After taking on the province in a public battle last spring, Ella Hale and Emma Epp feel brushed off by the system that promised change
Psychiatric Emergency Services at the Royal Jubilee Hospital released an update last week on their efforts to improve care for people in a mental health crisis. But the two teens who brought it all into the public eye last spring are not satisfied—and now they’re asking for an independent investigation.
Reform efforts started in March when two teenagers, Ella Hale, 18, and Emma Epp, 19, started a Facebook group called PES: a Pathetic Excuse for Services. They’d had bad experiences at Psychiatric Emergency Services—known as PES and pronounced “Pez” like the candy dispensers—and wanted to know if they were alone.
They weren’t. Within days, over 1,000 people joined the group and started sharing their own experiences. A common theme emerged: staff had been dismissive, uncaring and even suggested better ways to commit suicide to patients who had just made attempts.
Hale and Epp were invited to meet with Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix, Mental Health Minister Sheila Malcolmson, managers at PES, and the Patient Care Quality Office.
“It was an overwhelmingly positive response. A lot of words and people trying to do the right thing,” she begins—“And then cancelled meetings, plans not working out, not really following through. It was a lot of courtesy meetings.”
Island Health and PES kept working on their improvements—even after cancelling bi-weekly meetings with the young women in June, moving to an “as needed” schedule, which had resulted in one meeting, called by the two—and released an update on their progress on Sept. 8. Their list includes things like streamlining the Patient Care Quality Office, improving follow-up after a patient is discharged, using peer support workers, and improving staff education.
Hale says they’re still missing the real problem: the culture at PES.