Raw and Open: The Canadian healthcare system is broken

Guest Author: Jody Betty

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

The Canadian healthcare system is broken.

There are as many cracks in the system as there are in the sidewalks, and I was given an insider’s view the minute I was born. I was like a seedling dropped in the cement and trapped under its weight so I could not break out. I was clinically intoxicated when I was born and removed from my birth mother immediately.

The system failed me over and over.

While I was in my first foster home, she was given six months to clean up her act but failed to do so, and so I entered full time into the foster care system and put up for adoption. The system failed me over and over. The original family that took care of me in that first six months could no longer care for me as the mother had fallen ill, so I went to the next where I was left in a bathtub monitored by a six-year-old and almost drowned. After leaving that home, the next two were horrors of abuse and sexual abuse until someone finally caught on, and I was sent to a different home. I stayed with that last family until my adoption at 18 months, by which time I had lost the ability to trust or believe in adults. I already knew I was alone in the world and no one was coming to save me, not even the adults who should have.

The system failed me every time I had to call the police on my father for domestic abuse. Back then it was entirely the woman’s choice to press charges or not, and quite frankly, a woman who has just been abused and is standing beside her husband and the police is not likely to say yes. They came over and over and all they did was tell my Dad to go for a drive and cool down, ask my Mom if she had somewhere to go for the night — to which she always said no — and that was that. Situation solved. Not once did an officer ask my opinion or notice the bruising on my arms or legs. I was shooed out of the room but still listened intently. Again, no one was coming to save us, or me. Not even the Police.

Not once did anyone try to help me.

The mental health system is even more than cracked — it is utterly broken. My first suicide attempt at age eight was not even questioned, just chalked up to childhood misadventure. The times I had my stomach pumped from overdosing, I was released as soon as they could because they needed the bed. They handed me a pamphlet with information for Narcotics Anonymous and such other groups. Not once was I seen by a psychiatrist, not once was I diagnosed properly, not once did anyone try to help me.

The pattern continued until I finally sought out therapy on my own, which is paid for all out of pocket. To see a psychotherapist in this province that is covered by our healthcare will leave you with at least a 10-month wait, and a psychiatrist, well, expect over a year. Now tell me how someone who is experiencing severe mental health problems or perhaps even is in crisis is supposed to wait that amount of time for help?

You are worth taking care of yourself

I know you are thinking — just go the ER if you are in crisis. But there you will encounter no rooms to admit you unless you literally have a gun to your head. More than a few times I have been told I am “not suicidal enough,” sent home with some Valium and told to sleep it off. They said to only come back if it got worse … Worse?? How much worse can you be than when you are low enough to take your own life? Lives are being lost daily and we still don’t put the emphasis on mental health and suicide prevention. Instead we sit back complacently and accept what is being given to us. Only recently has the system recognized mental health as not only an issue, but an epidemic.

So basically take charge of your own healthcare. Reach out; look for support systems and groups to get you through the extensive waiting times. Don’t rely on the system to be looking out for you or you will get buried in the cracks as I once was. You are worth taking care of yourself, so please do so.

Jody Betty is a guest blogger for SickNotWeak who, in her own words, is a master at the art of survival. She lives with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and is co-afflicted with MDD, Dysthymia and Social Anxiety. She has survived three serious suicide attempts and a handful of overdoses which lets her know it isn’t her time. You can read her blog “Raw and Open” posted bi-weekly on Thursdays on SNW.




Praying for peace for you. My daughter has Bipolar 1 and Borderline Personality Disorder and we have been struggling to get help for her for 7 years! The system is broken and the mental health act needs to be changed immediately. I am astonished at the stigma that still exists by the medical professionals and the lack of understanding for the urgency at which change, facilities, psychiatrists and programs need to be made available. Mental health affects the person afflicted, their family and friends, it affects housing, employment and basic needs. Something needs to be done immediately. Hoping you stay well.

Sam Dailey

Oh my God. Jody, once again I am extremely saddened and even angry at what you had to go through. The way you were neglected and not taken seriously by your supposed caretakers is unacceptable and alarming. You truly are a warrior for still being here to tell this story. I live in America and not Canada but the message remains the same; We. Need. To. Take. Mental. Health. Into. Our. Own. Hands.

Thank you for sharing this piece.

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