I write this with tears in my eyes.
I saw in the news last week that the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region, which gets its money from the government of Brad Wall, has decided to cut 20 on-the-floor jobs from mental health.
It’s decided this even though “Saskatchewan is already the province in last place for percentage of health budget allocated to mental health” — according to the Saskatchewan Division of the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Yet Keith Dewar, CEO of the health region, said ”… it allows us to provide the same service as we did before.”
In other words, he says it won’t affect patients’ well being.
Hearing that, I can’t help but think of four years ago, when I, out of the blue, got up from my lunch, walked past my family and drove myself to Regina and the General Hospital emergency room, knowing I was having a breakdown.
I was lucky enough that an emergency room nurse could see how serious my condition was, and insisted a psychiatrist see me, instead of the psych nurse on duty.
We talked a bit, then he told me he believed I’m suicidal, depressed and needed help. But because they have so few beds and so few staff, he wouldn’t admit me.
He figured other people might need the bed even more than I did. Then he made me promise that I wouldn’t hurt myself — and left.
Almost exactly one year later, I once again found myself in the Regina General Hospital emergency room. This time, I was brought in handcuffed and in an ambulance.
About an hour before, I’d tried to kill myself — and my brother for trying to stop me. Once police officers arrived, I grabbed one of their guns to try again to kill myself, only to be forcibly detained.
All this in front of my wife and children, who at one point fled the house. Friends and family were showing up around the same time because my family was to host a supper to celebrate a friend’s recent receipt of Canadian permanent residency.
Once settled in the hospital, I was amazed at the number of times I heard or saw security being called. Including for myself.
After a day or so, I was told I was being moved, that I would have to have a roommate, and to hurry up because they needed the bed. I protested having a roommate and, with that, things escalated. Next thing I know, I’m on a mattress on the floor in a locked room filled with cameras.
The staff members who were in the hospital were incredibly wonderful. I just wished there were more of them to defuse situations (security guards are not mental health staff) and more spaces for people like me the first time I passively drove myself to the ER.
So when Dewar says they’ll be providing the same service as before, I absolutely, 100-per-cent believe him. But take it from me: If he is suggesting 20 layoffs won’t affect patients’ well-being, then he isn’t earning his CEO wage.
Beyond patients, it will affect the people that hospital staff turn away on a daily basis, along with those people’s families, friends, co-workers, neighbours and neighbourhoods.
It’s devastating hearing the rest of the world is taking steps forward in the mental health field and our government — already in last place nationally — wants to take another 20 steps back.
Todd Rennebohm is an artist and owner of Mood Gallery in Indian Head.
Published: October 3, 2016
Source: Regina LeaderPost http://leaderpost.com/opinion/columnists/20-steps-backward-with-mental-health-cuts