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Woman killed in Nanaimo sought to help others struggling with mental health, mother says

Janice Coady’s greatest hope is that her daughter’s death can somehow keep another person alive. The body of her daughter, 27-year-old Amy Watts, was found this month in a wooded ravine in downtown Nanaimo.
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Amy Watts, who was found dead in Nanaimo on June 3, 2021, is being remembered as strong, intelligent and courageous. SUBMITTED

Janice Coady’s greatest hope is that her daughter’s death can somehow keep another person alive.

The body of her daughter, 27-year-old Amy Watts, was found this month in a wooded ravine in downtown Nanaimo. RCMP announced this week that her death is being investigated as a homicide.

“It’s unreal to know and see this type of thing happens to people,” she said. “There are no words for it.”

Coady said her daughter, who struggled with mental-health issues, kept journals for much of her life — and she believes they can help other families in a situation like hers.

“It’s hard to read but it’s something that I want to bring forward in the future, when I’m able to, to help other people to understand what mental health is,” she said. “We talk about but we don’t really understand it.”

Watts grew up in Prince Edward Island in a loving family, won awards for her singing, played soccer and participated in gymnastics, Coady said. Every Saturday night, all of the children would have sleepovers at their grandparents’ house.

Coady has just returned to P.E.I. from a trip to Nanaimo — Watts’s home of seven years — where she spoke at a vigil and retrieved her daughter’s ashes. Coady lived in Nanaimo for a time, as well.

She said she let the people at the vigil know what a special person Watts was. “I told them that I wanted them to know that Amy was such a strong and intelligent and courageous young woman,” she said.

Watts struggled with mental health conditions from a young age, her mother said, and went on to develop addiction issues, as well.

“Amy has been in treatment numerous times over the years because of her health,” Coady said.

She eventually got to a mental-health treatment facility in Nanaimo, recommended by a facility in PEI, that offered outreach services. At the same time, she took a mental-health worker program at Vancouver Island University, where she made the dean’s list.

“She became a very strong advocate for individuals dealing with mental health and addiction and homelessness,” Coady said. “She worked with Nanaimo Youth Services and Good Samaritan House.”

She said she believe Watts got mixed up someone involved with debts in the drug world, and her life began to change.

Coady said she managed to get her daughter back into treatment, but she still wound up on the path that led her death.

“She deserved better than that,” she said. “So does everybody else.”

jbell@timescolonist.com