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Vasquez family become mental health advocates Print E-mail
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Friday, 14 June 2019 00:00

“Being mentally ill in this country one cannot access the compassionate care that is needed in that situation,” is what Jules Vasquez told the media following the death of his oldest brother, Nestor Vasquez. The elder Vasquez was detained by police at the behest of Jules last week Monday. Vasquez was having what Jules describes as an “acute episode.” He was released 65 hours later but would have to be re-detained again at Jules’ request. On his second encounter with the police he was locked up in a cell where another detainee, Collin Francis was. Francis is also a mental patient who had been detained after he allegedly stabbed a mental health nurse at the Port Loyola Clinic.

The encounter between these two mental patients was deadly. Francis viciously attacked Vasquez, beating him to the point where his skull was cracked in multiple places. He would later die while undergoing treatment.

Following his brother’s death, the police have accepted liability and Jules says, “Being mentally ill, seriously mentally ill, in this country can be a death sentence and that’s why we are here today because the police have admitted culpability and liability. We could just take a settlement and that be the end of it. We are here to auger for a cultural change and a structural change on how mentally ill people can access care and are treated and handled when they are in these situations. I agree the police are completely unfit… more than just any settlement or compensation what we want is to create a change that when this happens, when your loved one dies in the custody of police where they should be protected, there is the ability to independently investigate. When there are mentally ill persons that they can access care in a fashion that is more rational that leaving them in the custody of police. We rightfully say that regrettably it brings more brute force than care and compassion.”

Since the ordeal, the police have undertaken to prepare a padded cell to place detainees who have mental problems and who present a danger to themselves and others. But Jules says it should extend beyond this. “It cannot be about my brother. For our family, the critical thing is that my brother’s death cannot have been in vain. He cannot have suffered this excruciating end for no reason. There must be alternatives to access treatment, for the care and management of mentally ill persons because for them to end up here is symptomatic of how badly broken our system is and at the end of the day it is a terrible cliché but it is terribly true. How we treat the least of us is indicative of the best of us. We have to raise the level and standard of expectation of care for mentally ill persons.”

Vasquez went on to explain that he is aware that Francis may never face charges for killing his brother. All the family was hoping for was that there, “must be a way to take psychotically ill persons without judgement, off the streets and not have them re enter the general population.” Vasquez lamented that, “The entire approach to treating and caring for mental health needs to be revamped and has to be done so urgently. It is an epidemic in our society.” Vasquez noted that there must be some institution where persons with mental health problems can be cared for.

Notably even as Vasquez was doing the interview in front of the Queen Street police station, there were at least two persons who, without knowing their medical history, appeared to be in need of some mental health care. They were just one or two feet away from where the interview was conducted.