A St. John’s senior citizen says she left the psychiatric unit at the Health Sciences Centre worse off than when she went in with suicidal intentions.
“That will be the last place I will ever go. You can’t ask me to go there,” the woman said of her reaction to a conversation with her family doctor when she was asked to promise she would seek help in future.
“That and the Waterford are the only deal in town. Where does a person go? There is nowhere for me to go.”
The woman, who does not want her name used because of her part-time job, contacted The Telegram after reading about Carolyn Snow, who spoke out about being sent home from the Waterford recently after a suicide attempt, only to try again.
“I really felt badly for that young woman. Unless one has ever experienced it, you can’t even begin to comprehend the pain that you are in,” the senior said.
The older woman is still struggling to find a will to live, is waiting for counselling and hoping for a referral to a psychiatrist she saw three decades ago after her first suicide attempt. Roughly 15 years go, there was another attempt.
Recently a crisis in her life triggered old trauma and she went first to the Waterford for assessment and then to the Health Sciences Centre.
She was admitted there, she said. But she believes a nurse’s impression of her personality — the bubbly facade she said she projects in public — coloured her treatment. After roughly a week, she was discharged with no diagnosis of mental illness.
“The bottom line is I am out here fighting desperately to find a doctor. And it’s not OK that I am in the state that I am in,” the woman said.
“You are beyond desperate and it musters up all the courage you have as a human being (to get help). There is a stigma. And it’s not just out in world. It is in with the people who look after you, as well.”
The woman said she felt she was flagged as a difficult patient after objecting to the nurse’s comments to her.
“You can’t speak up. You can’t disagree,” she said.
(The nurse) said, and I will never forget this, ‘We send many, many, many patients home who are suicidal from this floor.’
“She said to me, ‘But we all see you around the floor. You are happy and chatting and obviously not depressed.’ … It wasn’t being said in a nice way.”
But the woman said she was just trying to act positively around other patients.
“Because I am a people person, if I am around people I pull myself together. I don’t want to be a burden to people I am around,” she said.
“When you have that kind of suicidal depression, once you have gone somewhere and done something, that is such as huge relief. … It doesn’t mean I don’t still have those feelings.”
Upon being discharged, the senior said, she lost hope of getting adequate treatment again.
“I am severely depressed and going out to the same situation, and nothing has changed except I felt even worse because of how I was treated,” she said.
“There shouldn’t be a system that when you can’t do it anymore, just goes, ‘You look happy to us.’”
Previously, Eastern Health, which doesn’t discuss specific cases, has said all patients are assessed by a team of nursing staff and physicians.
The decision to either discharge or admit a patient is made by the assessment team.
Eastern Health operates a free, provincial 24-hour confidential mental health crisis line (1-888-737-4668) staffed with professionals trained to help deal with crises and suicidal thoughts.
There is also a mobile crisis response team that is able to respond to those in crisis in their home or a designated meeting area in St. John’s and area. This service is available from Wednesday to Saturday, 4 p.m. to midnight.