Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, says 16-year-old committed suicide after waiting 270 days for treatment
B.C.’s representative for Children and Youth wrote her report prompted by the 2013 death of a 16 year old First Nations teenager.
“Chester’s parents were trying to get him support. He started to have some serious mental health issues. He was hearing voices, he stopped eating. He was talking about suicide.”
And it wasn’t just at home, staff at his high school knew there were problems.
“He was at school, not able to attend but kind of roaming the halls, the playground, in a way he was disassociating and disconnecting.”
Despite the warning signs, he never received any treatment, languishing on a wait list for 270 days.
He committed suicide.
Now Turpel-Lafond is calling on the government to act, with five recommendations:
- Reduce wait times for mental health services for Aboriginal children and youth
- Create a proactive lead agency with the federal government to deliver aboriginal mental health services
- Protect the rights of Aboriginal children and youth with mental health issues and disorders
- Establish a plan to ensure child safety procedures and services,
- Ministry of Children and Youth Development works with and supports Aboriginal Agencies
Three years later, the Minister of Children and Youth Development Stephanie Cadieux, says the system is now much more responsive, but it failed Chester.
“Clearly the system as it was, failed. And that’s tragic. It’s tragic that a young person lost their life. It’s tragic that the services the young person might have benefitted from didn’t close around him the way they should have.”
But Turpel-Lafond says the system is still lacking.
“To truth test the government’s statement that you are in within 24 hours it does not pass the truth testing. That is not an accurate statement.”
She worries the situation could get worse unless the province fully funds mental health programs.