Reading an article today on suicide, bullying and media and there was a comment that struck me. The comment was referencing Amanda Todd’s suicide and said simply, in part “she called for help and no one answered” (ref: http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/12/31/year-in-ideas-high-profile-suicides-such-as-amanda-todds-show-there-are-no-simple-answers/ )
This resounds with me so strongly and is something that I have been musing on for some months now. It triggered a thought for me as it relates to Willie’s choice to end his life. In one of his journal entries he states that he is running out of time and patience. This captures so perfectly and painfully the reality of our mental health system that it both torments me and infuriates me.
Willie saw first-hand the realities that even if you are deemed as in need of “immediate” care and assistance, you still wait. I hid from him his family doctors initial reaction of brushing off my visit when I presented Willie’s written cry for help stating very clearly that he was suicidal. I hid that from Willie because, beyond all else, I wanted him to believe that the collective “we” would do anything we could to help him. There was no way I was going to make his first attempt at getting help begin with being blown off by a doctor who felt he was “bluffing”. He had no idea of the rage inside of me when I came home from that visit and lied to him, telling him that the doctor said to call the Child Youth Mental Health Services – never telling him that as well as throwing the name of that agency at me, the doctor had also spent 20 minutes lecturing me on my parenting and life choices that had now resulted in Willie’s “teenage behaviour”. He saw the way the system moved and worked while spending a week in the pediatric ward of our hospital waiting for a transfer to the Adolescent Psychiatric Unit (APU) in Surrey Memorial. During that week he witnessed the frustration of us, his Mom and Dad, as we asked time and again when a Doctor would see him only to be told by the nurses that they didn’t know…maybe today, maybe tomorrow. He saw me storm out of the room for answers from the nurses when he told me that a Doctor had finally seen him and prescribed him Prozac…This Doctor who I had never met or received a phone call or any communication from. That I found out about his visit and treatment plan (medication essentially) via Willie. 2 days of me leaving messages for a Doctor to call me and explain what was going on, was he going to be kept, transferred, sent home?? Finally finding out that he was to be transferred when a nurse broke the rules and let me look at the notes the Doctor put in Willie’s file. He saw my frustration grow and continue throughout his care in the APU and after his release when we tried to navigate the myriad of miscommunication surrounding his “follow-up care” (and I use that term as loosely as the mental health system administers itself).
I now feel the anger when I see the similarities throughout all of these stories of pain and sadness and desperate grasping for help when most needed. What is the common theme? That the help was non-existent, ineffective or so hard to access that it seems insurmountable to achieve.
How are we supposed to tell our children and teens with any conviction that we WILL help them when the evidence supports that we CAN’T get what they need with the system the way it is. Whether it is counselling, schooling support, psychiatric assessment and care, hospitalization or follow up care after release it shouldn’t be as difficult as it is. I question whether the resources are there but just impossible to access or whether the resources simply are missing all together.
I don’t know if Willie would be alive today if his care had been different – no one can judge that. What I do know is that he did not get what he needed and what he should have received in terms of care. I do know that what we were promised and told would be available to us after his release from the hospital never materialized. I do know that for Willie, the system failed and that for many others it has too. I do know that has to change.