NEWS

Lisa Batstone murder charge highlights need for mental health intervention

01/06/2015 07:32 EST | Updated 03/08/2015 05:59 EDT
The issue of mental illness has come to the fore in B.C. since Surrey woman Lisa Batstone was charged with the second-degree murder of her eight-year-old daughter Teagan in December.

Batstone is allegedly suffering from severe depression and will remain at a psychiatric hospital until her next court appearance, but has been found fit to stand trial for the murder of her daughter.

Since she was charged, people close to her have raised concerns about her mental health — sparking a discussion about how friends and family can best to help someone they think may be suffering from mental illness.

Dr. David Morgan, a forensic psychiatrist with the Forensic Psychiatric Services Commission in Prince George, B.C. told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff said depression is a common condition.

"It affects up to 11 per cent of Canadians at some point in their life, four per cent in any given year," he said.

"Cases like Ms. Batstone's are very much the exception, but it can happen to any one of us."

Morgan offered this advice if you or someone you know is experiencing depression and desperation:

Recognize the symptoms

Morgan says the symptoms of depression usually become visible over a two week period, and affect the way a person functions.

While different people experience symptoms differently, he said many people will be "down" most days, and will experience feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing and in some cases, suicidal thoughts.

Other symptoms may include:

- Focusing can be more difficult

- Speech may slow noticeably

- The person often loses interest in things that would normally give them pleasure

- They may withdraw from friends and family

Morgan said people with depression may also experience a change in sleeping patterns, appetite and either weight loss or weight gain.

"You've got to be aware that someone is thinking in a certain way. Depression is not just characterized by those symptoms, there are changes in the thought processes," he said.

He said if someone makes off-handed comments alluding to suicide, take it seriously and seek help.

"The difficulty that often arises is that people lack recognition that they may be ill, that they may benefit from treatment, or that their behaviour may be the result of an illness."

Get professional help

Morgan said there are a number of voluntary resources for people once they recognize the symptoms of depression.

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention can offer help, including a range of resources and videos, explaining how to help a loved one experiencing suicidal thoughts.

People can turn to their family physician, or to psychiatric services. Vancouver Coastal Health offers a range of ways to access mental health services on their website: vch.ca/mentalhealth

Voluntary organization the Canadian Mental Health Association has branches across Canada which aim to provide services and support to people experiencing mental illness and their families.

Compulsory treatment in extreme cases

Morgan said if someone refuses to seek medical help, they can be certified to be of unfit mind, and forced into care.
It is an extreme step, but one he says is sometimes necessary.

"The threshold should be high, but where perceived risk exists after a professional evaluation that is a step that would be proportioned as necessary to save that person's life or someone else's."

To hear the full interview with Dr. David Morgan, click the audio labelled: Helping families with mental health.

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