‘They sealed his fate’: Winnipeg family says man’s suicide shines spotlight on health care failures

Terrance Van Dyke, 49, was found dead in his Winnipeg apartment on Thursday.
Terrance Van Dyke, 49, was found dead in his Winnipeg apartment on Thursday. Submitted/ Ashley Gallagher

WINNIPEG — A Winnipeg family is speaking out after their stepfather took his own life just hours after being released from hospital.

On Monday night, a family member found Terrance Van Dyke in the midst of trying to take his own life. After spending time talking with the 49-year-old they managed to convince Van Dyke to seek help.

READ MORE: Mental health professionals calling for change after Winnipeggers death

Not knowing where to turn, and still having thoughts of taking his own life, Van Dyke and his stepson went to the emergency room at the Health Sciences Centre on Wednesday.

They waited for several hours before Van Dyke was finally admitted overnight. But, his step daughter, Ashley Gallagher said the doctor told him there was  nothing that could be done and he was released.

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“He said ‘mark my words, I’m going to be back here, and I’m not going to be alive’,” Gallagher said.

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Van Dyke was also dealing with pain related to gallstones, Gallagher said.
Van Dyke was also dealing with pain related to gallstones, Gallagher said. Submitted/Ashley Gallagher

After his wife went to sleep, Gallagher said Van Dyke wrote a four page letter to close family members, before dying in a bathtub.

“They tried to revive him in the living room, but they couldn’t,” Gallagher said. “So they took his body, put it in an ambulance and my mom followed.”

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Now Gallagher and her family are wondering why Van Dyke was released on his own instead of being referred to a mental health professional.

“These doctors turning him away, they sealed his fate.”

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The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority would only tell Global News the case was being looked into.

“Our sincere condolences go out to the family for their loss,” a spokesperson said in an email statement. “The Mental Health program is currently investigating this incident.”

But it’s not a new situation. It’s one many families have dealt with in the city in the past few years.

In October 2015, Bonnie Bricker’s son Reid took his own life, after attempting suicide three times, and being released from four Winnipeg hospitals.

READ MORE: Reid’s Fight for Life rally sparks conversation about living with mental illness

Since her son’s death, Bricker has been working with a task force made up of officials from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, to develop a new discharge protocol for mental health patients visiting the emergency department.

“I just cannot believe that we’re having this conversation with these concerns,” Bricker said.

In the past year, Bricker has been trying to introduce a peer system in Winnipeg ER’s for people having suicidal thoughts. She said she would like to see a staff member, who has had suicidal thoughts themselves, on call at all times, to speak with mental health patients personally while in care.

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“If there had been a peer support person there to help this person, maybe we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.”

Van Dyke’s family said they are considering taking legal action.