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Mental health system ‘broken,’ former Grand Forks woman’s mother says

A woman struggling to advocate for her daughter says the mental health care system “is really broken.”

Barbara Doran’s daughter was charged in January with stabbing another woman at Gyro Park in Grand Forks. She was released on bail after spending several months in jail and is now living in Kelowna awaiting a preliminary hearing early next year.

But Doran says she remains worried her daughter, who she asked us not to name, will hurt herself or someone else in the meantime.

Doran says her efforts to help her daughter, who is autistic and has developmental disabilities, have been stymied by privacy rules and institutional indifference.

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“The system itself is designed to work,” she says. “It’s the people within the system who aren’t taking things seriously or shrugging and saying ‘This is too complex.'”

Doran says without the right interventions, her daughter won’t get help for her mental illness. At various times in recent months Doran did not know where her daughter was and at one point police issued a missing persons report.

Doran said her daughter doesn’t recognize she is ill and is often uncooperative due to oppositional defiant disorder.

“She needs help but the people supposed to help her say ‘we can’t without her consent.’ Where does one draw the line? Human rights are very important. We should have the right to say no to things that are detrimental to us, but she’s saying no to things that are beneficial.”

Doran said she has been advocating for counselling, dialectical behavior therapy and cognitive behaviour therapy for her daughter. She did have a counselling session recently, but when the counsellor was not able to continue, her daughter took it personally.

“She said ‘Mom, I’m so broken, nobody even wants to help fix me. I should just go die.’ She just feels like she’s garbage and nobody wants to spend the time to help her.”

Doran said her daughter is also reluctant to comply with medications and has not used them since her arrest.

This month her daughter went to a business and threatened to hurt herself. She was apprehended under the Mental Health Act and taken to Kelowna General Hospital but has since been voluntarily discharged.

“Suddenly her stay is voluntary and she can just discharge herself after behavior like that?” Doran asks. “That’s one of the reasons I see the system as broken.”

Doran said she is calling for “truly compassionate, trauma-informed care.” She fears people like her daughter are treated like a “job to do” rather than human beings and suffer when professionals become frustrated with them.

While she agrees privacy is important, she said it can prevent people who “genuinely care from being able to help. When it hinders a person from getting better, then privacy is a detriment.”

Doran said she has struggled with Community Living BC and other groups to get information about her daughter and has received different messages about whether consent can be provided or withdrawn verbally or must be in writing.

“I’m running into brick walls trying to advocate for her,” she says. “On top of it, her mental health is such that she sees me as a threat when I’m not. She’s just really ill. We’re back at square one. I don’t know what to do to help her.”

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