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Suicidal and waiting 2 years for help. A look at N.S.’s growing mental health crisis


As vibrant crimson and orange leaves fall to the bottom, portray a picturesque backdrop in late October, Janis Keirstead admits she will’t see previous the darkness in her personal thoughts.

She’s consumed with ideas of ending her personal life. However even realizing she wants assist, the 33-year-old Halifax lady feels helpless about the place to show. She’s been ready two years to see a psychiatrist.

“I hear about individuals with chest pains sitting within the ER for eight to 12 hours with out being seen,” mentioned Keirstead.

“I do not need to go to the hospital and be disenchanted as a result of I really feel prefer it’s my final resort. And what am I going to do if my final resort lets me down?”

A CBC Information investigation reveals the variety of individuals in search of assist throughout a psychological well being disaster has risen by 30 per cent in Nova Scotia for the reason that starting of the COVID-19 pandemic, at a time when psychiatrists and psychological well being companies within the province are stretched to capability.

Nova Scotia toll-free psychological well being disaster line is obtainable 24 hours, seven days every week and could be reached at 1-888-429-8167. (Shutterstock)

In Keirstead’s case, she required a medicine change for a number of recognized sicknesses, together with borderline character dysfunction, PTSD, anxiousness and melancholy. She mentioned her household physician stored sending referrals for a psychiatrist as a result of he did not really feel snug enjoying round along with her doses.

“I am glad that my physician is being accountable, however there is no psychiatrist to go to,” mentioned Keirstead.

Statistics launched by way of an access-to-information request present the variety of calls to the provincial disaster line rose to 24,265 final 12 months, up from 19,115 in 2019.

Between January and November of this 12 months, the variety of calls totalled 23,752, which is on monitor to exceed 2020.

As well as, psychological well being visits to Nova Scotia emergency departments have elevated by 30 per cent.

And in accordance with briefing notes to the well being minister obtained by CBC Information, caseloads with group psychological well being and addictions have greater than doubled over the 2020-2021 fiscal 12 months, a state of affairs that’s being “carefully monitored.”

In terms of inpatient psychiatric care, beds have been at most capability throughout the whole province since early 2020.

Keirstead required a medicine change for a number of recognized sicknesses, together with borderline character dysfunction, PTSD, anxiousness and melancholy. She says her household physician stored sending referrals for a psychiatrist, however they went nowhere. (Robert Brief/CBC)

“Historically, inpatient care has been slightly bit seasonal, so in the course of the summer time numbers are inclined to drop slightly and in the course of the fall and winter they go up,” mentioned Dr. Andrew Harris, senior medical director for psychological well being and addictions at Nova Scotia Well being.

“However we have discovered that does not appear to be the case anymore. It has been 100 per cent actually for the final two years, like straight on.”

He provides if somebody wants a mattress, they may discover them one someplace within the province.

Psychiatrist scarcity

Harris acknowledges that entry to psychological well being care is especially strained in Cape Breton, the place assets are restricted.

“They’ve gone by way of a really troublesome time the place the psychiatrists there have needed to actually choose up and do much more work as a result of they’ve needed to cowl for the unfilled spots,” he mentioned.

Of the 14 present psychiatrist vacancies in Nova Scotia, eight of them are within the jap well being zone, which covers Cape Breton, Antigonish and Guysborough. Within the northern zone, 4.3 positions are vacant. The western zone has one emptiness and the central zone has 0.8 positions obtainable.

Nova Scotia Well being mentioned there are 4 supply letters signed from psychiatrists who’re anticipated to start out earlier than the tip of March.

Harris mentioned in Cape Breton, the well being authority has additionally developed a scientific assistant program. It offers physicians skilled in different international locations who function below a distinct licence the chance to make use of their expertise whereas assembly a important want.

“They prolong the attain of the psychiatrist. They’ll see extra sufferers extra often and carry heavier case hundreds with the help of those scientific affiliate positions,” mentioned Harris. 

There are additionally modifications within the works to deal with issues in different components of the province.

He mentioned Nova Scotia Well being is within the strategy of organising a day hospital on the Abbie J. Lane constructing in Halifax.

Nova Scotia Well being is within the strategy of organising a day hospital on the Abbie J. Lane Memorial Constructing in Halifax, which is a service that was discontinued 15 years in the past. (CBC)

“What that may imply, primarily, is that an individual would have an depth of care equal to an inpatient keep, however they would not require to remain within the hospital in a single day,” Harris mentioned.

“We’re that as a means of accelerating our capability to offer that stage of care with out having to have the bodily house of bedrooms and inpatient nursing workers and people varieties of issues.”

It is a service that was discontinued in Halifax 15 years in the past.

Earlier interventions

However the objective for psychological well being professionals and sufferers like Janis Keirstead is to keep away from reaching the purpose of disaster within the first place.

Keirstead mentioned in the course of the time she waited for her physician’s referral to succeed in a psychiatrist, her situation worsened because the pandemic dragged on.

“It made my melancholy, my anxiousness, I imply it went by way of the roof,” she mentioned.

“Possibly I waited too lengthy, I do not know, to attempt to attain out for extra severe assist. However I did not know that it was going to be mandatory.”

Following Keirstead’s interview with CBC in October, she related with workers on the provincial disaster line. They despatched a disaster staff to fulfill her, and he or she secured an appointment with a psychiatrist who adjusted her remedy. She mentioned she is feeling remarkably higher “for the second.”

Group care

The brand new chief of psychiatry for the central zone, which incorporates Halifax, believes streamlining care on the household doctor stage is a technique to assist sufferers like Keirstead, somewhat than subjecting individuals to lengthy wait-lists.

Dr. Vincent Agyapong mentioned it was one of many first points he heard when he moved to Nova Scotia in September.

“I’ve met with the chief of household medication and likewise I’ve heard from even different psychiatrists in regards to the problem with, for instance, household docs gaining access to psychiatric consults for his or her sufferers,” mentioned Agyapong.

It sparked an concept that he hopes will quickly turn out to be a actuality throughout Nova Scotia.

Dr. Vincent Agyapong, chief psychiatrist of the central zone and head of psychiatry at Dalhousie College, wish to see household physicians skilled to do remedy modifications. He says that is one approach to deal with the backlog for psychiatrists in Nova Scotia. (Nick Pearce/Dalhousie College)

“Not everyone can be capable to see a psychiatrist on demand, however individuals usually are very nicely related to their household physician or the nurse practitioner. So if we will be capable to appropriately prepare them within the artwork and ability of offering psychiatric care, then it may result in a state of affairs the place individuals obtain the identical care they’d have obtained from a psychiatrist,” mentioned Agyapong.

He mentioned one instance could be educating and consulting with physicians to make remedy changes.

“We at all times know that if individuals’s psychological sicknesses are addressed rapidly, then they do not deteriorate to the extent that they should current to the emergency division or they should be admitted into hospital,” Agyapong mentioned.

The place to go for assist

If you happen to’re experiencing a psychological well being disaster, Nova Scotia Well being gives online mental health services.

People who find themselves searching for help are inspired to name their native clinic, the psychological well being and addictions consumption line at 1-855-922-1122 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. AT on weekdays, or the province’s toll-free psychological well being disaster line at 1-888-429-8167, which is obtainable 24 hours, seven days every week.

Folks also can contact the Children Assist Telephone at 1-800-668-6868 anytime of day.

If you happen to’re experiencing an emergency, name 911. 


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