Manitoba

Family searching for woman, 35, who went missing after day release from Winnipeg hospital

Cassidy Sylvester, 35, was released from Victoria General Hospital on a day pass. She was supposed to return to the hospital at 3 p.m. Tuesday, but she never did.

Cassidy Sylvester was released from Victoria Hospital on a day pass, was supposed to return Tuesday afternoon

Winnipeg police are searching for Cassidy Sylvester, 35, who did not return to Victoria General Hospital after being released on a day pass on Monday. (Submitted by Winnipeg Police Service)

A mother is pleading for help to find her daughter, who didn't return to a Winnipeg hospital after her release on a day pass.

Cassidy Sylvester, 35, was admitted involuntarily to Victoria General Hospital over a month ago because she was suffering a mental health crisis, said her mother, Angela McCaughan.

The hospital gave Sylvester a day pass to view an apartment, McCaughan said. She was supposed to return to the hospital at 3 p.m. Tuesday, but didn't.

"I was not made aware of any of this. Had I been made aware of this, I would have let them know that she would not come back if they released her in that amount of time," she said Wednesday, later adding that no family members were contacted.

"They never ever should have released her on a day pass in her current state."

Neither the hospital nor the health authority are allowed to give specific details about the patient due to privacy laws, said a WRHA spokesperson in an email.

Sylvester has battled bipolar disorder and psychotic episodes for the past 15 years, her mother says. (Angela McCaughan/Facebook)

"Individuals under our care are encouraged to be active participants in the development and implementation of their care plan, and to include other support persons in their care planning as they so choose," the spokesperson said.

"That said, care providers are responsible first and foremost to their patients and will respect their wishes — where safe and appropriate. Any patient who is determined by clinicians to be competent and able to make autonomous decisions has the right to share information regarding their care as — and with whom — they choose."

Granting passes to patients, whether they were voluntarily admitted or not, depends on a patient's clinical status and how far along they are in treatment, the spokesperson said.

"Granting passes and allowing progressive levels of independence are an important part of the treatment process that leads to eventual reintegration into the community," they said.

As a patient in Victoria General Hospital's mental health unit, Sylvester would have been assessed daily, the spokesperson said.

Passes are only offered as an option once the care team has carefully assessed and observed a patient, and clinical risk assessments are done before any pass is granted, they said.

Cassidy Sylvester's family believes this photo was taken at some point on Wednesday. They are unsure what she may be wearing, but the photo shows her with green sunglasses and green-painted fingernails. (Pat Sylvester/Facebook)

Day passes are only granted after a patient has a "graduated and successful series of shorter passes," and "are a common practice leading up to a patient's discharge," the spokesperson said, adding that day passes are often granted so patients can organize things such as finances, employment and housing.

About 15 years ago, Sylvester was diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic episodes. Since then, she has visited the hospital for her condition, and has tried taking her own life multiple times, said McCaughan, who is the executive director of Sscope Inc. — a non-profit in Winnipeg that helps people with mental health issues find jobs and housing.

Sylvester's family is worried that she'll either harm herself or others, said McCaughan.

"She's in a mania right now. Like, a serious manic episode," she said. "But when she comes out of the episode, she's going to be seriously depressed and she's going to try to commit suicide.

"But while she is in the mania, she is a danger to other people."

The Winnipeg Police Service is now searching for Sylvester as well.

She was last seen on Wednesday around the University of Manitoba Fort Garry campus, police said in a news release Thursday.

Sylvester is five foot four, thin, and has dark brown hair and brown eyes, police said.

Anyone who knows of Sylvester's whereabouts should call the Winnipeg police missing persons unit at 204-986-6250.

"I need my kid back. She's a lovely, kind, beautiful human," said McCaughan.

"I'm going to lose her if we don't get this out."


If you're experiencing suicidal thoughts or having a mental health crisis, there is help out there.

Contact the Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line toll-free at 1-877-435-7170 (1-877-HELP170) or the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868. You can also text CONNECT to 686868 and get immediate support from a crisis responder through the Crisis Text Line, powered by Kids Help Phone.

About the Author

Nicholas Frew is an online reporter based in Winnipeg. Hailing from Newfoundland, Frew moved to Halifax to attend journalism school before moving to Winnipeg. Prior to joining CBC Manitoba, Frew interned at the Winnipeg Free Press. Story idea? Email at nick.frew@cbc.ca

With files from Cameron MacLean

now