Family didn't know Nunavut man was flown to Iqaluit for mental health treatment

A grandmother in Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut, was unaware her grandson, who’d been living with her, had been taken to Iqaluit for mental health treatment.

John Pittaituq Natsiapik remains in Iqaluit receiving care

John Pittaituq Natsiapik was flown from the community of Qikiqtarjuaq to Iqaluit for more advanced mental health care. (Nick Murray/CBC)

A grandmother in Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut, was unaware her grandson, who'd been living with her, had been taken to Iqaluit for mental health treatment.

Twenty-three-year-old John Pittaituq Natsiapik was picked up by RCMP, after he started acting up at the local health centre and left, according to his mother Lizzie Natsiapik.

The next day when his grandmother, Evie Natsiapik, began to question why he hadn't come home, she was told what happened by another family member who saw him get picked up. 

RCMP confirmed he was escorted on a medevac flight to Iqaluit for further treatment in late November. His mother says he was flown out without his I.D. or any extra clothing.

"Our elders, who can't speak English, it would be nice to provide interpreters for them so that they can understand what is happening when this kind of thing happens, so that family members understand the situation their children are in," Lizzie Natsiapik said in Inuktitut.

Lizzie Natsiapik says her son needs to take medication daily to manage his mental illness, but she says he was refusing to take his medication that day at the health centre.

At a health centre's request, the RCMP will provide an escort for mental health patients, but police will not contact the family as health-care professionals remain in charge of managing the patient's care. 

She says she wants to see health-care workers improve how they communicate updates and changes to family members.

Families usually involved in process

While the Department of Health says it will not comment on specific cases, Dallas Davidson, the manger for mental health in Iqaluit says situations like this are very rare.

"Family are usually quite involved in the process because most people are in very close contact with each other."

He says mental health professionals need to rely on a patient's family for information about a patient's condition, but occasionally a person's situation may change quickly and the Mental Health Act allows for health officials to act.

"When people get to a level where they are a threat to themselves or somebody else, the Mental Health [Act] kind of takes over a little bit and allows people to be brought to a health centre or a physician," said Davidson.

"They're able to be assessed to see how they're doing. And sometimes that process happens quickly — sometimes symptoms show up really, really quickly."

John Pittaituq Natsiapik is still in care in Iqaluit. His grandmother brought him clothing and his I.D. when she was flown to Iqaluit for her own medical appointment.

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