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Juanita Fox says she has lost a lot of faith in the province’s mental health care system. – Contributed/Juanita Fox

NAIN, N.L. — Juanita Fox is fighting a battle.

Suffering from mental illness since her teenage years, the now-43-year-old was diagnosed with PTSD, depression, and anxiety two years ago. A year ago, she was diagnosed with ADHD as well.

Fox says one of her biggest battles came in December 2023, when she attempted suicide — and almost succeeded.

She’s still in limbo, waiting to see a psychiatrist, out of work, and constantly worried about what’s going to happen next.

The start of trouble
Fox says one of the drugs she was on for two years stopped working around September 2023. She was then prescribed a booster, but nothing seemed to work.

“This fall, in September, I was having follow-up appointments with my psychiatrist with Labrador-Grenfell Health and telling him that I felt that my meds weren’t working,” says Fox.

“He wasn’t too concerned. He was more concerned over my ADHD meds. We agreed that we were going to trial and error ADHD meds. We started in October. We trialed and errored my ADHD med.”

A bunch of drugs
She then tried a variety of different drugs over the next few months, but nothing seemed to work.

By December 2023, everything started to fall apart.

“November rolled into December, and by that time, I was just so confused with everything and all the mixture of meds just coming in and out. I started severely abusing alcohol. I became very dependent on alcohol, which played a huge factor in December,” she says.

“I attempted suicide in December. Beginning of December, I attempted suicide and passed out.”

The incident
Fox doesn’t remember how everything happened but says the night was normal up until she can remember.

“I was perfect. I went out and met friends at a local bar, went for an after-party. Came home and I was talking to my daughter through iMessage. Perfectly fine, laughing, talking to them then,” she says.

“Then I blacked out. I don’t remember anything until I woke up in the (ER) in Goose Bay.”

Fox had overdosed on a few different medications.

Fox had been texting her daughter, Amber, before overdosing.

“The last text that I sent was, ‘Just remember how much I love you guys,’” she says.

Calling a nurse

Her daughter came running home and found Fox lying by the kitchen table, with empty pill bottles and a suicide note.

Her daughter called the clinic in Nain and reached a nurse. Amber described the scene to the nurse.

“The nurse hesitated,” Fox says.

“She hesitated and kept questioning, ‘OK. Why do you think she did this? Why do you think she would have wanted to commit suicide? Why do you why do you think that she took pills?’”

Passed out drunk?

The nurse assumed Fox was passed out drunk, claims Fox. She says the nurse kept questioning her daughter over the phone without providing help.

The nurse refused to visit Fox in her home, where she was passed out. Instead, Fox says, the nurse made Amber triage her.

What the nurse then told Fox’s daughter still haunts Fox.

“The nurse just told Amber, ‘You could just give her a pillow and cover up and just let her sleep.’”

Bizarre requests

She says the nurse made bizarre requests to her daughter, including asking her to bring Fox to the hospital by herself.

Fox’s daughter had to leave her overdosed mother at 2 a.m. to see her breastfeeding infant. She says in the morning, seven hours later, at around 9 a.m., the nurse called Amber with an update.

“In the morning, (the nurse) finally called the cops and told them they need to do a wellness check. She finally decided to believe Amber that I took an overdose. We don’t know how much meds I took, but (I was) still unconscious and (needed) to get medevacked out of Nain to Goose Bay,” says Fox.

Suffering while waiting

Fox had an appointment with a psychiatrist the same day she was sent to Goose Bay after her suicide attempt. It had to be rescheduled for five months later, in April 2024.

Fox had another suicide attempt in January 2024 while waiting for the appointment.

“Same thing, but this time I ended up in the ICU. I think it was four or five days in ICU. I have no recollection,” she says.

“This time, my meds was taken like cold turkey. Because I was sleeping for three days, and everything was out of my system.”

‘Common sense’

Fox hasn’t worked in over six months now. She quit her job with Labrador-Grenfell Health because of how she was treated.

She says the nurse should’ve known better.

“It’s common sense. I’m from northern Labrador, we have the highest rating of suicide,” she says.

“A lot of emergencies in my community. A lot of intergenerational traumas. A lot of sh*t still going on to this day.”

Potential good news

Today, she is feeling more hopeful, thanks to a potential diagnosis of what she thinks she’s been living with this whole time.

“My doctor is convinced it’s not just depression and PTSD, either bipolar or BPD. He can’t diagnose me because he’s not a psychiatrist. He’s just the general practitioner,” she says.

“I went to see another doctor, a completely different doctor. He was pretty clear that it’s not just depression and PTSD. It’s either bipolar or BPD. I praised them up so good, it was finally so relieving to hear somebody say, ‘You are being misdiagnosed.’”

Mental health supports lagging

Lela Evans is the NDP MHA for Torngat Mountains and also sits on the all-party committee for mental health and addictions. She says she wants to look at the bigger picture with what happened to Fox.

“Why did that happen? Because I always look at the big picture, why did this happen?” Evans says.

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NDP MHA Lela Evans. – Juanita Mercer/The Telegram

“What contributed to the nurse doing that, because it’s actual fact that the nurse had an obligation to ensure the safety of that person. I don’t think she fulfilled her obligation to her profession and to her job.”

She says resources in the province for mental health support are lagging far behind what’s needed.

“There’s not enough resources on the North Coast and there’s not enough awareness of the services for mental health. It’s human resources. If you look at the clinics now, a lot of times the clinics are short-staffed,” she says.

Government’s response

In a statement to Saltwire NL Health Services says they are sorry to hear about the Fox’s experience. The statement also says there are a wide range of services available in communities.

The statement reads, “The Labrador-Grenfell Zone places high priority on communication with all partners with a goal to remove obstacles in the delivery of mental health and addictions services. We are committed to engaging with our communities in order to enhance information exchange, increase cultural knowledge and promote cultural safety.”

NL Health Services says they can’t discuss individual patient experiences citing the Personal Health Inmformation Act.

Waiting for help

Meanwhile, Fox spends her days waiting for help. She says living in Nain doesn’t help.

“Living in a tiny community, you get a lot of stigmas about mental health and especially about trying to put in complaints and trying to get the right things done,” she says.

“You’ll be looked down like a rat or being the bad person because you try to get yourself situated or get your word out.”

Sanuda Ranawake is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Indigenous and rural issues.

By Sanuda Ranawake, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 09, 2024 at 06:54

This item reprinted with permission from   The Telegram   St. John's, Newfoundland
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