Advocating Suicide Prevention, Cathy’s Story
Cathy’s story is a perfect example of how we advocate for our participants, in her case we were advocating for suicide prevention. Cathy is cheerful young woman in her early twenties. She’s creative, enjoys music and spending time with people. However, she has also been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and has an IQ that falls below 70. In addition to some of the challenges faced with her mental illness’ and intellectual challenges, and she would later share having experienced thoughts of self-harm and suicide.
Struggling With Addictions & Living A Dangerous Lifestyle
Cathy also struggles with addictions to drugs and alcohol. In an attempt to seek out intoxicants she will often look for whatever means she might be available to her at the time; whether it be hand sanitizer, hair spray, alcohol or a drug of any sort. Increasing our concern for her overall physical and mental health.
Sadly Cathy is not alone in the obstacles she is facing, many of the other participants in our program facing these challenges resort to lifestyle choices that often later result in involvement in the criminal justice system; such as theft, substance distribution, association with gangs or involvement with the sex trade.
When one of her Community Support staff attended her residence for a regularly scheduled visit, they found an ambulance parked outside of her apartment complex. Paramedics informed Support Staff that Cathy was unconscious from a drug overdose, which Cathy would later share was a suicide attempt.
Turning Leaf Advocating For Suicide Prevention
Turning Leaf was able to provide paramedics, and later doctors at the hospital, with information about her Cathy’s medical and social history along with expressing concern about her vulnerability in the community. The following day Cathy was discharged from the hospital, unfortunately, she had made the decision to leave prior to a treatment plan being established with her medical team. Likely her decision to do so was impacted by the many facets of her mental health and substance abuse concerns.
Because Cathy is supported by a program such as Turning Leaf, she had people to could call to inform that she had left the hospital and was returning home. Initially, Cathy reported that she was fine and safe to return home, however after further conversation with her support team she identified that this, in fact, was not a safe decision and she would continue to be at risk for self-harm.
No Follow-up Care For Suicide Prevention Available
“Why would we admit her when we can save the bed for someone who needs it? She’s just going to be back in a couple days anyways.”
With Cathy having left the hospital with no recollection of a psychiatric assessment being completed or a follow-up plan being developed, Turning Leaf advocated for her to return to the hospital. Unfortunately, the response from the nurse towards Cathy and Support Staff was not as supportive as the team had hoped.
The nurse’s response to Cathy was “Why would we admit you when we can save the bed for someone who needs it? You are likely just going to be back in a couple days anyways.”
It was recommended that Cathy seeks out other resources in the community, sadly she was then lead through a series of revolving doors in the community all advising that she try elsewhere. Cathy was unable to find a resource in the city that would provide her with walk-in assessment or support.
Turning Leaf Provides Suicide Prevention Care
Fortunately, Turning Leaf had an open bed in one of their residential homes in Portage la Prairie, so at 11:00 at night, our caring and compassionate staff drove Cathy an hour out of the city so that she would have a safe and supervised place to stay. Support staff worked with Cathy to identify a safety plan so she knew what to do in an emergency situation. She felt assured knowing there was residential staff available to her next door, access to a phone where she kept in contact with her familiar support team in Winnipeg and had check-ins scheduled with her throughout the evening with residential staff. During her stay she was able to have a good night’s sleep, access to nutritious food and support staff ensuring she felt safe, valued and supported.
The following day she returned to the city and Cathy began the process of applying for a detox program and Turning Leaf ensured she was seen by a clinician from the agency.
While other supporting agencies involved may have questioned the costs occurred in supporting her throughout the crisis (overtime, mileage, therapy sessions, etc.), Turning Leaf kept her safety and well-being as their priority ensuring that she had what she needed.
14-Year-Old Sister Dies by Suicide
Cathy is still struggling, but that was the last suicide attempt. Tragically, she recently lost her 14-year-old sister to suicide, that was devastating for her. When we learned about her sister’s suicide attempt, Community Support Staff immediately picked up Cathy and to take her to the hospital and she was able to say good-bye to her sister before her passing. Community Support Staff was able to assist by ensuring a safety plan was developed for Cathy, scheduling ongoing follow-up visits with her support team and ensuring that she had emergency resources available to her at all times.
Everyone Is Entitled To Basic Human Needs & Rights
Basic human needs and rights is what everyone is entitled to. To us, this doesn’t seem like anything special because it is within Cathy’s right. We often hear that people are surprised by how far we will go for our participants, but we are not really, our participants have basic human needs and rights just like the rest of us and we pledge to provide that for them.
Suicide Prevention Hotline
There is always a reason to live. If you are in crisis contact the Manitoba Suicide Prevention hotline at 1 877 435-7170 or visit ReasonToLive.ca
If you or someone you know would like help from Turning Leaf, click here to fill out a referral form.
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