Grant LaflecheSt. Catharines Standard
Date Published: Friday, May 4, 2012
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David McIntyre’s parents did everything right. They did everything every expert I have ever talked to about mental health and suicide said they should do.
They advocated for him. They reached out. They argued and cajoled. His parents wouldn’t allow their boy to be prematurely released from hospital. They fought Blessed Trinity Catholic Secondary School’s decision to suspend him.
They called mental health services and hotlines. Even 15-year-old David, self-aware enough to know there was something very wrong with him, asked for help.
That’s what we are told, right? Don’t stay silent. Reach out for help. Someone will be there.
But David is gone.
David was plagued by anxiety and thoughts of suicide. Exactly what was wrong was never fully diagnosed, in part because it can be difficult to pin down a mental health diagnosis for someone so young.
What is supposed to happen in these cases is the system connects the patient and his family with the necessary supports and medical help.
However, according to David’s mother, Michelle McIntyre, it took eight months for her son’s case to be addressed by Pathstone Mental Health, the region’s only child and youth mental health organization. In that time, his condition deteriorated.
While his parents frantically tried to find someone, anyone, who could help their son, David took his own life at home in Smithville on April 24.
It is difficult at this stage to know exactly what went wrong with David’s case, in part because neither Pathstone nor the Niagara Catholic District School Board will talk about it publicly. They will only speak in general terms about their processes and programs. All of which are critically important, but tell us nothing about why David apparently didn’t get the help he needed.
The silence only compounds the unnecessary tragedy of his death. Michelle McIntyre has put thoughts of revenge aside for the nobler notion of wanting to improve the system.
But where do we start? Was David on Pathstone’s waiting list for so long because of a shortage of resources? A lack of funding and staff in mental health services has been systemic in Ontario for years, so it would make sense. But we don’t know what happened in David’s case.
Had his school exhausted its options for helping a student coping with mental health issues? Schools are ultimately not mental health care facilities, after all. But we don’t know what happened in David’s case.
There comes a point where our public institutions have to put the fear of embarrassment and criticism aside and embrace transparency if they want the system to improve. It is utterly insufficient to say, as they have, that the matter is private or that talking about it publicly is inappropriate.
A young man’s future was lost. This should be unacceptable to us all.
As it stands, waiting lists are common. Private therapy is sometimes a recourse, but without comprehensive insurance or a fat salary, private counselling is out of reach for many. And, in any case, a therapist won’t likely have the ability to prescribe medications that a psychiatrist does.
It can be said we take mental health issues more seriously now than we have in recent decades. We have Pathstone. Schools have strategies. There are hotlines. More funding, more programs and more awareness are all helping.
But the loss of one David McIntyre shows more needs to be done. Because while he had strength of will to come forward and ask for help, many others suffer in silence. If the system couldn’t help David, what hope have they?
We must do better.
(Please note that CMHO staff does not reply to comments that are posted on news stories.)