NEW GLASGOW, N.S.
Lori Atta feels like her 10-year-old son is getting lost in the system.
This week Atta expressed her frustrations in a post on social media, telling of her fight to get mental health treatment for her son. She wrote from the IWK, where she was in fear of being sent home.
MY SON NEEDS HELP!! We have been to the hospital 3 times in 7 days with Mental Health Issues. He is a danger to himself....Posted by Lori Atta on Wednesday, June 19, 2019
“He’s been struggling with mental health issues for about two and a half years,” Atta said in a telephone interview from an emergency room at the IWK in Halifax, where she and her son have been frequent visitors over the past few months.
Atta, her son, daughter and her husband Paul Atta were living in the Northwest Territories in 2017 when her son started exhibiting extreme aggressiveness, committing violent outburst towards himself, and had even attempted to physically harm himself. He was also hospitalized for 10 days in Kingston, Ont. in the fall of 2017.
“I haven’t slept in 30 hours,” she said on the afternoon of June 19.
Last year, she and her two children moved back to Nova Scotia (her husband, from whom she is separated, is now living in Ontario). “
“He started to decline again over Christmas (in 2018),” she says. “He’s funny, he’s a smart kid, but he needs help.”
He was admitted to the IWK in March for a health assessment in the psychiatric unit, but was subsequently sent home.
She tried to get him into the Aberdeen Hospital for help, but he was referred back to the IWK from the Aberdeen Hospital, she’s taken her son there three times.
At one point, he was sent home after an assessment from the IWK, and on the way home, she had to call 911 to get assistance, and they had to return to the Halifax hospital.
“In the last three to four weeks, he’s rapidly declined,” she said. She does not want to take him home until he receives some help, until there is a plan in place.
“You can hashtag Bell Let's Talk all you like, but that doesn’t do a damn thing for the kids in crisis.”
None of this is a surprise to Sherry Blinkhorn, a Pictou County mental health advocate who facilitates Family Matters, a support group who is sponsored by the Nova Scotia Mental Health Foundation.
“I hear horror stories every week about issues relating to access to mental health care,” says Blinkhorn, who openly wonders whether the powers-that-be are in denial about the state of mental health in this province.
“People are going to emergency rooms, saying they’re going to commit suicide, and they’re being discharged without a discharge plan. Our system is fractured (and) we are in crisis.”
In an emailed statement, IWK spokesman Nick Cox said all patients who show up at the emergency department are seen and assessed by appropriate health experts, including physicians and/or mental health clinicians.
“Following a clinical assessment, the most appropriate treatment plans are discussed with the patient and family members. Treatment plans are made in collaboration with the local mental health and addictions care providers to support continuity of care.”
Obviously, these conversations are between patients and the professional staff who are involved in the treatment. Specific information about a patient is not discussed in public. The IWK remains, as always, dedicated to working with patients and families to meet their health care needs.”