Speaking up for lost loved ones prompts BC MLA to introduce suicide prevention law

The bill would encourage “reasonable attempts” to contact the family or care providers of a person brought to the hospital by police because they are believed to be a danger to themselves.

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Photos by Todd Marr and Vancouver Police Const. Nicole Chan is pinned to the bulletin board in the Victorian office of Elenore Sturko, the liberal BC mental health and addiction critic.

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“You can see on my dashboard that I have two photos,” the Surrey South MLA said, pointing to snapshots of Marr and Chan, both smiling. “Because I work for people like them.”

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They died by suicide, 10 years apart. Both died the day after being discharged from the hospital. That happens all too often in BC, Sturko said, which is why on Wednesday he will introduce a private member’s bill that would require hospital staff to seek more information from family members or care providers before deciding whether a person should be involuntarily detained under the Mental. Health Law.

The bill would amend Section 28 of the Mental Health Act to require doctors and nurse practitioners to make “reasonable attempts” to contact the family or care providers of a person brought to hospital by police because they are believed to be is a danger to themselves or to others. .

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“It gives doctors and nurse practitioners an additional tool to do an assessment of someone they may have only met five minutes before in the ER,” said Sturko, who retired from the Surrey RCMP last year after being chosen to represent Surrey South. . “We are asking someone to make a very critical diagnosis or determination with potentially limited information.”

The bill is backed by the families of Marr and Chan, the 30-year-old Vancouver police officer who committed suicide in 2019 after two inappropriate sexual relations with two superior officers.

Elenore Sturko is the Liberal MLA from Surrey South.
Elenore Sturko is the Liberal MLA from Surrey South. Photo by BC Liberales /photo sent

It’s also deeply personal for Sturko, one of the Langley RCMP officers who responded shortly after Marr jumped to his death from an overpass on September 9, 2009. The day before, his mother, Lorraine Marr, took the 32-year-old bricklayer to Langley Memorial Hospital in the hope that he could get a psychiatric evaluation for his suicidal thoughts.

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“They talked to him, they didn’t talk to me,” Lorraine Marr told Postmedia News, speaking from her home in Langley with her husband Chuck Marr. “I wish I had had that opportunity.”

She reportedly told hospital staff that Marr, a former star athlete who was addicted to crystal Meth, he tried to take his own life the day before.

“They told him there was nothing they could do for him except put him in a padded room and the next morning they would give him a bus ticket and send him off,” she said, her voice cracking. “You feel like you are at a dead end. And he definitely felt that he was at a dead end. He just felt that there was no more help ”.

Last month, Sturko told Postmedia News about his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from Marr’s death.

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The day after being turned away from the hospital, Marr asked his mother to take him to McDonald’s for a hamburger. Suddenly, she asked him to stop the car. He told her that he loved his family before running towards the freeway overpass.

Sturko was haunted by his mother’s cries, and for years he felt flashes of anger at the medical establishment for not involuntarily retaining Marr. Sturko, a married mother of three, turned to alcohol before seeking counseling for her post-traumatic stress disorder.

Lorraine and Chuck Marr contacted Sturko after reading her story and invited her to their home in Langley on Friday.

Lorraine Marr said hearing how much her son’s case affected Sturko brought a “flood of emotions.”

Marr’s parents and Chan’s sister, Jenn Chan, will appear with Sturko in Victoria on Wednesday at a press conference on the private member’s bill.

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A coroner’s inquest heard that the night before Chan died by suicide, a police psychologist relayed urgent information about her previous suicide attempts to staff at Vancouver General Hospital, where she was being held involuntarily.

Despite this, Chan was released. The 30-year-old man died by suicide on January 27, 2019.

Dr. Randy Mackoff, a police psychologist with knowledge of Chan’s previous suicide attempts, testified at the forensic inquest that in his experience, hospital staff rarely talk to people’s family members or care providers. brought to hospital under the Mental Health Act, which means they often lack important context about the patient’s past behaviour.

Jenn Chan told Postmedia News that she wants hospital staff to contact her before Chan was released so she can give them a full picture of her past suicide attempts and mental health history.

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Even knowing that her sister was being released would have allowed the family to control her, she said.

Jenn Chan believes in the private member’s bill”it adds an extra layer to prevent a patient from being discharged prematurely” and hopes it passes “to prevent deaths and other families having to experience the loss of loved ones.”

Bills from private members are rarely approved, but Sturko hopes this will be the exception, because he believes it will save lives.

Todd Marr’s parents agree. “I hope he doesn’t get caught up in all the politicking,” his father said.

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