No psychiatrist for pregnant, depressed woman twice admitted to Labrador hospital

A young Labrador mom who sought help for what she calls suicidal thoughts says she was twice admitted to hospital and given anti-depressants but never spoke to a psychiatrist.

19-year-old says she was given pills, sent home

Meagan Messier and Mark Fradsham say they are not happy with the mental health care provided by Labrador-Grenfell Health. (CBC)

A young Labrador woman who sought help for suicidal thoughts said she was twice admitted to hospital in December and was given anti-depressants even though she never spoke to a psychiatrist.

Meagan Messier, 19, who was about 31 weeks pregnant, said she had struggled with depression before, and knew that she needed help.

"I was in bed all day and I didn't have motivation to do anything. I wasn't eating anything. It just got really really bad," Messier told CBC.

"I thought, I need to go the hospital. I need to get some help because this is hard on me, this is hard on the baby, this is hard on the family."

The health authority in Labrador, meanwhile, has ordered a review of the case upon hearing Messier's interview with CBC Radio's Labrador Morning

Messier's fiance, Mark Fradsham, 26, said she was being reclusive and had been hiding away in her room. The couple has two other children to care for, and he said chores were piling up.

"She'd been telling me how she felt and I'm not equipped to deal with stuff like that,"  Fradsham told CBC. "I didn't know how to deal with it because I'm not educated."

They sought help at the hospital in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Meagan Messier says she needed psychiatric help, not just pills. (CBC)

"There was a bit of thoughts of suicide as well," said Fradsham.  

"We went up there talked to the doctor at the time. He pretty much admitted her right away. She was on watch... like somebody comes in and sees her every 15 minutes."

Pills, but no psychiatrist

Fradsham said Messier was admitted on a Friday and told she would talk to a psychiatrist via teleconference the next day, but that didn't happen.

Instead, she was discharged the following Monday.

"I was on my way to work and I got a call and this was Meagan. She was very upset on the phone. She was saying, 'they're discharging me, I don't feel ready to leave. I'm upset. I don't think I should leave yet.'"

They said the hospital was for sick people- Meagan Messier

Fradsham said he was told three psychiatrists had been contacted and they did not want to speak to Messier, and had recommended she be released.

"They said the hospital was for sick people," said Messier.

Fradsham said he asked the doctor, "Can you promise that me I won't see her hanging in our bedroom?" 

"And he said, 'that's a choice,'" Messier said, adding that she was "blown away" by the comment.

"People are supposed to be there to help you and they're telling you it's your choice whether you want to end your life. We can't help you."

Messier can't understand how psychiatrists made an assessment without speaking with her.

"They sent me home with a prescription for those pills that they were giving me, plus an anti-depressant," she said, referring to a prescription the local pharmacist wouldn't fill.

"She said, 'We have to talk to your doctor first.' She's like, 'I can't believe he would give you that prescription.'"

Second trip to hospital

Messier said she was barely home when she started having panic attacks.

"She was hyperventilating, that kind of stuff. That's not what scared me, though," said Fradsham.

Mark Fradsham says his fiancee was having panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. (CBC)

"She got calm and she looked at me and she said, 'Would you make sure that my daughter's OK?'... she was having suicidal thoughts and I mean .... she's never said anything like that before."

When they went back to hospital, they saw a different doctor who also cautioned Messier about the pills she had been told to take twice a day. 

"Apparently, they're harmful to the baby, like potential for deformities and they're highly addictive. This is what we found out afterwards," said Fradsham. "[Benzodiazepines] apparently sell on the streets for upwards of $100 a pill."

'I could have used a bit more help'

Fradsham said when Messier was re-admitted, she had someone watching her at all times. She was given more drugs, of a different kind.

"They got me on the right pills this time. I'm still on these pills but they give me a little bit of energy in the day to get up up in the morning," said Messier.

More than two weeks later, she is sleeping better and has more appetite and energy, but she still hasn't seen a psychiatrist, and said the wait list for counselling is very long. 

"Pills aren't the only thing I need, like maybe if I got to see an actual therapist, you know, like someone who can actually help me get back on my feet," she said.

"And I feel like it's something we should be able to do together, both me and him, so he can understand how to help me when I'm not having a good day."

Fradsham said they both want help in dealing with what they fear is a long-term problem.

"It can't just be like, 'Oh well, we don't know what to do so we don't talk about that,'" he said. "So we're just going to send you home and hope for the best."

Review ordered

"I've asked for a complete review of this case," Tony Wakeham, CEO of the Labrador-Grenfell Health Authority, said Tuesday.

"It's very concerning to listen to that interview and to hear some of the things that she experienced and that's not what should happen when someone presents to our facilities." 

The CEO of Labrador-Grenfell Health, Tony Wakeham, has asked for a review of what happened. (CBC)

"People don't come to us with issues when they're feeling well. They come to us when they're not feeling well and we need to be there to support them." 

Wakeham said the Labrador hospital has an arrangement with Eastern Health to provide 24-7 psychiatric care in an emergency, as well as five to seven psychiatrists who work on rotation with Labrador-Grenfell Health.

"It's very important for us to hear that feedback from people who come to our facilities," he said.

"It's not about blame. It's about making sure that at the end of the day we figure out what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how we fix it so it doesn't happen again."

With files from Jacob Barker and Bailey White