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A preventable tragedy: How Nova Scotia's mental health services failed Cody Glode

Photo: Lloyd Morgan/flickr

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Cody Glode had everything to live for.

He was a handsome 20 year-old, the youngest firefighter -- and first Mi'kmaw -- in Truro's fire service. "The boys at the fire department welcomed [him] with open arms," his mother says, but Cody's "true passion" remained mixed martial arts.

He was a featherweight fighter. His goal was to turn pro. He won his most recent bout by a technical knockout in the third round, and had three more fights scheduled this spring.

Today, the notation beside each event reads simply: "Cancelled bout."

For all that the rest of us might look at Cody Glode and see only achievement and promise, Cody himself was trailed by depression's "black dog." Diagnosed when he was just 12, he'd managed his symptoms well until last fall when he began "spiraling down" again.

On March 2, Cody died by suicide.

He isn't alone. Suicides account for 24 per cent of all deaths among 15-24 year-olds in Canada. The situation seems worse for young men, and worse again for Aboriginals.

But the larger tragedy in the human tragedy of Cody Glode's death is how poorly our health system responds to mental illness.

Cody's mother says the family reached out to the province's mental health help line in February. They were directed to their local hospital's emergency room where he was given medication and sent on his way. They followed up with his family doctor, but the best he could manage was an appointment with a psychiatrist at the end of April. They eventually found a therapist themselves, but it proved too late.

After Metro first told Cody's story last week, provincial opposition leaders responded predictably -- but correctly.

Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie renewed his year-old call for an inquiry into mental health services, and NDP health critic Dave Wilson urged the government to "invest in mental health" in its upcoming budget.

Health Minister Leo Glavine agreed there is a problem, but says the doctor in charge of mental health services is "putting together a clinical services review." But he offered no timeline for what he called a "stronger" provincial approach.

That's not good enough.

There's a reason we call suicide a "preventable cause of death."

This article first appeared in Stephen Kimber's Halifax Metro column.

Photo: Lloyd Morgan/flickr

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