Conference examines experiences of patients in health system

After her ninth suicide attempt in 2005, Catherine McLeod spent a lot of time in hospital getting help for her mental and physical problems. Time spent with other patients helped launch her mission as a peer advocate for others with mental health issues.

McLeod has bipolar disorder and suffers through bouts of crushing depression and anxiety, but she shuns the term “patient” — instead preferring “person living with a lived experience.”

After her last hospitalization, she became a volunteer Fraser Health-recognized patient advocate for others with mental health issues. Now, she is chair of the Burnaby Mental Health and Substance Use Advisory Committee, where she uses her expertise to pinpoint gaps in service, working with Fraser Health to find ways to improve care.

When the advisory committee was first established, it had little credibility and was seen by Fraser Health officials, McLeod said, as a “symbolic showpiece.” But in the past few years, suggestions from the committee are finally having an effect.

Pamela Fayerman Reports

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