Over the past two months, Ibn Gil Joseph hospital room has almost become a second home.
He’s in the trauma ward on the Civic Campus at Ottawa Hospital (TOH) recovering from broken bones in his legs, arms and face, as well as damaged internal organs. Nearly eight weeks ago, the 30-year-old attempted suicide by jumping off the Alexandra Bridge.
Joseph said it remains unclear if her son will ever walk again or if his brain will ever fully recover from the trauma caused by the fall. CBC does not name Joseph’s son because he is unable to provide his consent.
In the week before this attempt, her son had gone to the emergency room several times to get mental health support, in addition to nearly a dozen previous trips to various hospitals over the past year, police officers told Joseph. She had no idea.
“I’m really angry,” she said. “I’m sad, but I’m mostly angry.”
Mental health care is underfunded and under-resourced
Joseph says she continues to search for answers as to why her son was released each time.
“I still don’t know both sides of that story,” Joseph said. “Did he want to be there? Didn’t he want to be there?”
“If you look at 13 visits of him asking for help, even if he didn’t want to help on those three visits that week, someone should have done something.”
She praises the hospital staff who have taken care of her son since his fall, but Joseph believes the hospital eventually let him down. It points to the pressures on the health care system and the lack of mental health resources available in hospitals.
“There’s no need for this if we have doctors, if we have psychiatrists, if we have psychiatrists, anyone who can follow anyone for longer than four or five visits, sometimes six,” she said.
According to statistics from the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, mental illness accounts for about 10 percent of the disease burden in Ontario, but receives only 7 percent of health care funding.
The center says it is common to encounter waiting periods of six months to one year in Ontario and concludes that mental health care in the province is underfunded by about $1.5 billion.
In a statement, the Ontario Department of Health indicated its website roadmap to wellness, a plan focused on managing the mental health system and services in Ontario. The plan promises $3.8 billion over 10 years for a system of mental health and addiction services across the county “that addresses long-term gaps in the continuing care chain.”
Millions were also invested in support in Ottawa, the report said, but it did not say exactly what additional resources, if any, were being allocated to hospitals.
The hospital says treatment depends on the need
A spokesperson for the Ottawa hospital said the hospital could not comment on specific cases, and did not provide any statistics on mental health visits to the emergency department.
The hospital issued a statement explaining that not everyone who suffers from a psychological crisis is admitted to the hospital. He said that when someone in crisis arrives at the emergency room, he discusses with care teams how they are feeling.
The teams are “trying to identify the next steps that would be most beneficial to reduce their risks,” the statement said.
“Treatment always depends on each person’s unique needs.”
The statement added that the hospital has mechanisms in place to regularly review patient care “to ensure we are always learning and providing the best possible care.”
The hospital said the need for additional resources for psychological, psychiatric and addiction services was highlighted throughout the pandemic, but it was still pleased to see some much-needed investments made in this area.
Joseph believes that the resources available now are not enough. She said the hospital should have done more to help her son with visits leading up to his last suicide attempt.
She submitted a letter to the hospital’s CEO, Cameron Love, detailing the issues with the care her son received and requesting a transfer to another hospital. She also said she plans to take legal action against the hospital.
Yusef’s letter reads, “My son deserves the same care that you would give your child.”
“There is no way for your child to fall through the cracks, as happened to my child at the Civil Hospital.”
If you’re in a crisis or know someone, here’s where to get help:
- Ottawa Mental Health Crisis Line: 613-722-6914
- Canadian Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 | 45645 (Text, 4-12 PM ET)
- In Quebec (French): Quebec Association for Suicide Prevention: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)
- Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (phone), live chat counseling at www.kidshelpphone.ca