health awareness, mental health first aid and are trained in suicide prevention.
But that was not what the Pike family heard from Gregory.
“He called me crying all the time,” Michelle Pike said. “There is no one here to talk to, there is no help, there is no program, there is nothing.”
Courtney Pike said she will not stop talking until a change has been made.
“That place is not for mental health and addiction,” she said, pointing to the 1850-era building.
“I hope this opens the eyes of the people of the province and they realize that these people are equally deserving of medical care and access and something needs to change in that place.”
Mental health resources and where to get help:
Canada’s Suicide Prevention Service
In French: Quebec Association for Suicide Prevention: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)
CHANNAL peer support line
A “hot line” is available across Newfoundland and Labrador seven days a week from 6 p.m. 11 to 23
Local: (709) 753-2560; toll free 1-855-753-2560
App: Always There by Kids Help Phone.
Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a 24-Hour Shelter.
If you are worried, someone you know may be at risk of suicide, you should talk to them about it, says the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. Here are some warning signs:
- Suicidal thoughts.
- Drug abuse.
- Feelings of being trapped.
- Hopelessness and helplessness.
- Mood changes.
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