Chloe, our daughter, is 17. Chloe has been suffering with depression and anxiety for the last 7 years. She began to see a psychologist when her anxiety was too much to cope with and she was self-harming. At the age of 14, Chloe entered high school. We found her mood changed. She was given antidepressants. Her anxiety and depression were being managed primarily with therapy and psychotropic medications. In a matter of a few months our daughter quickly found out how illicit drugs made her feel better and therefore became non-compliant with her medications. Within a few months, we were faced with a young daughter who, not only accessed illegal drugs readily, but used them around the clock simply because they made her life manageable. She stopped attending school and barely got out of bed most mornings.
We sought external help privately. We tried outpatient treatment but Chloe did not respond, as her need to self-medicate was too strong. Her therapist recommended Chloe be immediately put in residential care. We were also told that Chloe had to be willing to go to residential care and that the present wait for residential care in Ontario was 14 months.
Chloe could not see that she had a problem due to her co-occurring mental illness and drug use. The option of going to a residential treatment facility was presented to her on many occasions, by her therapist and by us, but she refused to go.
We had our hands tied in Ontario and we could only sit and watch our daughter’s demise. What would any parent do when presented with this scenario? Our province was not going to help us and the laws prevented us from enforcing treatment on our 14 year old daughter who was struggling with addiction and co-occurring mental health issues.
We turned to the USA where treatment was available and parents could help their child. We signed over guardianship to professionals who brought our daughter, against her will, to a Wilderness Program located in Oregon. Within a few weeks of treatment and sobriety Chloe understood how ill she was and that she needed treatment. She stayed at the Wilderness Program for almost 3 months. The therapists at her program recommended our daughter attend a post care placement to continue to work on her underlying mental health issues. Chloe confided to us that she had intended to end her life in Toronto, as she saw no hope, and that the treatment she received in the US had made the difference by breaking her cycle of mental illness and drug use. She also stated the following “I am not ready to return to Toronto. If I do return to Toronto, I would just go back to my old life and patterns”. She remained in after care placement for 12 months at a therapeutic boarding school in the US.
Today Chloe is living with her family at home in Toronto. She has been home for 19 months and has been sober for almost 3 years. She is engaged in an active recovery community and has therapeutic support weekly. She is also a full time high school student and doing well academically and inter-personally.
Most youth in Canada do not have the opportunity for financial or other reasons, to receive the required treatment in the USA. Those who get left behind end up waiting for care, end up falling out of society, revolving through the medical system, or dying. We believe Chloe would have been a statistic had we not stepped in to give her what she so desperately needed. No family should have to wait 14 months for life saving treatment. No parents should have to watch their child deteriorate because they are unable to choose lifesaving care due to mental illness.
By: Louise White