WARNING: This story contains disturbing details and may not be suitable for all readers.
An inquest into the suicide of a Vancouver police officer heard Thursday that she was released from hospital within two hours of attempts to admit her under mental health concerns.
Nicole Chan died by suicide in the early morning hours of Jan. 27, 2019, after officers escorted her home from the hospital.
The inquest has heard the 30-year-old constable spiraled into depression after lodging complaints about inappropriate relationships with two senior officers, one who she alleged had blackmailed her into sex.
“There’s no way she should have been released from the hospital,” Brandon Gray, Chan’s boyfriend’s best friend told a coroner’s court in Burnaby.
Holding back tears, Gray told the inquest how Chan’s boyfriend Jamie Gifford had called him for help with her because she was in crisis.
He described how the pair had tried calling 911 again after she was released, but to no avail.
“We were shocked, why is she back in her house?” he told Global News in an interview. “On the other line, it just said, ‘there’s nothing we can do, there’s nothing we can do, there’s nothing we can do.”
Gifford testified Wednesday that he had called for help after he found a knife and scissors Chan had hidden in the bathroom and her bed, and fabricated a noose out of a dog leash.
Ultimately, she hanged herself from a bedroom door. Gray told the inquest he was with Gifford when her body was discovered.
“For somebody going through a mental health crisis, not being assessed properly at the hospital, I just think there’s some holes in the system,” he told Global News.
“Nicole unfortunately fell through one of those cracks that night.”
The inquest also heard Thursday from one of the Vancouver police officers who apprehended her under the Mental Health Act and took her to Vancouver General Hospital.
Const. Warren Head told the jury he was shocked when a doctor at the facility said he wasn’t going to admit her.
Head said he told the doctor Chan was a police officer, and knew what to say in order to convince them to release her.
“I remember advocating saying I believe this is a mistake,” he testified.
“I believed, personally, that she was a threat to harm herself. I felt like, if she was to go back home and be alone, that she might, in fact, follow through.”
Head added that in his experience as a police officer who had handled numerous calls for mental health crises, he had virtually never seen doctors decline to admit someone in similar circumstances.
Gloria Ng, counsel for Chan’s family, said Head’s testimony raised concerns.
“Given that Nicole was a police officer and had specific experience with potentially what the doctors would be looking for and looking to hear, it was certainly surprising,” she said.
“This is certainly troubling for the family to know there were so many different attempts it seems to relay information, and for reasons that I expect we’ll find out as the inquest continues, that information was deemed insufficient to detain her.”
Ultimately, a doctor decided Chan was not a threat to herself, and that her ongoing treatment plan was sufficient, Head testified.
The inquest is slated to resume Friday, the anniversary of Chan’s death, with testimony from the paramedics who transported her to hospital and the doctor who saw her the night before she took her own life.
— with files from Rumina Daya
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
For a directory of support services in your area, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention at suicideprevention.ca.
Learn more about preventing suicide with these warning signs and tips on how to help.
- Health minister slams nicotine pouches, tobacco company alleges defamation
- Grab your tissues: Canada’s flu season has officially begun, officials say
- Police fear ‘they’ll be seen as weak’ bringing up mental health struggles: Ontario union
- Air pollution in Sarnia-area linked to increased cancer risk: health review