Graduate falls through mental health gaps, creates community based solution

At the height of the Saskatchewan-wide COVID outbreak in April, Caitlyn Fatteicher, originally of Kamsack graduated from University but instead of being free to celebrate her accomplishments, was faced with a new challenge.

"This was supposed to be a memorable occasion, but it started a dark time," says Fatteicher. "At the end of May I went to the emergency because I started contemplating suicide."

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COVID-era changes had already gripped the Canadian economy with record-breaking job losses when Fatteicher graduated with a Health Studies degree in April. Fatteicher was left wondering if she would find a job as a new graduate and finally be free to take control of her life. Since she was a young child, Fatteicher has struggled with mental health.

At just five years old Fatteicher was sitting in the passenger seat when a collision with an oncoming semi ended her mother's life.

"We were going to visit my dad in the nearby town where he was working. I happened to get in a fight that morning… I remember shouting, 'I hate you.' These were words that soon would be the last I spoke to her," says Fatteicher. "I started my first counselling session at five years old. Lots of doctors were saying I was too young, that I wouldn't remember the car accident. I remember everything.”   

Fatteicher developed PTSD before she finished kindergarten and before she left elementary school, she was using alcohol to cope with her symptoms. Like many young students in Kamsack, she struggled with addiction - a community history that was highlighted in a recent documentary by SUNS (Saskatchewan Union of Nurses), A Small Town Anywhere.  

The documentary includes commentary from the Kamsack Mayor, nurses and other community members. According to the documentary/website https://makingthedifference.ca/, 70 per cent of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence. The documentary discusses the opioid and crystal meth addiction cycle that Kamsack community members are struggling with and outlines several of the gaps that are creating these cycles. The site states that young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group.

As a child in school, Fatteicher was attacked by bullies about the accident she and her two siblings survived and by Grade 8, Fatteicher began going out to parties on the weekends to cope. Living through years of bulling, harassment and abuse, Fatteicher found herself in the midst of a suicide attempt and decided to lean on her family. Dedicating the remainder of her time in high school to her education, she graduated with scholarships to her choice university. Working as a pharmacy assistant gave Fatteicher the support she needed to continue her education and graduate but the pressures of COVID-era changes forced her into a mental health crisis.

After receiving the initial crisis support from emergency room health care workers, Fatteicher says she left without ongoing care or support. She says continued to struggle with a depressive cycle in the weeks after being released. Fatteicher feels that the gaps in the health care system are making services in Saskatchewan inaccessible and unavailable for those needing mental health care.  

 

"Our society needs to do better, our health care has to stop failing those with mental illness," says Fatteicher. "I want to advocate for those who need the help, I want to be part of the solution." 

Launching a personal initiative to address the gaps she experienced in her moment of crisis is Fatteicher’s way of creating change. Caring Conversations with Cate is a free community resource to help others who may be struggling. She has posted several materials that are free for use including: Self Esteem Worksheet, A Mental Health Maintenance Plan, and a Self Discovery Assignment. Community members can also learn more about self advocacy and celebrating mental health by viewing Fatteicher’s YouTube channel; @CaitlynDawn - where she shares Mental Health Must Haves, COVID-19 Mental Health Tips and My Mental Health Story. Regular releases of free mental health/personal development worksheets are available on Fatteicher’s new blog: https://www.caringconversationswithcate.com/

Fatteicher has been considering applying to medical school so she can continue to give back to her community. In the meantime, she is hoping that her creating these community resources will help to improve the stigma around mental health.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicide: (Canada) Crisis Services Canada – 24/7 Hours(833) 456-4566

Drug and addictions: Mobile Crisis Helpline(306) 757-0127

Sexual assault: (Yorkton) Shelwin House – Domestic Violence Crisis Line – 24/7 Hours
(888) 783-3111.