Gary and Susan McAlpine were leading a normal retirement, travelling and living an RV lifestyle until Gary suddenly went into a catatonic state in November.

“He was focused on me but he wasn’t there, not at all,” said Gary’s wife Susan.

She took him to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital where he spent six weeks being treated for severe depression and anxiety.

“He had 5 to 7 ECT [electroconvulsive therapy] treatments, electroshock, they took him to the OR and shocked his brain and they induced a seizure which helps to stimulate the brain to fight the depression,” said Susan.

The treatment ended and Susan said there was an expectation of continued therapy with another psychiatrist in Parksville, but six months later, he hasn’t seen one because there only is one in his area and the wait list is long.

“I didn’t realize there was such a bad shortage of psychiatrists and I felt like I was just being sloughed off and watching him suffer is horrible,” said Susan.

“The feeling in the pit of my stomach that just won’t go away and just makes my head spin. It’s not a pleasant feeling at all,” said Gary.

Susan is calling on the province to increase the number of psychiatrists by offering incentives to those who come here or train to be one here, adding those with mental illness are suffering in silence.

“There are so many people suffering out there that need help and are they waiting for people to kill themselves, to get so desperate?” said Susan.

CHEK asked the Ministry of Health what is being done about the shortage but did not receive an answer before deadline.

Dean Stoltz