Mental health funding needed to prevent more deaths, say suicide survivors

On the eve of the provincial budget, two Nova Scotia women who lost family members to suicide are pleading for more help for those suffering mental illness.

Woman's son-in-law died the day before a letter arrived with an intake appointment for group therapy

Interim PC Leader Karla MacFarlane, left, is shown with Fran Morrison, centre, and Robbie Weatherbee at the Nova Scotia legislature in Halifax on Monday, where they were asking for more funding for mental health care. (CBC)

On the eve of the provincial budget, two Nova Scotia women who lost family members to suicide are pleading for more help for those suffering mental illness.

Robbie Weatherbee's son-in-law, Bryan Shellito, was 40 when her husband found him dead in January 2017. 

"Bryan did not want to die … He wanted the pain to go away," she said.

Weatherbee said her son-in-law's death came just days after he visited the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow, N.S., on Dec. 21, 2016. "He was suicidal and in crisis," she said.

Robbie Weatherbee's son-in-law, Bryan Shellito, was 40 years old when he died waiting for a group therapy appointment. (Submitted by Robbie Weatherbee)

Shellito was kept overnight and ultimately put on a waiting list for group therapy. He died the day before the letter arrived, advising him of an intake appointment for group therapy.

"Can you imagine how he must have felt after reaching out in such despair and being sent away?" she said.

Weatherbee was speaking at a news conference Monday alongside interim Progressive Conservative Leader Karla MacFarlane, as the opposition party called on the Liberal government to increase mental health funding in Tuesday's provincial budget. 

Another mental health advocate, Fran Morrison said her son Eric was 21 when he took his own life seven years ago. 

Morrison said Eric had visited the Dartmouth General, where a doctor marked his chart as urgent. He never got to see a psychiatrist before his death.

Fran Morrison's son, Eric, was 21 when he died. (Submitted by Fran Morrison)

Morrison and Weatherbee have also taken their fight for more resources to social media. They've created a Facebook petition, calling for an inquiry into the hiring practices at the Nova Scotia Health Authority. 

But they said lawyers for the NSHA issued a cease-and-desist letter to the administrators of the Facebook group on March 4, after they posted the names of staff members with the health authority.

MacFarlane said the province needs a solid plan for improving its health-care system, along with budgetary commitments "to make the appropriate investments in fixing this broken system."