CBC North (July 21): Father of Yellowknife teen at centre of coroner's report offers support for...

Full Title: Father of Yellowknife teen at centre of coroner's report offers support for parents navigating health system

The father of a teenager who died from self-inflicted injuries is warning parents that the Northwest Territories' health system may not be providing adequate care to young adults with mental illness.

He is offering his support to any parents who find themselves struggling to help their children navigate the system.

Timothy Henderson, 19, died on April 26, 2015. Timothy was in and out of hospitals multiple times while struggling with suicidal thoughts and behaviour.

"We weren't asking for information [from the health department] because we were trusting that the medical system was doing what they were supposed to do," said Ian Henderson, Timothy's father.

"There was basically very little support and very little consistency."

Cathy Menard, Chief Coroner for the Northwest Territories released a report on Timothy's death on July 18. In her report, she recommended the territory's health department develop a support network for families with members of any age who struggle with mental illness.

Menard also recommended that the health department better share patient information between departments and different service providers.

"Parents aren't aware of these disconnects between the various parts of the system. They don't know what to watch for and they don't know what questions to ask. That's where I would like to be available to any parent who has these concerns," Henderson said.

"You need to be aggressive and take control and find out what resources are available."

By way of example, Henderson said Timothy could have stayed in an independent living centre in Edmonton while pursuing post-secondary studies, instead of in the university residence.  But he said he was unaware of the centre at the time Timothy was in school.

This is care, he said, that could have helped Timothy cope with mental health issues.

Privacy issues

When Timothy turned 17, Henderson said mental health treatment shifted from the pediatric to the adult system. He said despite Timothy's wish to have family involvement in his treatment, privacy laws got in the way.

"Timothy wanted us to totally be involved. He signed all the waivers to allow us to access all the information, and yet that information is basically not available partly because of the Privacy Act," Henderson said.

"The different entities are not sharing information between themselves anyhow.

"Young adults are trying to become independent. They are trying to do things on their own. That is a huge issue with trying to support them because on one hand you are trying to give them their freedom so they can live independently … but they need supervision and support systems in place to grow into that."

Henderson said he is happy with the coroner's recommendations, and is hopeful the territory's new Mental Health Act will address shortcomings of the system.

The act was passed by the legislative assembly in 2015. It will come into effect in 2017.

Author: Mitch Wiles

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