The route to in-patient mental health care on Vancouver Island is through the Archie Courtnall Centre, or psychiatric emergency services. Patients can wait more than a week, sleeping in chairs, before a bed becomes available.
Tara Levis offers a patient's perspective.
"Psychiatric emergency services is nothing short of a nightmare. It is a holding cell for people at rock bottom, waiting for a transfer to the in-patient unit. It is a small room, overseen by a glassed-off nursing station, that at some points holds over a dozen people.
Claustrophobia sets in the minute I walk through the secured doors and if I'm not on edge to begin with, I most certainly am bordering on psychosis when the door shuts and I am confined at the mercy of an overburdened health-care system.
My personal items are examined with a fine-tooth comb and promptly locked away until further notice. I am allowed to keep a journal and a book. I want to cry when they take away my cellphone, my last connection to the outside world apart from the public phone they provide, which is always in use. The items on my person must be guarded at all times as theft is rampant in PES. Blink and my stuff would be gone, likely to be sold for cigarettes."
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