This is a story about the state of mental health recovery in the Yukon territory.
We have temporary housing and halfway places for those who have alcohol and drug afflictions, as well as for those with criminality problems. Yet there is no housing program for those who are troubled with mental disorders.
The only place for a person having a mental breakdown is in the hospital. After that, there is no lodging for that person as a place for long-term recovery.
So we have a revolving-door program, in and out of the hospital, with no opportunity for recovery.
Criminality, alcohol and drug usage are choices. Mental illness is not.
So where are our priorities in the Yukon health and welfare system?
Let me tell you how my family knows about this problem.
Several years ago, our son was involved in a vehicle accident and thrown out of the car.
It was travelling at a speed of more than 120 kilometres per hour and rolled down an embankment.
This happened during school hours at a school-sponsored sports event, for which the school and Education department has yet to offer responsibility (which is another story).
Two 16-year-olds were thrown out of the back window and another three remained inside the rolled car.
For its part in this event, the school did not even offer post-traumatic counselling or track the behaviour of their students.
Our son sustained some bruises and cuts in the head area along with a severely bruised leg and chest.
He was allowed to come home the same day.
His leg and chest mended quickly, but other problems arose shortly thereafter.
After his physical damages healed, he again got involved in his sports team, but his behaviour started to change.
He got angry quickly at his family members as well as his team members.
Soon his team did not want him around, then his buddies did not want him around.
His best friends did not know how to handle his radical mood swings, so they ostracized him.
He slowly moved inside himself (became withdrawn), did not want to go to school nor be with any of his peers.
He lost a job that he had maintained for more than a year. His grades took a downfall from above average to failure.
Then he began to physically abuse himself, by burning or cutting into his skin.
He did things like etch in with a knife “love” on the one leg that was not badly bruised in the accident and “hate” on the bruised leg.
He had all the symptoms of a person with post-traumatic stress disorder: deep depression, loss of friends, problems sleeping at nights, mood swings, anger problems, attitude; then he got into alcohol, pot and likely some other drugs.
One day our son had a psychotic episode. He stayed awake during the nights and slept most of the day, he was extremely depressed, he became very angry at everyone, and then he started to hear voices and was not at all himself.
We hospitalized him and he was diagnosed with mental disorder; he was sent Outside for further assessments and a prescribed drug regimen.
Since this time he has been in and out of the hospital several times.
He does not become psychotic as long as he takes his prescription medication. But these drugs have very serious side effects. They make him extremely tired and moody. This results in low self-esteem and withdrawal from society.
He has tried to work several different jobs, but cannot hold onto them for any length of time. Due to depression, he goes on booze binges and smokes pot, which make things worse.
He gets better when he goes to the hospital, which offers constant medical attention and counselling services. But then when he gets out, it becomes difficult to access the support necessary for recovery.
There is no place for him to go, such as a halfway house or residence, where its tenants receive proper therapy and counselling.
There is no place where staff ensure that medication is taken, encourage anger management and positive lifestyle habits, rebuild self-esteem, help with return-to-work skills or going back to school, help restore social relationships, offer alcohol and drug counselling and other programs necessary for recovery.
Without such a facility, all the responsibility falls on the backs of the family to keep the person stable and intervene on his or her behalf.
It is difficult for an adult to take advice from their mom and dad. This requires outside-the-family expertise.
The status quo becomes very stressful on family members and takes its toll.
Certainly the family must be there for support, but are not prepared on how to properly cope with such a dilemma.
These families need help!
Our family and many others with similar circumstances are asking this government to have the political will to immediately purchase a residence to offer those suffering mental disorders a temporary habitat for therapy.
This would greatly improve the opportunity for these people to access the help needed to adequately recover, to succeed and have dignity in our society.
The writer is a Whitehorse citizen.
They’ve asked to have their name withheld to protect the privacy of their son.