Mother of former CFL player speaks out about mental health system
Some may remember Jordan Matechuk as a talented linebacker and longsnapper in the Canadian Football League with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Hamilton Tiger Cats and B.C. Lions.
“Of course we were extremely proud, I watched TSN every weekend [and said] ‘there he is, there he is!” said Matechuk’s mother, Marcella Davis.
Others might remember his days as a star on the Yorkton football field, playing on a high school team when he was still in elementary school.
“His talent was well enough at the time,” she said. “All the way through high school he was on the football team. And he ended up being the MVP.”
Davis still thinks of him as the giant teddy bear type, who would do anything for anyone.
Matechuk, 32, retired from the CFL in 2014 and returned home to Yorkton. Despite the success he had on the field in his career, he also faced struggles.
“All through his adult years, he’s had some struggles with mental health,” Davis said.
A public battle against depression and addiction
Back in 2012, Matechuk went public with his battle against depression and addiction, acting as a spokesperson for the Canadian Mental Health Association in Winnipeg, volunteering with Manitoba Mood Disorders, and speaking about it at public events, including Yorkton Minor Football banquets.
“It was an amazing experience there, too, being able to speak about it and get the love from the family and the community back home too,” Matechuk told CTV in 2012 after rejoining the Blue Bombers.
Davis said there have been ups and downs since then, but for a long time, Matechuk’s mental health was well managed.
But this past May, Matechuk moved away from Yorkton and his family to find work in Saskatoon, looking to build a life away from the football field nearly four years following his retirement. That’s when Davis said things took a turn.
“We could see in him his behaviors had changed,” Davis said. “His paranoia seemed to really get bad.”
The 'low point'
Davis said Matechuk’s illness reached a low point this past June, saying her son was like a different person who didn’t recognize or trust anyone. In that state, he got involved in altercations with police.
“Unfortunately I was there, I saw them,” Davis recalled. “He had to get Tasered three times, and he was held down by 10-plus police officers.”
The altercation resulted in a hospital visit, and Matechuk was admitted to the Dube Centre in Saskatoon for mental health care.
Problems with the Privacy Act
According to Davis, her son refused testing and medications.
It’s a decision that’s technically up to Matechuk to make, because he’s an adult.
“A person can consent, or decline consent as per their wishes,” said Tim Kasprick, a privacy and access consultant with the Saskatchewan Health Authority.
Davis believes given the severity of his alleged illness – the decision should be hers.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority says there’s a process for that to happen called the Involuntary Process – only used when a patient is deemed to be a potential harm to themselves or others, or they’re likely to suffer serious deterioration. In order to make the determination, the patient is examined and assessed by two qualified health care providers, at least one of which is a psychiatrist.
“If he doesn’t consent to having a certain medication, if he doesn’t consent to talking to counsellors or doctors, they give up,” Davis said.
Upon refusal, Davis said her son was released.
“I was actually dumbfounded. I was like you can see he’s ill, and you’re going to discharge him, but into the public?” Davis said. “And [the doctor] says ‘I’m sorry but there’s nothing I can do, he doesn’t consent’.”
Back in custody
The following morning, Davis received a call saying Matechuk had been arrested on a prior assault charge. Since then, he’s been in custody.
Because of the Privacy Act, Davis said she’s struggled to get any information about her son while he’s been in custody. She said Matechuk has been transported a number of times to different facilities since he’s been in custody.
“I tried calling, I tried inquiring. I wanted to see what he’s doing, how is he, is he getting his medication, is everything okay?” Davis said with frustration. “’I’m sorry ma’am, we can’t tell you anything.’”
Davis gathered that Matechuk had been spending the majority of his time in custody at the Regional Psychiatric Centre.
On June 21, a judge ordered Matechuk to receive a 30-day psychiatric assessment at Saskatchewan Hospital at North Battleford (SHNB).
Davis said due to a lack of beds at the hospital, he didn’t get in until July 16.
After calling SHNB for an update on her son the following Monday, Davis said she was told that he was no longer there – he had been moved after three days.
The Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice said in a statement, in the case of a court-ordered assessment, “…if the Saskatchewan Hospital at North Battleford is not able to complete the assessment, they may transfer the patient back to the Regional Psychiatric Centre (RPC) under the legal authority granted by the court.”
Last Friday was Matechuk’s most recent appearance at Saskatoon Provincial Court for a bail hearing. The judge ordered that Matechuk undergo 30-day psychiatric assessment, this time to be completed at the RPC, which is a federal institution.
The next steps
Nearly two months since Matechuk was taken into custody, Davis is finally hopeful her son will get the help he needs.
She said she’s speaking out to raise awareness, and give an inside look at the struggle she and her family has faced while Matechuk has been in the system.
Davis would like to see changes made, so patients who are in a situation similar to her son’s – who seem unable to make sound decisions regarding their health – can have family members step in to help.
She said she doesn’t want to see her son fall through the cracks.
Based on a report by CTV Yorkton’s Stefanie Davis with files from CTV Winnipeg