Renowned journalist John Scully slams Canada's lack of mental health care
Nick Wells, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, February 21, 2017 10:00PM EST
Award-winning journalist John Scully is speaking out about his frustrating attempts to receive treatment for mental health issues in Canada.
Scully, 76, spent years covering national events ranging from the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran to the Vietnam War -- and even ended up in front of a firing squad in El Salvador after being mistaken for a CIA spy.
The adrenalin of going into dangerous scenarios hid his depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
"My career covered it up," he said. "It wasn’t until I stopped the high-profile coverage and the high-profile work that it caught up with me and it caught up with me in a bad way."
Scully says he's tried a variety of treatments, including electroshock therapy, but nothing's worked.
It came to a head a month ago. Suffering from horrific nightmares and insomnia, he decided to kill himself.
"I found myself staring at my medicine cabinet looking at my drugs saying, 'Is there enough here to kill me? Yes there is,'" he said. "That’s when I knew that I was going to commit suicide."
He dialed 911 and was rushed to hospital. But despite efforts to admit him, no beds were open. Doctors had to send him home and ordered his wife to throw away his pills.
"I was expecting treatment, I was expecting relief from the pain and agony of sleep deprivation and despair of depression," he said.
Scully says that he waited more than two weeks for a free bed, a situation he says is not good enough.
"I thought that people should know that the mental health system in this country is screwed," he said. "We are still at that stage in Canada, and around the world, that mental illness is still something to be shunned and hidden from, and kept secret."
He spoke out about his experience on Facebook and says others who suffer depression have reached out to him, sharing their own stories of frustrating waits for psychiatric care.
His view is backed by mental health advocates who say Canada's spending falls short of other nations.
"If someone presents as suicidal, every single case needs to be taken seriously," said Mark Henick, with the Canadian Mental Health Association. "If it is determined they do need to be admitted, then that space has to be found."
Nearly 4,000 Canadians die by suicide each year, roughly 10 a day.
Canada spends seven per cent of its health budget on mental health, compared to 10 or 11 per cent in other industrialized nations such as New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom.
Canada, Henick says, should boost its funding to nine per cent of its budget.
Henick says only 60 per cent of patients hospitalized for depression receive follow-up care 30 days after they are discharged. Patients who suffer medical procedures, such as heart attacks, will receive follow-up care 99 per cent of the time.
"That is a systemic problem that’s something we need to address," he said.
Henick says Scully's choice to speak out helps give freedom to others to give voice to their own health concerns.
With a report from CTV News' medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip