‘I feel like they just don’t care’: The people waiting for mental health support in Atlantic Canada

WATCH: Across Atlantic Canada wait lists for mental health supports are long and getting longer. Those dealing with mental illness say the risk of suicide is all too real. In Nova Scotia some people left waiting for care are speaking out. Alicia Draus takes a look at their stories and their calls for change.

For many people who deal with a mental illness, even seemingly simple daily tasks can be difficult.

“I’m unable to work, I have trouble sleeping, eating,” says Nicole Tardieu who has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

“It’s taken over my whole entire life.”

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A form of treatment for BDP is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DPT). It’s a type of cognitive therapy which works to identify and change negative thinking patterns.

“The wait list in Nova Scotia for the day program is three years, they told me,” said Tardieu.

BPD can lead to extreme mood swings and suicidal thoughts. According to the Nova Scotia Health Authority, there is a wide range of services for patients with BDP including DBT.

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The authority says wait times for the various services vary but range from a couple of months to a year and half. There is also a specialized treatment program for adults that provides more long term care, the current wait list for that program is between one and one a half years.

But Tardieu’s boyfriend says he is worried about the wait times his girlfriend is facing

“If she’s not helped, I don’t believe she will be around within the year, probably,” he said.

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In the meantime, Tardieu has reached out to a community mental health clinic, but that, too, has left her waiting.

Waitlists are long, quotas not always met

According to the Nova Scotia Health Authority, wait times for mental health appointments depends on a person’s triage level.

Triage one patients are considered emergency no-wait patients and receive immediate access to crisis services. Level two triage patients are to be seen within a target of seven days, and triage three cases are considered non-urgent, with a target of being seen within 28 days.

But according to the province’s website, those quotas aren’t always met.

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At the Bayers Road Clinic, only 50 per cent of non-urgent patients have a maximum wait time of 35 days.

The website indicates that 90 per cent of patients have a wait time under 124 days but 10 percent of patients experience a longer wait time.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia aims to decrease lengthy mental-health wait times

For those suffering from a mental illness, wait times can take their toll.

“It’s made me quite depressed, I’ve withdrawn quite a bit from it, I feel like my life doesn’t matter,” said Tardieu.

“I’ve explained them to the severity, I’ve been to the hospital and called the crisis line and when they tell me I just have to wait,  I feel like they just don’t care.”

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More help needed

Another woman that Global News has agreed not to identify says she also has BPD, as well as anxiety and depression, and is facing similar roadblocks.

She says she was told there would be a six- to 12-month wait at the community mental health clinic.

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While waiting for an appointment, she ended up overdosing a few times last month.

The woman says she was taken to the hospital but little was done. Even after she received a psychiatric evaluation, she was still discharged.

“I had begged them not to let me leave the hospital and they still said there was no reason to keep me,” she said.

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She says she knows in her head that she doesn’t want to die, but feels helpless when her mood drastically changes in a matter of minutes, and she worries about what could happen in the future.

“If I overdose and actually harm myself, and actually die, I can’t take that back afterwards.”

WATCH: Ask the Doctor: Difference between mental health concern and mental illness 

Ask the Doctor: Difference between mental health concern and mental illness
Ask the Doctor: Difference between mental health concern and mental illness

She says she wants the province to take mental health more seriously, and have more resources to help those who are suicidal — something that is echoed by Tardieu.

“When someone’s to the point where they’re thinking of ending their life, there is something inherently wrong because it goes against every instinct you have as a human because your instinct is to live,” she said.

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“We need more mental health professionals.”

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But for others, it is already too late. Anthony Nauss took his life in November.

His father Stephen Nauss describes his son as his best friend.

“Best kid anybody could have. Loved life, loved animals, loved Marvel,” he said. “Do anything to help anybody and had a larger than life attitude.”

But Anthony suffered with his mental health. Nauss says they were first made aware of the issue when he was in high school and ended up at the IWK.

Nauss says they spent a week at the IWK and received a lot of support, but says things worsened when Anthony got older.

He says after his son moved out on his own he had gone to the ER on a few occasions but was turned away.

“At one point he was told, ‘oh you’re just tired, you gotta go home and sleep,'” said Nauss.

“The last time he went they said, ‘here, make an appointment with a counsellor, they’ll talk to you.’ Well, he made an appointment, but it was three months later.”

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Within a week of that last appointment, Anthony was gone.

“I’m angry. I don’t think it was necessary, I think they should have kept him and helped him. Did something,” said Nauss.

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READ MORE: Suicide rate rising in Nova Scotia: Statistics Canada

Nauss has now written to politicians on both the provincial and federal levels, calling for more supports for those dealing with mental illnesses.

“I’m doing all this,” he said. “I know it’s not going to bring him back, but maybe I can save somebody else.”

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