Calgary man's struggles with mental health issues and addictions prompts inquiry after suicide
Parents hope son's story will deter others from taking similar path
James Reader jumped to his death from the seventh story of a parkade at the Foothills Medical Centre on March 5, 2015, after suffering from hallucinations, delusions and paranoia and battling addictions for years.
His parents say they're still overcome with grief from the loss of their 26-year-old son.
"It's heartbreaking, but there are a lot of families going through the same thing," said Bob Reader, James' father.
Reader's death is now the focus of a three-day fatality inquiry. Some of the doctors and Alberta Health Services staff who treated Reader in the months leading up to his death are testifying.
'He went really hard'
Reader's parents say their son was full of energy and always smiling. He played high-level hockey until his mid-teens, when his dad says he noticed his son was starting to show some social anxiety.
And he says, unfortunately, his son went looking for confidence with the wrong crowd.
"By the time he was 17 he was quite involved in the drug thing," Reader said.
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Several attempts at rehab failed, but by then, Reader says the damage was done.
"He had done a lot of damage with psychedelic drugs, like ecstasy, and I mean he went really hard."
Reader says James started experiencing hallucinations, delusions and paranoia.
'This is what we wait for'
When it got bad, the family says they sought help through the justice system by successfully seeking a court order forcing James to get treatment for his mental health issues.
But they say for all those successes, he would eventually fall back to using street drugs. Then, on Dec. 29, 2014, James admitted himself to Foothills hospital.
One of the doctors testifying at the inquiry said this was notably different.
"This is what we wait for, is for the light bulb to go off and to show up asking for help," said Calgary psychiatrist Dr. William White.
"We were delighted."
White says while James wanted help, the problem was he was afraid of taking anti-psychotic medication because of the potential side effects. James needed to get his psychosis under control, before he could be transferred to a secure, residential addictions treatment facility.
Wanted to built trust
White says because it was a voluntary admission, he didn't want to force the medication on James.
"I likened it to trying to get a wild deer to eat out of your hand," White explained.
Instead, the psychiatrist told the inquiry judge and counsel, he wanted to build trust.
"I thought if I dropped the hammer, boom all that would be gone."
Then, about a week before he died James told staff he was suicidal and wanted to be kept under close watch.
But, White says by the next day, James said he was feeling better, so he was once again allowed to leave the hospital unit for short breaks.
'They did everything they could'
Three days later James died by suicide.
The Readers say they don't blame anyone for their son's death.
"I think they did everything they could do, he was a difficult patient to treat," Cindy Reader said.
"James had tried to commit suicide several times before this, perhaps it was inevitable. I hope not, I hoped not," she adds.
The couple just hopes this inquiry will be able to help prevent similar deaths.