More Questions than Answers

There are questions that I know will never be able to be answered…there are other questions however, that I know someone has to be accountable to.

This past week I met with a therapist from the office that provided some of Willie mental health care. During the time of Willie illness and care he was seen by the following:

  • 2 Therapists at with the Child and Youth Mental Health office (the CYMH – a government agency). This was our first stop after our family GP minimalized the suicide intent note and my visit to him asking for help.
  • A psychiatrist in the ER at Royal Columbian Hospital (RCH) for initial assessment
  • A different Psychiatrist at RCH during his week in the Pediatric Unit.
  • A team of therapists at the Adolescent Psychiatric Unit (the APU) at Surrey Memorial Hospital including case nurses, a Psychiatrist, a Social Worker and various counsellors.
  •  2 Therapists with a separate counselling office where he was referred after his release from the APU


I have requested records from all of the above parties and have met with varied results with my requests. Another time I may go into details about the ineffectiveness of the system and the inadequacies that are rampant, about how communication is near impossible in many areas and how that affects care and treatment – but this isn’t the time for that.

In my meeting with the rep from the CYMH this past week I had no expectations. My request for Willie’s records from them has already been denied and my request permanently closed but when they offered me an in-person meeting to discuss my son’s care I thought I may as well.

Going in with no expectations was a good idea as I have learned from past encounters, and I wasn’t disappointed. The therapist I met with is new to the office and knows of my son’s case my notes and emails only. He had with him a summary report of Willie’s file – not his actual file – and started by explaining that he could not give me copies of any records; including the summary he was holding. He also explained that he was not able to even let me see or read the summary he was holding.

I have so many unanswered questions regarding Willie’s care, a couple of these questions very specific to this office that part of me had hoped to get answers to. I left that meeting without answers and with a heaviness as I have to acknowledge that I have questions that simply will never be put to rest. Answers that this rep did his best to dissuade me from seeking further. We spoke, at length, about funding and avenues of information and resources (and the lack of) and how “the system” needs reform and changes. He also danced beautifully around any inference of any party possibly being at fault on any level. He answered most of my direct questions with “I don’t know” or “I don’t have an answer for that”. After an hour it was apparent I was going to leave with nothing more than I arrived with in terms of knowledge.

So the questions remain – as so many will I believe. The biggest question of all now is what do I do now? Do I simply accept that on many levels the ball was dropped, Willie was not treated with the care that he should have been and go on with my life? Do I let it go as I have been counselled to by so many? Do I try to enact change on some vague, pro-active level…being active in mental health reform possibilities but letting Willie’s personal care issues go to rest? Do I try to hold the specific agencies and Doctors accountable – what will be gained by that? Vengeance? Will they think and act differently next time they are presented with a suicidal youth? Will it help the next youth? Or is it just my anger that is driving me to push forward and ask for the records?


It would be easiest, many say, for me to just accept that what is, is… and let go and move on; but is that what’s right?


Sitting with more questions than ever now. And still no answers.


3 thoughts on “More Questions than Answers

  1. I read your latest comments, Dawn, and can feel your disappointment with the response you got from the Ministry rep. What you do with this lack of information and the direction you may take to perhaps right some the wrongs done with Willie’s care and treatment is, of course, totally up to you. I know that you are angry about how he died and that perhaps, if he had been taken care of properly he would be here today. I wish you didn’t have to wrestle with such a difficult decision about what to do or not to do now that you have been told no more information is coming your way concerning Willie’s care and treatment. My heart goes out to you as I can see what this sorrow is doing to you. I know you will make the right decision for yourself. You know how much your family and friends care about you and want only the best for you. As your Mom I can only stand by and love you while you continue to go through this really sad time, Please take care of yourself first and foremost. Your other children need you too. Love you, dear!

  2. Dear Dawn, I don’t think anyone could read what you’ve written without coming in touch, one way or another, with your pain. But for those of us who have not lost a precious child, we can only rely on our own experiences of losing loved ones. Even so, I think that nothing on earth could compare to the pain of losing of a child.

    If you want to pursue obtaining any information from the Ministry you would have to go through the request under the Freedom of Information Act. Having worked within the Child and Youth Mental Health system (office assistant – typing, phones, etc.) I know how difficult it is for anyone to obtain any records, assessments, notes and such. I am suggesting this as I noticed you didn’t mention having gone this route. You would receive a copy of any document in Willie’s file, but some information is blacked out, which is at the discretion of those at the Freedom of Information office. I believe Freedom of Information Request forms can be obtained at any C&YMH office, but that may have changed. I’m sure you could find a place that has these forms.

    Depending on how long Willie saw any psychiatrist, therapist, etc., will establish just how much information you may get. If he didn’t see someone on a regular basis, or at least have an assessment done, there may not be much information they can give you. Usually a copy of a psychiatrist’s assessment is given to the parents and, of course, I don’t know if that happened.

    I send you my love and have you in my prayers, Dawn. I wanted to give you the above info. just in case you want to go that route. But sometimes there just are no answers to the nagging questions we have when bad things happen. I join with your Mom in saying “take care of yourself” – for your own well being and for all those who love you.

    Love, Cheryl
    (Linda’s cousin)

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      Thanks for taking the time to post… I didn’t mention it but I have already gone through the process of trying to obtain Willie’s records from the FOI office. My request was denied and I was advised that my request was being permanently closed. The reason they gave is that they will only release his records if it will be for the betterment of his care or treatment and since he’s dead, that’s an impossible reason. I have filed a follow up and have spoken over the phone with a representative (who confirmed that there was basically no way I was going to be given his records). I have been offered an in-person meeting but no word on if or when that will happen. I have since filed a new request but have not even received a notice that it’s been received etc. I had gone back to the CYMH office directly after that denial from the FOI to see if they could just help me but they have refused as well.
      It is frustrating and right now I am trying to just function and deal with my depression and the grief.

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