B.C.’s Children’s Watchdog Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond is sharing the story of a 16-year-old First Nations boy she says was failed by multiple systems.
He was said to be a sweet, likable teen but troubled; in May of 2013 Chester walked away from school, out into the woods, and took his own life.
The report notes Chester needed mental health care, and had an active file under the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
Turpel-Lafond makes five recommendations, including more rapid access to services desperately needed.
“Children in crisis, like Chester, wait far too long. They wait so long that it is not a service system, it is a waiting system. So the average wait time even today for Aboriginal child and youth mental health is 270 days.”
She says the system is not organized to support young people.
“Chester never got an assessment, he never got to that point despite the fact that his behaviour demonstrated that he was in a great deal of pain, he couldn’t cope at school, he couldn’t cope at home, and the pressure placed on his family to manage his issues was enormous.”
She says approximately 20 per cent of Aboriginal students in the public school system are dealing with behavioural issues
In a statement, the Ministry of Children and Families says it appreciates the report.
The MCFD says it’s made significant improvements to wait times and access to mental health care since 2013.
It notes there are no wait times for youth considered suicidal, but, that in this unfortunate case.
Even though he had an ongoing file with the Ministry, he was never considered suicidal, and do acknowledge he was underserved.