Search NNSL


Subscriber pages

buttonspacer News Desk
buttonspacer Columnists
buttonspacer Editorial
buttonspacer Readers comment
buttonspacer Tenders

Court News and Legal Links
Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size
Chief coroner urges changes following suicide
Report on the death of Timothy Henderson pushes for better co-ordination between health authorities

Cody Punter
Northern News Services
Friday, July 21, 2017

A coroner's report on the death of a young man in 2015 makes several recommendations to improve access to mental-health services in the territory.

NNSL photograph

Timothy henderson: After his death in 2015, NWT chief coroner Cathy Menard is urging improvements to mental-health care in the NWT.

Timothy Henderson died April 26 of that year following a self-harm incident that led to him being on life support for several days.

According to the coroner's report, he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and high functioning Asperger Syndrome at a young age and had a history of depression and self-harm.

In 2014, he was hospitalized at Stanton's psychiatric unit twice: once for attempting to drown himself and another for experiencing an increase in suicidal thoughts while taking the anti-depressant Sertraline.

Although Henderson periodically received counseling and was on medication, his father, Ian Henderson, believes his son began experimenting with drugs because he did not receive a high enough standard of care.

"One of Timothy's ongoing complaints and frustrations, and one of the reasons he was self-medicating was because he was testing all kinds of remedies for himself," he said.

"He was a very smart kid and he was trying to find out solutions for himself, because the medical system wasn't validating him, they weren't taking him seriously ... He wasn't an addict, he was looking for solutions."

In her report, NWT chief coroner Cathy Menard said the NWT health system should consider using more pyschotherapeutic approaches to assist patients suffering from mental-health issues.

"Evidence-based psychotherapies are essential in caring for youth as they transition out of pediatric care with depression," she wrote.

Another concern raised by Menard's report is a lack of co-ordination between various health-care authorities leading up to Henderson's death. Timothy was attending university in Edmonton in the winter of 2015 when he checked himself into hospital following an attempt to overdose on Ritalin.

"Henderson appears to have been seeking assistance in Edmonton in the same way he would have sought help in Yellowknife but did not know or appear to understand how to access the likely more helpful long-term psychotherapeutic supports," reads the report.

While Ian agrees co-ordination between provinces and territories needs to be improved, he said the quality of service in the NWT simply needs to be better.

"The perception is that we have a medical system where all parts of the system are taking to each other but they're not. Partly because of the privacy act but also because of the way the services are divided," he said.

"In mental health, moving from counsellor to counsellor to counsellor, even in the same system, is difficult."

Ian is particularly critical about how poorly equipped the medical system was in dealing with Timothy's transition from pediatric to adult care.

"When he was in the pediatric system he received excellent supports," he said. "Now all that investment for all these years is lost. Not only for our family but for the education and the medical system."

The GNWT commissioned a ministerial review following Henderson's death, culminating in a report with 31 recommendations to improve the territory's mental-health system.

The department of health did not respond to a request for comment about the progress of those recommendations by press time.

Henderson said he hopes his son's death will encourage parents with children suffering from depression to fight for better care.

"It's been a very frustrating time finding out about all these continual disconnects," he said.

"If I knew what I know now, I would have been far more aggressive with getting resources in place."

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.