Seniors frustrated by mental illness

Residents at Greenwood Place say one of their neighbours is mentally ill and isn't getting the help she needs. The woman in question moved in almost a year ago and has been causing problems ever since.

Residents at Greenwood Place say one of their neighbours is mentally ill and isn’t getting the help she needs.

The woman in question moved in almost a year ago and has been causing problems ever since.

Several residents, who asked not to be identified, complained that the woman “yells and screams at all hours of the night” and at one point smashed all the flowerpots in the hallway and threw the plants in the garbage.

Several residents complained they’ve been verbally harassed by this woman.

“It’s elder abuse, no matter how you look at it,” said one of the residents. “People won’t come out of their apartments because they’re afraid … I’m afraid of her and I’ve never been afraid of anyone in my life.”

The woman in question also has a habit of throwing books and magazines down the hallway, which has become a safety issue, said Lee Bowers, who lives in the building.

Last week Bowers was on her way to the laundry room when she was tripped up by a magazine the woman had thrown into the hallway.

She hurt her back in the fall and wound up going to the hospital.

Bowers and the other residents are worried that someone could be seriously hurt next time.

The woman in Bowers’s estimation is “mentally unstable” and should have never been placed in Greenwood Place, she said.

“We don’t want to nail or crucify anyone,” she said. “We do care about the lady.

“We want her to get the help that she needs.”

In November the residents started to complain to the landlord, the Yukon Housing Corporation.

They started with phone calls and then moved on to filing written complaints. Bowers estimates that they’ve sent more than 40 written complaints in over the last few months.

A few weeks ago, the residents were told that the woman was scheduled to be evicted, but the eviction was appealed, giving her a reprieve and leaving her neighbours frustrated.

Yukon Housing would not comment on this case, citing client confidentiality.

“We understand there’s a situation there and we’re working on it. There is a process, but that process for some people isn’t fast enough,” said Doug Caldwell, a spokesperson for the corporation.

“We try our best to make them comfortable and feeling safe,” he said. “They have to feel that way, that’s part of our goal.”

But residents say they don’t feel safe. And they also worry about the woman’s safety.

“She isn’t being taken care of by the system,” said Bowers.

The issues surrounding mental illness are complicated, said Pat Living, the director of communications for Health and Social services.

Living couldn’t comment on this case either, because of privacy considerations, but she did say that there is a process in place to help individuals.

The department helps its clients access financial benefits, housing at medical services and anything else they might require, she said. But they only do it at the client’s request, said Living.

“People come to us and ask for services. We do not impose our services,” she said.

If a friend or family member has a question or concern about a person’s safety, there’s a process for that, too.

The first step is talking to the person directly, said Living.

If that doesn’t work, they can call the department.

“There are a number of branches in the department where a member of the public who does have a concern could call and say, ‘Look, I’m concerned about so and so and I need to talk to somebody about it,’” she said.

But unless the person accepts help, the department’s hands are tied.

There is a provision in the territorial Mental Health Act to have a doctor determine someone’s competency, but that’s a fairly extreme step, and not one that should be taken lightly, said Living.

“In essence, that means they have to present their view of the individual before a judge who will then make a final determination about whether or not an involuntary examination is required,” she said.

While there are supportive living units for seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, said Living, similar services for those suffering from other mental illnesses are more sparse.

There is a secure medical unit at the Whitehorse hospital for the most extreme cases, but that place is not designed to accommodate anyone permanently. For the most part, the department tries to keep people in their homes, although that is not always possible, said Living.

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