Mom who refused to leave ER says son now admitted for mental-health treatment

A Nova Scotia mother who refused to leave a Halifax emergency department Wednesday morning as she desperately sought mental-health treatment for her 10-year-old son says he is finally being admitted to the IWK children’s hospital.

The mother, whom CBC News is not identifying to protect the child, said the boy’s behaviour has been increasingly dangerous to himself and the family. She said she’s had to call police on multiple occasions.

“When your son is trying to strangle your daughter, who’s 11, or hurt his mother, or make threats that he’s going to kill himself, that he’s better off dead,” she said, describing Wednesday the situations that led her to call for help.

“No mother should have to hear that.”

The boy first started struggling in 2016. The family, which now lives in Nova Scotia’s Pictou County, lived for a time in Northern Ontario, and he was sent to Kingston, Ont., for an assessment.

His mother said they’ve had limited support through the school and child services since they returned to Nova Scotia last summer. His behaviour has been increasingly dangerous since December, she said.

‘He needs help’

While there’s been debate over his diagnosis, it’s believed the child has intermittent explosive disorder. The Mayo Clinic describes the disorder as “repeated, sudden episodes of impulsive, aggressive, violent behaviour angry verbal outbursts.”

The mother said they’ve been to the emergency department four times in the last three weeks, both at the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow, N.S., and at the IWK, a children’s hospital serving patients from across Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and New Brunswick.

Finally, when they were released from the IWK Wednesday morning, she said she felt abandoned, and refused to leave.

“If he had cancer or a broken bone he would be treated immediately. But because his brain doesn’t work the way your child’s brain works, he gets put aside on a waiting list. He needs help.”

She believes the best way to help her son is for him to be admitted in the children’s intensive services program at the IWK. The program would have him stay at the hospital for treatment during the week, for four months.

But the mother has been told beds are full, and he’s on a wait-list.

‘Fall through the cracks’

On Wednesday morning, the mother posted their story on social media. Her cry for help has now been widely shared.

“I know resources are limited,” she said. “But it’s that disappointment to know that your son or somebody’s daughter or whoever it is in the system is being sent home once again to fall through the cracks.

“It’s no wonder that kids are dying, that teenagers are dying, that adults are dying, or getting into drugs addiction, whatever. I don’t want my son to be part of that statistic.”

The IWK is limited in its ability to comment on the situation because of privacy laws.

“All patients who present at the IWK emergency department are seen and assessed by appropriate health experts including physicians and/or mental-health clinicians,” spokesperson Nick Cox said in a statement.

“Following a clinical assessment, the most appropriate treatment plans are discussed with the patient and family members.”

The province’s Health Department sent a similar statement, adding that the mental-health crisis line is available around the clock by calling 1-888-429-8167.

‘Stake out a hospital’

Finally, on Wednesday afternoon, the mother said a psychiatrist offered to change her son’s medication, but still wanted to send him home.

She said she argued that the boy would still be at-risk until the medication adjustment was effective, and the child was admitted to the hospital. 

She doesn’t know how long he’ll be in the care of the IWK, but said she will take it day by day. 

The mother had earlier told one psychiatrist at the hospital that if the boy is sent home, they will end up writing his obituary.

“It’s bad enough we have to fight for adults. But at what point should we have to beg and basically stake out a hospital to save our kids? This is Canada.”


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