Youth mental health services lacking, says Abbotsford mom

Worried about at-risk kids being released too soon from hospital

  • Sep. 25, 2015 9:00 a.m.

An Abbotsford mom is worried about kids with mental health issues being released from hospital even though they are at risk to themselves.

by Monique Tamminga, Black Press

Fraser Health Authority CEO Michael Marchbank said hospitals across the region are seeing a significant increase in the number of youth in need of psychiatric services.

It’s an area of health care that needs to be examined, he said, speaking at the Fraser Health board meeting in Langley on Wednesday.

Marchbank was responding to the comments of one mother who expressed her frustration with the lack of psychiatric services available – services  she says her daughter desperately needs but isn’t getting.

The board meeting, held at Cascades Casino Hotel and Convention Centre, was open to the public and included a question period.

Abbotsford mom Jackie Gettings asked why teens with psychiatric problems, including her daughter, are not being helped and are instead being released even though they are often a risk to themselves.

The BC Coroners Service previously announced it is planning an inquest into the suicides of three people – Brian Geisheimer, 30; Sebastien Abdi, 19; and Sarah Charles, 41 – who took their lives after being released from Abbotsford Regional Hospital.

That inquest is scheduled to begin May 16 in Burnaby.

The system is failing kids across the region, said Gettings to the board.

“The second time my daughter was admitted, I begged your doctors to keep my daughter, even for three days, to stabilize her,” she said.

“I told the doctors, it is on them for what happens to my daughter if they release her, and they still did. Within one week she was missing.

“I want some accountability. Your criteria to keep my daughter needs to change.”

Last week, Abbotsford Police put out an alert after Gettings’ daughter went missing while she was under serious mental distress. She was located in Surrey.

Gettings said her daughter had been admitted to Abbotsford Regional Hospital twice within a three-week period following two suicide attempts. Despite her mother’s pleas to commit her under the Mental Health Act, doctors released the teen.

Parents across B.C. have been calling on health authorities to do more for youth struggling with suicidal thoughts and mental health issues, including psychotic episodes.

“It’s great there are seven beds in Surrey, but what about Abbotsford, what about Langley and all the other communities?” she asked.

Gettings said no one followed up with her after her daughter’s second suicide attempt.

It’s rare for anyone to be committed under the Mental Health Act, said one doctor, speaking from the audience on Wednesday.

He said there are strict criteria when it comes to committing someone against their will.

“It requires two physicians to certify someone against their will. With teens, we frequently discharge them and try to connect them to programs like Youth In Crisis.”

However, Gettings noted such programs are voluntary, meaning her daughter cannot be forced to take part.

“This is an area we need to look into. No one is disputing this is an issue,” Marchbank responded.

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