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LETTER: Justice and good health for all

["The Waterford Hospital in St. John's."]
The Waterford Hospital in St. John's

It is a fact not one human being born has been blessed with sound mental health. No one gets a 100 per cent mark in that department. If you claim you are top shelf, well, ye’re nuts.

The Telegram of May 17 carried the editorial, “Mental health can affect us all.”

Canada’s Supreme Court Justice Clement Gascon had gone missing for several hours in Ottawa on May 8. Gascon was found safe and within the week he issued a statement about what had happened.

For over 20 years, Gascon has been dealing with depression and anxiety disorders.

In the past, Supreme Court Justices suffering from mental illness were forced to resign.

Chief Justice Richard Wagner took a different tack this time, praised Gascon’s openness and courage, and offered the full support and confidence of the highest bench in the land in dealing with what is, essentially, a health issue.

The human race inches forward. Great strides and leaps into brave new worlds are rare for our puny species.

Leading up to the recent provincial election, there was (as has been proffered as bait for years and years) the promise of building a modern psychiatric and nervous-disease hospital to replace the Dickensian rat trap in use since Queen Victoria was a comely lass.

Perhaps, with the NDP members holding the balance of power in the House of Assembly, the province might finally see the promise kept. However, bear in mind Swift’s observation that promises and pie crust are made to be broken.

But bricks and mortar (or any modern building products) do not a safe haven make. Zero tolerance for any physical, verbal, or emotional abuse of a patient should be the standard set for all.

It is well-known a depressed patient is at high risk of suicide.

Let us suppose Gascon had suffered his panic attack while visiting St. John’s. Carrying no identification and his station in life unknown, he was noticed by the RNC “acting out,” deemed to be a danger to himself, to others or — most importantly — to property, then detained under this province’s Mental Health Care and Treatment Act and brought to the Waterford Hospital.

Now further suppose Gascon escaped from his ambulance and ran to his death in front of a rapidly moving, large truck? Or he hung himself in his Waterford Hospital room? Or he drowned in the pond in front of the Health Sciences Centre (across Prince Philip Parkway from the CBC building)? Or went out an upper floor window left open by a nurse?

When the identity and importance of the victim was finally discovered, what do you suppose would happen to those hospital personnel whose duty it was to protect Gascon from himself or, if you will, who in law had a duty to provide the necessaries of life to a fellow human being in their care?

Now, dear reader, wherever in this letter I have placed the name of Justice Clement Gascon, you insert your own name or, better yet, the name of a loved one battling mental illness.

Tom Careen,


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