Young women create change at Island Health psychiatric emergency services department
VICTORIA -- Warning: This story contains topics dealing with mental distress and suicide.
Ella Hale and Emma Epp are two young women with alarmingly similar stories about their experiences at the Psychiatric Emergency Services department at the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria.
Each woman ended up at the department after attempting suicide, and each was frustrated by the facility’s response to her situation.
“I had a psychiatrist tell me that I’d be fine when I was 25 and that I didn’t actually have anything wrong with me and it was just hormones,” said Hale. “And that if I was to kill myself, that my dad wouldn’t care.”
“I got discharged the same day after attempting to take my life,” said Epp. “They even gave me the rest of pills that I wasn’t able to take.”
The pair created a Facebook page called P.E.S.: A Pathetic Excuse for Support. It now has 865 members, many of whom are sharing similar stories of being mistreated at the hospital ward.
Those stories caught the attention of B.C. Premier John Horgan and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson. Last Friday, the four had a meeting.
“These two young women followed what they thought was the right course and they didn’t get a positive outcome,” said Horgan. “We need to make sure we do a better job of it and had we not had the opportunity to speak these two women, we wouldn’t be in the position to make the changes they want to see.”
“Somebody needs to take accountability, because it’s emotional abuse that mental health patients are facing at P.E.S.,” said Hale.
“From the staff at P.E.S.,” added Epp.
According to a statement from Island Health, change is coming to P.E.S. It says:
“Beginning immediately, Island Health is taking steps to respond and address challenges at P.E.S. This will involve both immediate and long-term actions.”
Those actions include strengthening professional development, improving the process for patients to have their voices heard and having senior leadership on site at P.E.S. in the coming weeks, to better understand the challenges faced by both patients and staff.
One thing the pair would like to see is quicker response times, something professionals say is essential for people in mental distress.
“I would say on a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 10 of importance,” said David Mensink, president of the British Columbia Psychological Association.
“I don’t know how it has gone on for this long and who’s OK’d it, but somebody needs to take responsibility.”
Because of Hale and Epp’s efforts, it looks like someone is.