Troubled teen's dad feels let down by system

Mon, October 18, 2004

Two fathers with vastly different experiences seeking mental health help for their children spoke at Thursday's forum. After guest speakers talked about how hard it is finding help for the hardest- to-treat kids with mental health problems, Ray Ricketts offered his son as an example.

He calls his 19-year-old son David a "fall-through-the-cracks kid," not a throwaway kid, because he's tried to seek help but feels the system has let him down.

A shortage of funding and resources and a lack of communication in the mental health field have left it up to him to search for the right help from the beginning, he said.


Ricketts' son has unsuccessfully been shuttled through various services, but no one's telling him where to go.

David's been too young, too old, and been to doctors and services too busy to help him or given conflicting treatments.

Only during a conversation with one of the speakers after Thursday night's community forum did Ricketts get a possible lead to another treatment program for his son.

"Everyone says yes, you have a problem, but no one's telling us what we can do about it," said Ricketts.

His son has a combination of attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, Tourette's syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder and could have a borderline personality disorder.


"You're working with a system that I feel leaves you out in the cold. You're left to try and find the resources yourself."

He's not the only one.

A large number of kids don't get into programs they need because there isn't the funding or room, said Dr. Xavier Plaus, executive director of the Roberts/Smart Centre, which deals with troubled youth.

"(Ricketts) described the situation as it really is for a lot of people," said Plaus.

"We get far more requests for residential placements than we can meet."

There are three other agencies in Ottawa that deal with children's mental health -- the Crossroads Children's Centre, the Youth Services Bureau, and Le Centre psychosocial -- but they also face limited resources, said Plaus.

When David Kettle sang the praises of the Roberts/Smart Centre for its work with his son, services that changed the youth's life, it stood in stark contrast to Ricketts' situation. It also showed what can happen when proper treatment is available.