Family calls for change in mental health system after son dies by suicide

“The way I see it is I have zero at 22 Nick and 22 at 27 Nick, and 22 at 27 Nick, he wasn’t doing well,” said Sandra, Nicholas Hill’s mother.

Nicholas was diagnosed with a mental illness and spent three and a half years in the hospital. It has been the subject of a Community Treatment Order, which aims to help monitor patient adherence to treatment while in the community.

“We did everything, everything imaginable for him,” said Sandra Hill in tears.

His family say there was a point in July 2019 when Nicholas’ hope began to wane after he tried to admit himself to 5-North.

“We go into 5-North and we haven’t even gone to the nurse’s office and we come to security and he sort of asks, ‘What are you doing here? Well, I want to come in, and he says that’s not the process you need to get through the emergency and all that. Nick never said anything and you could tell he was a little frustrated, ”Hill said.

Nicholas eventually went through the ER, but his father says he was released 45 minutes later. The incident is the one his father describes as the day they lost their son.

“Here he was asking for help in his own way and they had already sent him away. He was missing at that time and they put him back on the street. When I finally found him on a bench in the hospital grounds, I walked up to him and he looked at me and said the system wouldn’t even help me, ”said Hill.

Through years of struggle and their son’s attempts for help, his parents say they felt their hands were tied because Nicholas was an adult. Incident after incident, they were told that information regarding their son’s treatment or condition could not be shared with them for reasons of confidentiality.

In March, about two months before Nicholas committed suicide, Nicholas attempted suicide and was hospitalized. When her parents asked for more information about what had happened, they were told they could not access it for reasons of confidentiality.

“There is no implication whether you are a parent, a brother, a grandparent. We have no contribution. We have no communication. We don’t have any discussions with these people, and I understand the rights and everything, but we’re trying to help, ”said Doug Hill.

In response, Alberta Health Services said in a statement to CHAT News:

“Due to the rules of confidentiality and patient confidentiality, we are unable to comment on a specific case. However, we are available to discuss any concerns or questions the family may have. “

The Hills believe that if they had had more information about their son’s struggles, they could have supported him better.

“He was talking to me, he was trying to talk to me the best he could. He’s going, ‘Mom, don’t you understand?’ You know, he knew I would try to figure him out. But if I could have been his guardian if I had been able to act on his behalf and be part of his treatment plan, of his care, I think it would have really made a difference, ”said Sandra Hill.

The local Canadian Mental Health Association says there are supports available for parents trying to help their adult children struggling with mental illness.

“We actually have a support group called Caregiver Connection. So it would be great for caregivers who have children or youth or any family member struggling with mental health and addiction issues, ”said Michelle Deminick, educator at the Canadian Mental Health Association.

On March 29, his parents say Nick was fired from 5-North despite his parents pleading that he was not ready. He died almost a month later.

Now, months after their son’s death, the Hills are calling for bigger changes to the mental health system so families can have more feedback and information, even if the patient is an adult.

“I think the system has failed him, I think the system has failed us and I know we’re not alone,” Hill said.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, there are resources available. In case of emergency, dial 9-1-1. The Alberta Mental Health Helpline can be reached at 1-877-3030-2642. Kids Help Phone can be reached at 1-800-668-6868.


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