Trafalgar School for Girls recently launched the Jacqueline Angus Healthy Minds and Well-Being Programme, funded by The Honourable W. David Angus in memory of his daughter, Jacqueline Angus, class of 1983. During our conversation, David explained that the objective of this initiative is to, among other things, provide the resources for girls attending Trafalgar to have someone to talk to or someone to listen when they are feeling stressed or in need of counseling.

Jacqueline Angus

Jacquie battled mental illness all of her too-short life,
trying her best to be ‘normal’

At the ceremony to announce the Programme’s inauguration, David stated; “Jacquie battled mental illness all of her life – she never gave up. As a student here at Trafalgar, she spent some of her most happy and productive days trying to meet the challenges of living, learning and enjoying activities and life’s opportunities in the same way as her fellow students.”

During an initial meeting with Head of School Katherine Nikidis, David noted that “Jacquie loved Trafalgar because she felt that the teachers and others in the school population were her friends and understood her illness.” That said, it was also evident to the Angus family that some of her fellow students had difficulty when they tried their best to understand Jacquie’s challenges. “It’s now well-documented that teenage girls face tremendous pressures from their peer groups on social media, and that was exacerbated during periods of isolation brought on by the pandemic.”

David’s endowment will lead to the introduction of personnel and a physical space within Trafalgar where students could come and have a resource person who could help them address academic, emotional and other issues specific to teenage girls, all the while stressing the importance of developing and sustaining healthy minds and well-being in the education process.

“My principal goal is to help Trafalgar be at the forefront of sustaining
emotional stability and well-being amongst its students
The Honourable W. David Angus

The Programme is student-centered and includes the participation of teachers, a paraprofessional, support staff and external partners; including medical care, therapists and community organizations. The aim of the programme is to play a proactive and preventative role.

The Programme’s foundation is built upon an inextricable partnership between academic and social-emotional support that leads to overall success and individual flourishing.

During David’s address at Trafalgar he commented; “Last February, the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) in the U.S. announced that our adolescent girls are experiencing increased feelings of persistent sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, despair and too often – even worse. The presence of such feelings amongst adolescents has been on the rise in Canada as well.”

David Angus and his family experienced an emotionally trying time, living with and accommodating Jacquie’s mental illness.

Some of Jacquie’s happiest times were as a Trafalgar student

Some of Jacquie’s happiest times were as a Trafalgar student

David was a young and increasingly successful Montreal attorney when in 1965 he and his then wife Margot welcomed Jacqueline into the world as their first child. “She seemed to be perfect in every way, with a happy spirit and a sharp mind. At just a year old, Jacquie contracted epilepsy and was put on anticonvulsant medication. During the ensuing years, her personality changed materially and she was eventually, as a young teenager, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.”

The fact that mental illness affects many more people than the afflicted person was true in the Angus family. David recounts that as a high-profile lawyer, he would have to drop everything when he got a call from the Montreal General Hospital to say that Jacquie was in the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit. David’s experiences with his daughter at ‘The General’ would lead him to become more involved, just as he has become more involved with Trafalgar.

“When we first arrived at the psychiatric unit on the 4th Floor at The General, we were appalled by the physical set-up and the lack of services. I became more involved with the Montreal General Hospital and ultimately became Chairman of the merged entity now known as the McGill University Health Centre. Our family donated $1 Million to the MGH Foundation to refurbish the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit at the Montreal General Hospital. I have also supported MUHC research into severe mental illness on an annual basis. As well, we helped to finance, in Jacqueline’s name, an emergency room at the MGH dedicated uniquely to psychiatric patients.”

“Jacquie was an excellent student at Trafalgar. She studied hard and did well. You see, she wanted so badly to be ‘normal’ and she tried so very hard to be normal. But sadly – her brain wouldn’t let her. She had a serious psychotic episode when she was writing her final high school leaving exams, was hospitalized and was unable to matriculate. But that didn’t stop her… she went on to be a valued and popular volunteer at the Montreal General Hospital Auxiliary’s Hospitality Corner.” She undertook and worked hard at an interesting variety of part-time jobs and enrolled in self-improvement courses and fitness programs.

“Because Jacquie never gave up, I could never give up on our little girl. She astonished me when at age 40 she told me that she wanted to get her driver’s license and have a car of her own. After we consulted with her doctors, she passed all the necessary tests, obtained her license and eventually her own car, which she drove well. Additionally, she was able to maintain her own apartment and live on her own in NDG.”

“She was getting ready to move to a new upper duplex at the corner of Royal and Monkland in July of 2013 and I was helping her to prepare for the move. We had a busy day together, including buying boxes for her belongings. I was booked on a flight to London that night on a trip to visit my son and his family in London and to take in the British Open in Scotland. I said to her that while I was away, her job was to prepare for the move and pack up those boxes. As I was leaving, she said; ‘Thank you Dad – that was a great day.’

“I flew to London and was staying with my son Gregor and his family. Gregor woke me up in the middle of the night… ‘Dad, Jacquie’s dead’. Back in Montreal, her mother Margot had been unable to contact Jacquie and had asked for a police wellness check. Jacquie had apparently suffered a major seizure and died of natural causes at age 47.”

The experiences of David Angus, his family and his late daughter Jacqueline are a haunting story of love, dedication and perseverance. Because he had the financial means, it’s also David’s story about his willingness to finance research and programmes related to mental health and well-being in the hope that other families can have a better outcome than the Angus family. David closed his address at Trafalgar with this: “The reality is that we must talk much more often and openly about mental illness, its existence, its causes and its effects. At Trafalgar, I am now very happy that our girls will have access to discrete, confidential advice and counseling for any emotional or academic issue they are facing, no matter how large or small, plus continuous exposure to surroundings conducive to healthy minds and positive well-being.”

The Jacqueline Angus Healthy Minds and Well-Being Programme at Trafalgar School for Girls is a giant step in putting good intentions supported by leading-edge research into a reality at one of Canada’s leading school for girls.

For more information about Trafalgar School for Girls and the Jacqueline Angus Healthy Minds and Well-Being Programme, please visit:

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