Liberals must make mental health a priority

March 19, 2018 at 2:01 pm

Community activists launch petition calling for inquiry on hiring practices .

Progressive Conservative leader Karla MacFarlane says she and her Official Opposition colleagues won’t stop fighting for the mental health system Nova Scotians deserve.

Today, MacFarlane, joined by PC Health critic Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin and MLA Alfie MacLeod, welcomed mental health advocates Fran Morrison and Robbie Weatherbee to the House of Assembly. The two women have been tragically impacted by suicide. Morrison’s son Eric died by suicide, as did Weatherbee’s son-in-law, Bryan.

“The pain and guilt that we still feel is indescribable,” says Weatherbee. “Bryan did all the things he was supposed to do. He reached out for help when he was in a suicidal crisis, but they told him to go home. I can’t imagine the despair and desperation he felt. The mental health system failed my family.”

Bryan went to the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow on December 20, 2016 in crisis. They assessed him, kept him overnight, but ultimately told him there was nothing more they could do for him. He was put on a list for group therapy, but he didn’t live long enough to get the help he was crying out for. The letter for his intake for this came the day after he died. That was two months after that first emergency room visit.

Fran Morrison knows all too well about the broken mental health system. Her 21-year-old son was also failed by the system when he was in crisis. Eric died by suicide shortly after seeking help at the Queen Elizabeth Health II Sciences Centre in Halifax in 2010.

“The system has gotten worse, not better, in the years since losing Eric. There is a crisis in Nova Scotia and it’s time to address it,” she says. “How many more families have to go through a tragic and profound loss before someone admits what we’re doing isn’t working.”

MacFarlane says something has to change.

“Tomorrow, the McNeil government will unveil their budget and we expect the government to make the appropriate investments in fixing this broken system so that other families can be spared the heartache and grief Robbie and Fran have shared with us today,” says MacFarlane. “We are calling on Premier Stephen McNeil to take decisive action to make mental health services available to Nova Scotians when and where they need them. It’s time for the McNeil Liberals to show these families they are serious about mental health services.”

In addition to calling for adequate funding, Morrison says the province must be held accountable for the decisions they’re making and their impacts on those in crisis.

Morrison is part of an activist movement on social media called #HowManyNSHA-IWK. This group are, today, starting a petition calling on the provincial government to launch a formal and independent inquiry into the hiring process, for Mental Health & Addictions leadership positions, at the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

The petition reads, “We, the undersigned, support this prayer to the NS House of Assembly and Minister of Health to request a formal independent inquiry into the original hiring process for the position of Senior Director (Provincial) of Mental Health and Addictions at the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA), and all hiring processes of Directors and Senior Directors from the time that the NSHA was created to present day. We ask that the Minister of Health hold accountable the NSHA to place the best interests of the public above all other considerations in such hiring processes.”

Morrison says changes to the delivery of mental health services must start at the top.

“Something isn’t working and it’s time to figure out why,” she says. “The Premier and the Health Minister have a responsibility to fix this broken system. Families like mine and Robbie’s have already paid the ultimate sacrifice, it’s time to be accountable to the people of Nova Scotia.”