Mental health system 'in total crisis,' critic warns

More young people will end up taking their lives if more money isn't pumped into the mental health care system, NDP critic says.

More young people will take their lives if more money isn't pumped into front-line services: Sattler

The entrance to Victoria Hospital at the London Health Sciences Centre. A lawsuit has been launched against the hospital by the family of a young woman who killed herself in 2015. (Dave Chidley/CBC)

More young people will end up taking their lives if more money isn't pumped into the mental health care system, a NDP critic says. 

London West MPP Peggy Sattler believes the gaps in treatment for mental health, particularly for young people, have only gotten worse in the last two years. 

"Particularly for young people who are in crisis and are seeking help. The system is in total crisis," Sattler said. 

Her comments come on the heels of a lawsuit launched by the family of Jenepher Watt against the London Health Sciences Centre and the doctors and nurses in charge of treating her. 

The lawsuit alleges Watt didn't get the care she needed, that procedures weren't followed and that the hospital didn't ensure that Watt got proper follow-up care. 
The family of Jenepher Watt, a young woman who struggled with mental illness, is suing the London Health Sciences Centre and the doctors and nurses involved in her care. (Facebook)

In the 11 days before taking her own life she was rushed to hospital three times and discharged each time.

"We're going to see more stories of young people like Jenepher, who have no recourse in the community, who take their own lives," Sattler said. 

"There are so few places that young people can be discharged to, in some cases youth are being kept in hospital for months until there is a placement." 

Young people end up in jail or at the emergency room

"The community-based supports, that is key. If we can link young people up with the community-based support they need, we can prevent the crisis we have that makes them end up in the ER," Sattler said.

But there have been negligible investments in front-line mental health care funding in the past 25 years, she said. 

Across the province in the past decade, visits to the ER by young people seeking help for a mental health crisis have climbed 63 per cent, according to Sattler. 

There has also been a 67 per cent increase in hospitalizations for mental health problems for children and youth in that time. 

"The system is in chaos, just because of this chronic, chronic underfunding." 

PC Health Critic Jeff Yurek is also sounding the alarm, saying treatment for mental health in the London region is rationed and inadequate. 

"This government has invested money in growing the bureaucracy of this system. We need to see redeployment of money back into the system," Yurek said. 

"Having the community supports in place to shore up the hospital system is what's needed. People are forced to go to the hospital, forced to wait." 

Province says it is 'expanding effective mental health services'

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins sent a statement to the CBC on Friday.

"I extend my deepest sympathies to Jenepher's family for the tragic, painful loss they've had to face. Every Ontarian deserves access to mental health services to support them in living fulfilled and healthy lives.

"Ontario is striving to transform our mental health and addictions system to ensure that every person in Ontario will have access to high quality care that is accessible and equitable," Hoskins' statement read.

"By expanding effective mental health services, people grappling with mental health challenges will be able to access services in their community earlier, so that challenges can be addressed before they come a crisis."