• Marlene Hibbs

Alex McGilverys Story

An Author and Editor at Celtic Publishing, Minister in The United Church of Canada, a father and compassionate caregiver, Alex shares his and his family's history of

mental health challenges, and his hopes and ideas of what I hope to see happen.

My name is Alex McGilvery, I’m 59, currently live in Kamloops B.C, I’ve lived in various places around Canada. I am about to share with you my mental health story of what happened, and hopes and ideas of what I hope to see happen.

In my experience, the mental health system was unapproachable when we needed it. My wife had to lie about wanted to commit suicide to get help with a medication change. She was experiencing a complete psychotic break at the time, and lying was the only way to receive help.

Access to mental health services should not be dependent on suicidal ideation. During the thirty years we were married, the costs of counselling could have paid for a house over the years. I was my wifes main support when she experienced medical discrimination, which resulted in us facing six human rights cases over this period of time.

To add to this, the system has failed my adopted son far worse who inherited his mother’s mental illness, then addictions. We struggled to access him care from early childhood all the way through to his teen years, which left us feeling hopeless as it was impossible to access a doctor who could support my son, and our family unit as a whole. Five minute appointments once a month apparently were deemed acceptable, I say that is entirely unacceptable; rather, there should be enough spaces for a voluntary commitment, for proper assessment and treatment planning, and timely intervention for every child and teenager in need.

Instead, we were told he was beyond hope by the first psychiatrist he saw. Every assessment we paid for or received through his the school was different, and as time went on his behavior and health deteriorated. As a result of these systemic failings, my son, ended up in front of a judge instead of a doctor. He was arrested, breached his probation, and during that time, received no acknowledgment of his mental health challenges, which meant he was confined to jail without support or his medication. I believe that if he had received proper and early care, it might have been a very different situation. He is still without medication, and I feel the best I can do now is merely listen to him rant for a few minutes.

After thirty plus years of ministry in the church I burned out, but not from my work in the church. It was the constant caring for my wife and son which took all my energy and eventually caused me to shut down completely. My body couldn’t take the pressure any more, my chronic pain progressed, my thinking became fuzzier. My outcome was a depression so deep that I required disability. The disability destroyed my relationships with the people in the church I worked at. I relocated to Winnipeg, then Kamloops, never recovering my ability to work more than a few hours in a day. Anxiety has made things like speaking in public or taking a bus a difficult challenge, I rarely ventured out in the evening and I became a hermit. To date, after 18 months in Kamloops I have managed to connect with a psychiatrist, and am hoping to find a medication that helps me more than it hurts me. I used to be the glue that held my family together.

In conclusion, for thirty years myself and my family showed up time and time again entirely committed to do the work required to heal, yet I cannot recall even once accessing functioning mental health services that reciprocated our level of commitment, or capable of meeting our needs.

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