Your dollars at work

When you fundraise or donate to the RBC Race for the Kids Toronto, you are helping youth with mental health issues get the treatment they need through the Family Navigation Project at Sunnybrook.

Zoe Story

ZoŽ’s Story

In November 2015, Jeanny and Patrick Scantlebury received a frantic call from their daughter ZoŽ, who was away at university. “She was hysterical, sobbing. She had tried to commit suicide by hanging,” says Jeanny. The Toronto couple rushed to her, brought her home, and sought professional help. Continue reading.

Matt's Story

When her son Matt left for third-year university, Cindy thought everything was fine. But Matt was not fine: while he was away at school, he was smoking marijuana and drinking, skipping classes, and suffering from ever-increasing amounts of anxiety. Matt, whose father died suddenly of a heart attack when Matt was eight years old, was later diagnosed with substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

It was only when Matt failed out of school that Cindy realized he was terribly ill. “I didn’t know much about mental health,” she says. “I didn’t realize my son was suffering badly.”

Cindy went into high gear trying to find help for him, but floundered in the system. She searched in vain for treatment centres and therapists that could handle both addiction and mental illness. To make matters worse, many of the providers she called wanted to leave her out of the conversation, insisting that Matt was an adult and could speak for himself. At his lowest, he was contemplating suicide. “It was very, very frustrating. I was a mess,” says Cindy.

Luckily, she had heard about the Family Navigation Project (FNP) at Sunnybrook, which matches families with clinical navigators who guide them to the resources they need. Cindy called and was connected with navigator Shira Goldenberg. Shira has helped in countless ways. She arranged residential care, discharge planning and sober-living support for Matt, and stayed in close contact with Cindy throughout Matt’s journey.

“Families in crisis, like we were, need that steady person because you get pushed around,” says Cindy. “Shira was like a lifeline. I didn’t have to keep explaining our situation. She knew it.” Matt has remained substance-free for more than ten months. He is receiving outpatient counselling and group therapy, which is helping him stay on track. Cindy is thrilled that he has a job and a girlfriend.

“I am so grateful to FNP,” she says.

ZoŽ's Story

In November 2015, Jeanny and Patrick Scantlebury received a frantic call from their daughter ZoŽ, who was away at university. “She was hysterical, sobbing. She had tried to commit suicide by hanging,” says Jeanny. The Toronto couple rushed to her, brought her home, and sought professional help.

Despite the dire nature of ZoŽ’s illness, the Scantlebury’s had trouble finding health-care providers who could take her right away. “Everything is three months’, six months’ wait,” says Jeanny. “It is horrible. You feel really lost, that you are not tapping into the right resources.” The suicide attempt was not ZoŽ’s first brush with death. In August 2013, the SUV that the Scantlebury family had rented while on holiday in Alberta was hit head-on by a jack-knifed truck near Fort McMurray. ZoŽ was pulled from the burning wreckage, unconscious, with a fractured skull, lacerated face, and broken nose.

Once ZoŽ recovered from her physical injuries, her family was told to keep an eye on her mental health, as trauma to the brain can spur psychiatric problems. Still, the seriousness and suddenness of her illness, and the difficulty finding help, overwhelmed them. “This was so much harder than a car accident. We were quite desperate,” says Jeanny.

Luckily, Jeanny had heard about the Family Navigation Project (FNP) at Sunnybrook, which matches families with clinical navigators who guide them to the resources they need. She called and left a message, and navigator Julia Sivarajah called her right back. Julia got no answer, but persisted in calling several times before actually talking to Jeanny.

Once connected, Julia linked ZoŽ to a neuropsychologist and a neuropsychiatrist who could see her right away, and also provided much-needed support for the rest of the family. “I was really, really, really touched that Julia made multiple attempts to reach out to me. Just to say, ‘How are things?’” says Jeanny. “The whole idea is that in the craziness, someone is looking out for you. You feel so lost, so alone. But somebody in the system is keeping tabs on you. Like an anchor in the storm.”

ZoŽ’s health has improved immeasurably, and she is back to regular life. “We are so grateful to the Family Navigation Project” says Jeanny.