Suicide put spotlight on mental health services

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Jill Tardiff suffered from depression. During the Labour Day long weekend, the disease killed her.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/01/2016 (2411 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Jill Tardiff suffered from depression. During the Labour Day long weekend, the disease killed her.

Her best friend of 55 years, Debbie Lazaruk, says Tardiff was “kidnapped” by the illness and needed a place where she could be watched 24 hours a day.

“You have to have that safe place to land until the suicidal tendencies go away. And they do,” she said recently.

Jill Tardiff, who was last seen Sept. 6 in the Old St. Boniface area. (Submitted photo)

But despite two previous attempts to end her life in the days before she died, Tardiff was released from hospital, only to walk into the Red River a few hours later and drown.

An average of 110 Winnipeggers each year take their own life. Experts say many more contemplate it.

In a city the size of the Manitoba capital, it’s believed as many as 1,400 people think about suicide daily. In the course of a year, about 28,000 people will consider ending their life.

Lazaruk and Tardiff’s family didn’t want her to become another statistic. They wanted her death to do some good, so they spoke up.

Her case brought renewed attention to the issue of depression and cast a spotlight on the lack of funding for mental health services. (The Canadian Mental Health Association says funding of mental health services across the country is woefully inadequate.)

Tardiff, a once-vibrant educator who touched countless lives, had spent a month in the psychiatric ward of Seven Oaks General Hospital shortly before she died.

While out on a pass a week before her eventual release, she waded into the Red River but managed to save herself, Lazarus said. She was rushed back to hospital.

The day after her discharge from Seven Oaks, she overdosed on pills and was rushed to the emergency room at St. Boniface Hospital. She was not admitted, but was kept overnight and sent home the following afternoon.

Security footage showed her leaving her condo the next morning. Her body was discovered in the Red River three days later.

Local officials said in Tardiff’s case, an internal review found her care was “managed appropriately.”

Despite decades of intensive suicide-prevention research, there is no checklist or protocol that can predict who will or will not end their own life — even among those who have tried it, a local mental health expert said.

Lazaruk feels more could have been done to save Tardiff, whom she befriended at age six. She fears hospital officials have learned nothing from the death.

“Anything that I heard (from local officials) sounded to me like people just covering their own butts,” she said recently.

“Many people, including myself, said the protocols need to be reviewed. And I haven’t heard anybody say they were going to review protocols.”

One concern Lazaruk has is psychiatric staff in hospitals are spread too thin outside normal business hours.

“Don’t get sick on the weekend because on weekends there is virtually no psychiatrists or doctors on staff in the psych wards,” she said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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