Holding up pictures of her smiling son as a little boy, Wanda Ball is calling for changes to the mental health system she says failed to save his life.
Struggling with depression through his teenage years, Kye Ball committed suicide on March 20, 2016, at the age of 16.
Friday a small crowd of family, relatives, friends and supporters gathered along Albert Street near the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, carrying their own posters and pictures of the teenager.
The Ball family from Indian Head are describing the struggle to get their son the help he badly needed in an effort to highlight the gaps in the system that need to change.
Ball credits the school social worker for responding with support for her son immediately but explained once they were connected with the provincial Child and Youth Services he faced a long waiting list.
She said they brought Kye to the emergency room in Regina multiple times because he was suicidal, only to be turned away after nine hours because there were no beds available.
“The one time he did stay I walked out of the hospital and refused to take him with me and left the responsibility of his life on the doctor that was seeing him and no parent should have to do that, you shouldn’t have to fight that hard to save your kid,” Ball explained.
She described the horrible feeling of having no way to keep her son safe and take his pain away.
From her point of view, Ball said funding is the biggest issue – pointing to the need for more hospital beds designated for mental health particularly for youth. She wants to see more money spent on training for RCMP, teachers and hospital staff. She also called for better access to professionals to do follow up care.
Ball said Kye’s referral to see a psychiatrist had a three-month waiting list then the time between his appointments would vary from one month to three depending on how busy that individual was at the time.
“When your kid wants to take his life you don’t have three months,” she said. “Then they tell you to take him to the ER and you end up back in the cycle so it’s frustrating.”
Ball noted that it takes more than reassuring words from the government saying they will look into it, she wants to see real action taken.
Standing nearby with her own poster was Kye’s cousin Victoria Stoppler. She said they were born only a week apart and grew up together. He should have graduated high school this year just like her.
Stoppler wants other teenagers to know that there is help available but says there just needs to be more funding to provide that help so they don’t feel like suicide is the option.
“It’s really frustrating because I know a lot of people that struggle with mental illness and they go and they try to get help and that isn’t how it should be,” Stoppler commented.
“Depression is a disease just like any other, if Kye had cancer then he would have been given the help he needed so he should have been given the help he needed right then and there.”
The family held a similar event last year to draw attention to the issue and they say they will be back for as many years as it takes.