Overburdened mental health system is failing Ontario’s children, Brantford mother says | Globalnews.ca

Darien Murray’s seven-year-old son Jackson talks about self-harming and is becoming too violent for the Brantford woman to handle.

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“He has told the doctors that he wants to hurt himself (and) has thought about how he would do it,” Murray said.

“He has become a danger to himself, to his teachers, to other students, and now he has even become a danger to me.”

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A hospital psychiatrist made the same assessment, Murray said, when she brought Jackson to the London Children’s Hospital emergency department because he was experiencing a mental health crisis.

Murray said Jackson became violent and attacked her in the waiting room, prompting security to intervene. She said doctors eventually told her they “didn’t feel comfortable” admitting Jackson to the mental health ward as an inpatient.

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“The biggest barrier is that he’s seven years old and they don’t want to put him with teenagers,” Murray said.

A spokesman for the London Health Sciences Center said the decision to hospitalize a child in crisis is made by the emergency room doctor on a case-by-case basis, with input from a child psychiatrist.

“If the best course of action for the patient is hospitalization, the patient, provided they are under the age of 18, will be admitted to the Children’s Hospital mental health unit,” Steve Young said in an email to The Spectator.

Jackson has been diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, ADHD, anxiety and poor emotional self-regulation, said Murray, who believes generational trauma due to Jackson’s Native American heritage on his father’s side “plays a significant role in the issues he faces.” .

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“We have (mental health) services for adolescents. We have services for adults. It’s crazy to me that there isn’t more help for kids like him,” she said.

“I took him to McMaster (Children’s Hospital in Hamilton), which has a mental health services team dedicated to children and youth, and the psychiatrist didn’t even want to see him because he wasn’t actively in crisis at the time. Meanwhile, he had attacked the staff and students of the school earlier that day.”

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The lack of help leaves Murray fearful for Jackson’s long-term prospects as she wonders if her “sweet, loving son” will do something drastic.

“I’m looking at two futures here: one where he’ll run a company somewhere and run the world, or I’ll look at him through plexiglass in a jail because he’s done something he can’t take back.” ,” she said.

A Hamilton Health Sciences spokesman said no one from McMaster Children’s Hospital was available to interview for this story and the hospital could not comment on specific patient cases.

In an emailed statement, the hospital said its Children and Youth Mental Health Program “provides a range of intensive and urgent services for children, youth and families facing mental health challenges. The well-being of the children, youth and families we serve is our primary concern.”

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The hospital said children experiencing a mental health crisis should call 911 or a crisis line or visit the nearest emergency department.

Many children in Jackson’s situation end up in the hospital, according to Children’s Mental Health Ontario.

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The advocacy group conducted research that found hospitalizations of children and youth seeking mental health treatment rose 71 percent between 2010 and 2020, while emergency room visits rose 64 percent.

CMHO said hospitalizations for all other conditions fell 26 percent during that same decade.

McMaster is part of a coalition of hospitals and children’s health organizations in Ontario that are pushing for more funding from Queen’s Park for a variety of children’s health care services within the first 100 days of Ford’s second term in office.

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“Across Ontario, more than 28,000 children are waiting for mental health treatment and wait times are at least three times longer than recommended clinical wait times,” the hospital statement read.

Children wait on average more than three months for intensive mental health treatment, while those who need specialized services can languish on waiting lists for more than two years, according to CMHO research published in 2020.

The advocacy group wants the province to commit $300 million over five years to reduce waiting times by hiring more staff and adding community-based counseling and treatment solutions.

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That makes sense to Murray, who is desperate to get her son into treatment while she can still help.

“If we had more resources, if we could reach children sooner, then we could avoid needing as much intervention as a teenager or an adult,” he said.

“But you can’t find resources that aren’t there.”

Murray said that Jackson is usually a kind and caring brother who loves playing Minecraft and solving math problems in his head.

But while suffering from a mental health crisis, he destroys property and “aggressively attacks adults and children.” He sometimes tries to sneak out of school.

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Jackson later “struggles to remember” his actions, Murray said.

“He doesn’t feel like it’s him. He feels like he is someone else who is doing these things,” he said.

“I’m watching him slip away.”

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Jackson is enrolled in a play therapy program but has been on the intensive care waiting list for more than 18 months, Murray said. Twice he saw a psychiatrist through a fast-track clinic, only to become unstable within weeks of each appointment.

Murray is months into the long process of getting Jackson referred to the Child and Parent Resource Institute in London, a province-run resource center for children with complex emotional and behavioral disorders.

“I have begged the doctors to admit him, to provide services to me, to help me help him,” he said.

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“What does it take? It’s getting worse every day.”

During the provincial election campaign, Murray heard candidates speak about the need to boost support for mental health for adolescents and post-secondary students.

“There was very little mention of children’s mental health,” he said. “And we’re seeing kids struggling more than ever.”

He recently expressed his anger at the healthcare system in a Facebook post and received an immediate response from frustrated parents.

“When you see how long the waiting lists are, you have to imagine how many people are going through the exact same thing,” Murray said.

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