‘Give them a chance’: A son’s struggle with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
21-year-old Mark Lynn went missing on Aug. 24, near Dettah, N.W.T. He was confirmed dead earlier this month
The father of a man who went missing in Dettah, N.W.T., last month is sharing the story of his son’s turbulent past in hopes of reminding people that everyone deserves a second chance.
21-year-old Mark Lynn went missing on Aug. 24. Earlier this month, after two weeks of searching, human remains found near the community were confirmed by the RCMP to be Lynn’s.
The cause of death has not been determined.
The beginning of the downfall’
“[Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder] was certainly a difficulty for him,” said Mark’s father, Jim Lynn.
According to Jim, the symptoms associated with the disorder wreaked havoc on Mark’s life from an early age.
Struggling with behavior and basic decision making, Mark started getting into trouble with teachers and other authoritative figures.
“A lot of those things he seemed to do at school… he didn’t share… at home,” said Jim.
That’s why it “kind of came as a shock,” when Mark’s teachers began calling
According to Jim, those phone calls were the beginning of a long struggle with the education system.
By the time Mark was 11, he had been expelled from Yellowknife’s Weledeh Catholic School and from Kaw Tay Whee School in Dettah.
Jim says Mark was then prohibited from attending any public or Catholic schools in Yellowknife.
“That was the beginning of the downfall for my son really,” said Jim remorsefully.
“The kids [are] saying ‘you’re so dumb, you’re so stupid, you’re so bad. No school will even accept you, no school will even take you.'”
Jim said he pleaded with the Catholic school board to readmit his son. According to Jim, the board agreed to let Mark back on the condition that he seek treatment to address his behavior.
But the struggles continued, and Mark’s attendance was sporadic until Grade 9, when he dropped out for good.
CBC contacted both the Yellowknife Education District No.1 and the Yellowknife Catholic school boards. Neither board could not deny nor confirm Mark Lynn’s school history due to confidentiality.
Love hockey, biking, ‘anything with sports’
Jim said the family spent the years that followed trying to get Mark into counselling, but he remained closed off, and on many occasions refused to talk.
Meanwhile, Jim tried to encourage his son to eke out whatever enjoyment and happiness he could.
“He loved his hockey. He loved to go biking actually… he loved to ski board… anything with sports, anything with outdoors, he certainly enjoyed.”
But Mark’s disorder, combined with the alcohol that made its way into his life at age 13, brought his behavioural problems to a whole new level, and Jim reached a breaking point last spring.
Mark had returned home after a night of drinking and became enraged — verbally and physically lashing out.
“I reached the end and thought that, you know, one way or another… he’s got to learn that’s… not acceptable. So the police were called and a restraining order was put on him.”
Jim said Mark left home immediately, and spent the next few months living on the streets.
Finally happy, but it didn’t last long
In a last-ditch effort to help, Jim rented his son a place to live, but the landlord refused to renew the lease, and Mark went to live with relatives.
The stability of living with family started to show, and Jim said his son started to turn his life around.
Mark stopped smoking marijuana and landed a job at one of the diamond mines.
Jim said his son was finally “happy,” but it didn’t last for long. Shortly after beginning work, Mark’s employer learned he had criminal charges pending, and he was told not to return until they were settled.
“That just tore him apart… and to my mind it was a fatal, fatal thing.”
Jim said his son returned to his old lifestyle of doing drugs, drinking, and dealing — and he often wonders what would have happened if his son had been met with a more compassionate and understanding response.
“You give them a chance. You not only give them a chance when they’re… innocent but even after they’re found guilty.”
Disclaimer: The views and opinions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Edmonton and Area Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Network.