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Alberta Health Services reviews complaint about suicidal 13-year-old receiving no hospital help

Red Deer Advocate - 12/23/2017

Alberta Health Services is reviewing a complaint about a 13-year-old suicidal girl receiving no help from the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

Her father, Graham Barclay, filed an official complaint about his daughter's Dec. 5 experience at the hospital's emergency room, which was previously reported in the Advocate.

The Red Deer man, who also chairs the local board of the Canadian Mental Health Association, spoke out about waiting for five hours with his suicidal daughter only to hear from hospital staff that there was no psychiatrist, social worker or crisis team available.

Barclay recalled being told that they could either go home or wait 12 hours for the psychiatrist to come back on shift. He took his daughter home, then stayed up most of the night, worried that she could harm herself.

A few days after this story ran on the front page of the Advocate, Barclay had to return to the hospital's emergency room with his daughter. This time she was admitted into a bed within three hours of arriving and remained in hospital for 10 days.

He questioned the inconsistency, saying "that's not right" — everybody should be able to get efficient, effective and timely care.

Since the article, Barclay said "many people have reached out to me with similar stories of the mental health system and their frustration at not receiving timely — or any — service."

While encouraged by this outpouring of support, Barclay said it's also "heartbreaking" to know he and his daughter are not alone in this situation. He believes this strongly indicates Central Alberta requires more mental health experts and resources to meet demand.

Barclay released a CMHA board statement that stresses the importance of having "mental health care for all," which means appropriate resources and supports.

Alberta Health Services responded with the statement: "Our goal is to ensure all patients receive the care they need in a timely manner…

"We know that there is an increasing demand for mental health services across the province… the rate of child and youth emergency department visits for mental health complaints increased by 50 per cent between 2007 and 2015. Improving care for these patients is a major priority for Alberta Health Services.

"We fully understand that any wait for treatment can be stressful for patients and families and we empathize with their dedication in advocating for their loved ones."

According to statistics provided by the CMHA, suicide accounts for almost a quarter of all deaths among 15-24 years olds and 16 per cent among those 25-44 years. Mental disorders in youth are the second highest hospital care expenditure in Canada (after injuries), yet only one out of five children who need mental health services receive them.

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