Mikeal Teal's wallet, watch, and well-worn baseball caps rest on a shelf above his bed. On a desk are four childlike wooden blocks with letters that spell his nickname: MIKE.
It is the bedroom his mother is afraid to enter, a bedroom that looks untouched since the 16-year-old from Sharbot Lake died after trying to take his own life almost two months ago.
Blocks on Mikeal Teal's desk
Four childhood blocks spell Mikeal Teal's nickname. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)
His distraught mother, Leslee Whan, her two daughters Sidney and Alley, and her husband Allan Whan, Mikeal's stepfather, are reeling from his death — one they say could have been prevented.
The family wants to know why the teenager was sent home from hospital after each of his two previous suicide attempts, and why the health-care system didn't do more to protect him.

Preferred the quiet of outdoors

His parents say Mikeal was passionate about the outdoors, and enjoyed hunting and fishing.
"We were planning camping trips and he just got his driver's licence," said Allan. "Yeah, he had a lot of things to look forward to."
Mikeal's mother said her son preferred the quiet of the outdoors to large crowds. And for the last nine years, Mikeal had to cope with his own father's suicide when the teen was just seven years old.
"He was very kind and loving," she said. "He'd do anything for anybody."

'They told me it was hormones': mother

A year ago, Mikeal's parents noticed his moods changed dramatically. At first, they weren't sure if it was normal teenage angst, but they soon realized he was depressed. He grew more distant.
Leslee and Allan Whan
Leslee and Allan Whan, mother and step-father to Mikeal Teal. They say trying to get their son the help he needed led them down a frustrating path of what they describe as inadequate care. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)
"He'd go off by himself a lot more. He'd go down to the beach and swing on the swing for hours and then he started getting voices in his head," Leslee says, breaking down into tears.
Trying to get Mikeal the help he needed led the Whan family down a frustrating path of what they describe as inadequate care.
After telling a Sharbot Lake social worker he was having suicidal thoughts, Mikeal was referred to the Kingston General Hospital, and then treated by a psychiatrist at the hospital's Hotel Dieu campus.
He was prescribed anti-depressants and weekly consultations via Skype, as the hospital is an hour from his home. The consults usually lasted between five and 10 minutes, according to his family.
"Not impressed," said Mikeal's mother. "They just pushed pills, see you later and close his file. They told me it was hormones."
"I don't know how they can make an honest diagnosis in 10 minutes," added Alan.

Became 'dark' after losing hunting licence

Mikeal was struggling in school, and last fall was charged with assault and uttering death threats on school property.
That led to him being expelled, and after he pleaded guilty to both charges he lost his firearms licence — and access to the one activity he loved.
"He just became dark then," said Leslee. "It was overload, too much for him to cope with."
Last January, Mikeal was referred to the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa after he told a Sharbot Lake doctor he had attempted suicide.
After a five-day assessment, a CHEO doctor diagnosed Mikeal with depression and anxiety, changed his medications, and sent him home.
Three months later, Mikeal was rushed to the Perth Hospital after attempting to take his life.
The next morning he was transferred to CHEO. But after being stabilized, Mikeal's parents were called to pick him up later that same day.  

Parents angry about care

His mother is angry about the care he received.
"They put him in a room with a barf bag and a suicide pamphlet," Leslee said. "He couldn't walk properly or speak properly."
The Whans couldn't believe Mikeal was being sent home and that it would be up to them to make sure he stayed safe.
"They said, keep an eye on him," said Allan. "I don't know how much more we could have done. It wasn't like we could chain him to his bed."
Mikeal's parents said he was checking in with the doctor and mental health counsellors in Sharbot Lake every week, but he came to see the appointments and his medication as futile.
"He told me he just started lying to them," said his mother.

Kingston hospital wouldn't admit him

On May 3, the Whans called police after they received a worrisome call from the mother of Mikeal's girlfriend.
'You're the doctor and he's telling you he doesn't want to be alive and you're going to send him home?'- Allan Whan, stepfather
Police discovered Mikeal on their wooded property. He had harmed himself again and was taken to Kingston General Hospital.
Allan said a doctor told them their son's "cuts aren't that deep enough" and that he didn't "really have a plan" to kill himself.
Mikeal Teal
Mikeal Teal loved spending time outdoors. (Supplied)
"We'd hoped they would keep him," said the teen's stepfather. "He needs to stay a lot longer than overnight or two days and we were so surprised when they said he's not going to hurt himself."
Allan said the doctor gave Mikeal a new prescription, but wouldn't admit him into the hospital.
"You're the doctor and he's telling you he doesn't want to be alive and you're going to send him home? He wasn't there unwillingly. He wanted help. We were upset," said Allan.
"They are the educated people. We're not. And if this is the way people are treated then there are issues that need to be fixed."

Disturbing messages

Leslee says over the next couple of weeks her son was irritable and depressed. She monitored his every move by cellphone and drove him everywhere he needed to go.
'If someone comes to the hospital and says they want to be dead, take them in.'- Leslee Whan, mother
On Mother's Day, May 14, Mikeal helped his mother pull up an old vinyl floor and they had a family dinner.
But then around 1 a.m., his girlfriend called to say she was really worried about Mikeal. She had received some disturbing messages from him and told his parents to check if he was in his bed.
Leslee went to her son's bedroom, but he wasn't there.
"He'd sliced his arms and there was blood all over his floor," she said, sobbing. "The one night I wanted to go to sleep and not check on him is the night he did it."
Allan grabbed Mikeal's dog and walked into their wooded property. They found him.
Paramedics arrived and were able to get Mikeal's heart beating again. He was taken by air ambulance to CHEO.
The Whans sat by his bedside for five days, Leslee sleeping overnight in a chair next to her son.
After an MRI revealed Mikeal was brain dead, he was removed from life support. He died on May 20.

Family wants answers

Several weeks after Mikeal's death, the family is sitting around their kitchen table, still raw with emotion — both grief and anger.  
The Whans want answers from the health-care professionals who treated their son.
"If someone comes to the hospital and says they want to be dead, take them in," Leslee said. "I think the whole system has to be revamped because I'd hate for another mother to feel this. It's awful."
"I want to know how they turn away someone and not admit them especially when they try twice," said Allan.
Leslee acknowledges doctors and hospitals are trying to cope with young people with mental health issues, but adds "they should care and not be numb to this and try and sweep this tragedy under the rug."

CHEO 'put in the position of predicting the future'

Dr. Kathleen Pajer, chief of the department of psychiatry at CHEO where Mikeal had a five-day mental health assessment, said before a patient who has talked about suicide is released, he or she is asked a series of questions.
The questions are intended to assess the likelihood of another suicide attempt.
"Unfortunately we are put in the position of predicting the future," said Pajer.  
Although Pajer can't talk about Mikeal's case directly, she said when a teenager treated at CHEO goes on to take their own life, a review is done to see if staff could have done something different.
"This is a perfect case of what we are fighting to stop," she said.
Elizabeth Bardon, a spokesperson for the Kingston Health Sciences Centre, which operates both Kingston General Hospital and Hotel Dieu Hospital, also can't discuss Mikeal's case due to privacy reasons.
But she said Hotel Dieu has an urgent consult clinic for children and adolescents who are in crisis and need an assessment quickly. She could not confirm if Mikeal had been treated there. 
Bardon said the Hotel Dieu has eight in-patient beds for adolescents but she doesn't know the criteria staff use to admit teenagers who attempt suicide.
"It depends on the circumstances and the psychiatrist and the emergency team would need to do a consult and assess that particular patient," said Bardon.
Allan said it's been difficult coping with day-to-day living since Mikeal's death. The family has yet to hold a funeral.
"The other day Mike's actual driver's licence arrived in the mail. He was so proud of that."

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