Alright so ‘Let’s Talk.’

While I’m glad to see so many friends and family supporting Bell’s ‘Let’s Talk’ campaign to raise awareness for mental health, I think it’s long overdue time to get real about fact that while awareness is helpful in de-stigmatizing mental illness. It does not fix a very broken healthcare system. Yes, I know the rhetoric. Canada is so great, free healthcare and all that. But <and this is just my opinion> it’s great when you are for the most part a ‘healthy’ person. For the rest of us, navigating the healthcare system with a chronic illness like Multiple Sclerosis is, at the best of times, tricky and underwhelming. However, when you throw mental illness into the mix, it becomes glaringly apparent just how lacklustre our services really are. Firstly, when a person is in crisis, you do what you’ve been taught your entire life to do…which is to seek help. You go to the emerge. Where you are triaged based on need.

Which I understand as the most serious cases being seen first.

So in my last experience, I waited and waited and waited. In active crisis. Which for me, meant I felt panicked and somewhat hysterical.

And they put me to wait in a loud, bright, bustling waiting area for over 5 hours until I approached a nurse and through sobs told her I needed help. She moved me to a stretcher in a quieter hallway. I waited and waited and waited.

After a few more hours, I was seen by a crisis psychiatric nurse and a psychiatrist. I was ultimately sent home (with no follow up) because the psychiatrist didn’t want to ‘step on’ the toes of my illustrious neuro psychiatrist.

Clearly, my crisis had not ended. I ended up seeking help twice more <once through a crisis centre and once more at a different emerge>.

So let’s stop here for a minute.

What could be changed to keep in line with the current fad of progressive mental health Canada seems keen to have?

1. Upon first triage, when I explained that I was experiencing panic attacks and was terrified there are a few different ways that could have been handled:

Option A. A triage system that recognizes mental health. My vitals could still have been taken and when it was apparent that my panic attack was the primary reason for my visit, I could have been triaged to a mental health waiting area. This might look like something on a different floor, with room for privacy and staffed by both nurses and psychiatric nurses. I could have had the psychiatric nurse assess me and then had a psychiatrist who does the rounds discuss with the nurse what the best course of treatment would be. I would not have a psychiatrist who cared more about her career connections than my crisis.

Option B. Upon triage, after taking my vitals and confirming that it was in fact most likely a panic attack that was my primary reason for visiting. I could have been provided with crisis line information and/or a referral to a mobile crisis team or something similar. In my own work experience, I have used a mobile crisis team to come to a school I was at with a young man who needed psychiatric assistance. Often with anxiety disorders, talking to someone who has the tools to walk you through a crisis, is all you need at that moment.

Option C. Would require intensive training for all frontline staff including triage nurses to emergency room nurses to emergency room doctors and so on. I would imagine this option would be highly unlikely. However, it would be helpful for such staff to be experienced in noticing the signs and symptoms of various mental illnesses and being knowledgeable with basic tools such as belly breathing. Furthermore at the point of triage, redirecting patients who have a flu or a cold to walk-in clinics would help possibly reducing the amount of people using the emergency room.

Secondly, family doctors generally are not equipped with the resources to handle crisis situations. And in my case, my doctor has something like 1700 patients. So if in my crisis, I had called to get an appointment to at least know there might be relief in sight, it is unlikely that I could get an appointment within the next two weeks. So this appears to be dead end and not a valid or helpful direction.

Thirdly, the saga with my neuro psychiatrist. You remember him right? The one no one would touch me because of?

I was called for a referral that the psychiatric nurse had put in for a short term psychiatrist.

When I spoke to intake, she said they could not see me because of my neuro psychiatrist.

I asked perplexed ‘even if I’m telling you I don’t want to go back and see him?’ You can guess the answer there.

So my neuro psychiatrist. I left voicemails and emails and was lucky that I had an already scheduled appointment with him the week after my emergency room visit. I saw him for less than half an hour, I gave him notes that I took on my ordeal which I’m sure he never read.

He apologized to hear what I had gone through and recommended that the next time I tried to get off Paxil, he would do it inpatient at Sunnybrook.

I think I guffawed and said I’d never try to get off of it again.

He prescribed my original dose of Paxil and some additional Ativan to get me through, told me to call to update in two weeks and sent me on my way.

Oh and my next appointment is in three months time.

While he is a very highly regarded doctor and widely known within the MS community, is he the best person to be treating me? My anxiety and depression were triggered long before my MS appeared. It appears to me that seeing another psychiatrist is near impossible not to mention that all psychiatrists are OHIP covered, so the wait time for a new one would likely be close to a year. In October, my neuro psychiatrist put in a referral for me to do CBT at a hospital close by. The wait time for that is equally lengthy. So I found a private clinic that offers CBT that is not covered by OHIP and am going to see them next week. It’s expensive and not covered by my group benefits.

During this time, I also had my family doctor complete an application for a private inpatient facility that deals with mental illness and would cost approximately 20K for 56 days.There was a wait time, and thankfully during this time, my Paxil increase has kicked in and I am no longer in crisis so I have deferred admission. I do not want to go to a place that costs that amount of money. I am trying to figure this out on my own before they call me to give me a final offer me for admission.

I don’t know where that leaves me.

I don’t know where any of this leaves me.

I don’t know what my future looks like.

Much like half the Canadians who also live with mental illness.

We are left to navigate this scary and overwhelming path on our own.

So maybe it’s time Bell changes it’s campaign from ‘Let’s Talk’ to ‘Let’s Talk About How We Can Do Better’.

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8 thoughts on “Alright so ‘Let’s Talk.’”

  1. I’m with you on that. When I went in in 2017 where I had ingested over 30 pills they had me sit in the waiting room for nigh on 4 hours before one of my friends went to ask when I was going to be seen. I was than moved into a private room (not sure what my friend said) blood drawn and seen by Dr. The last two times I have been in is due to high blood pressure and a pressure in my head that suddenly popped. Which brought on panic attacks and sobbing because I thought I was going to have a heart attack or a stroke. First time I walked out without being seen after being there for over 8 hours. Second time I was in for about 6 hours but was seen and had a ct scan on my head. Never did anyone acknowledge that my panic attacks were affecting blood pressure and head pressure.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Things definitely meed to change in our hospitals. The wait times ate ridiculous! People who are going to emerge with oolds and flus should go to walkin clinics! There is one in almost every corner! Hospital pyschiatrists should be allowedto dispense meds after someone goes through their medical history. Unfortunately, that’s why we have so many people on the streets with mentall illness!

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  3. People don’t get the help they need quickly or effectively over here in the UK, either. I’m all for these ‘Let’s Talk’ initiatives for bringing mental health to the forefront, showing people they’re not alone, etc, but more definitely needs to be done when it comes to the infrastructure that is supposed to be able to help those who need it. Very well said.x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. For professional mental health, the waits are long. Some people can wait years, and too many die while waiting, taking their own lives because they don’t have the help they need. Others don’t get referred because they’re not bad enough – ie. if you’re not painfully underweight then you don’t have an eating disorder and don’t need help, if you’re already suicidal then you don’t need help. Thing is, it seems to be a ‘postcode lottery’, some places have more availability and so can do referrals for people, while other places are understaffed and underfunded. x

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  5. This is just my opinion, but I do think healthcare sucks everywhere! The healthcare professionals do not care nearly enough and most doctors are complete idiots. Healthcare in the United States is awful and probably about to get worse. I know that the mental health is not nearly enough for those in need. I have family members that struggle and the doctors either do not care or they do not have a clue. I know it might seem easier at times to just give up, but I believe in YOU and know you will continue a good fight! Please never forget that I am always just an email away and will always be here for you. Lots of love my dear!!

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