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Jocelyn Stewart's parents remember their daughter by helping others who struggle with suicidal thoughts

Brenda Martin-Hurlburt (left) holds a picture of Jocelyn Stewart and her dog, Amani, while Jocelyn’s parents, Sharon and Peter Stewart, look on in Yarmouth following the official launch of the Jocelyn Stewart Foundation.
Brenda Martin-Hurlburt (left) holds a picture of Jocelyn Stewart and her dog, Amani, while Jocelyn’s parents, Sharon and Peter Stewart, look on in Yarmouth following the official launch of the Jocelyn Stewart Foundation. - Eric Bourque
YARMOUTH, N.S. —

A year after losing their daughter Jocelyn, Yarmouth County residents Peter and Sharon Stewart hope a local initiative will give people struggling with suicidal ideation the help they need.

The idea is to establish a residential support home in the Yarmouth area where people can feel safe, gain understanding of their situation, develop coping skills and basically get support in rebuilding their life.

“If we help one, it’s all worth it,” said Peter, “but we’re aiming for a lot more than one.”

The proposal came from Brenda Martin-Hurlburt, who had met Sharon Stewart through the latter’s employment. After hearing of Jocelyn’s death, Martin-Hurlburt approached Sharon, asking if they could meet.

“I wanted to do something to help this family heal and I also wanted to do something to help other people heal,” Martin-Hurlburt said. “That was my motivation and they were very much on board with it.”

On Friday, Aug. 23, the one-year anniversary of Jocelyn’s death, an official launch was held for the Jocelyn Stewart Foundation.

“We want to be able to help other people who are in the same situation Jocelyn was in,” Peter said.

Ideally, Martin-Hurlburt said they would like, in 2020, to have a place set up in the Yarmouth area where people can go for help.

“One year from today,” Martin-Hurlburt said, “we’re hoping for a grand opening ... That’s the goal. If we can, we can, and if we can’t, we’ll take another year and to it, but either way it’s going to happen.”

 Jocelyn Stewart had turned 18 just two-and-a-half weeks before her death in the summer of 2018. She was the third of four children. She had a wonderful smile and loved animals, especially dogs.

“Jocelyn loved life,” Peter said. “She was such a friendly girl, so full of life, when her depression and anxiety weren’t kicking in.”

Jocelyn knew she needed help, but her father says she wasn’t able to get what she required in the Yarmouth area.

“She kept asking us to take her somewhere where she would be safe,” Peter said. “In fact, the way she would word it is ‘lock me up so I don’t hurt myself.’ She knew she needed help. She wanted help. She didn’t want her life to end this way ... She was a wonderful girl and I miss her so much."

Jocelyn got some support in the valley, Martin-Hurlburt said, and she’s sure those who worked with Jocelyn did the best they could.

Having experienced loss in her own life, Martin-Hurlburt said the Jocelyn Stewart Foundation is very dear to her heart. Of Jocelyn’s parents, she said, “They are probably the most wonderful, giving people I’ve ever met.”

Martin-Hurlburt is the founder/president of the Tri-County Mental Health and Wellness Association, which has a location on Water Street, where the launch for the Jocelyn Stewart Foundation was held.

She acknowledges, as the Stewarts do, that it will take much effort to achieve their goal of having a place in the Yarmouth area where people can get the help and support they need.

“We just need to do something,” Peter said. “Creating awareness is great, but that only goes so far.”

Yes, it’s an ambitious project, he said, “but it’s got to be done.”

Mission statement of the Jocelyn Stewart Foundation:

“Our mission is to promote optimal mental health in a caring, non-judgmental, home-like atmosphere through therapy, education, and support for individuals with mental disorders who feel at risk of suicide.” To access the foundation's website, click here

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