Managing mental illness with community support

“Mum, you’ve never been so good.” Those words from her children bring comfort to Joyce Kubu-Haynes, who has lived with mental illness for decades. Hospitalized on three occasions, the 76-year old Coquitlam resident is grateful to Royal Columbian Hospital for helping her manage her illness with medications and continue to live independently.

She was first hospitalized in the late 1960s, when she had what she describes as a nervous breakdown. “I had anxiety attacks. They were bad, and I went to see my doctor,” Joyce remembers. “He said I should be in the hospital.”

She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and given a prescription that Joyce says helped for more than 40 years. But then, around the time her husband passed away, Joyce says the medication stopped working.

She ended up in Royal Columbian Hospital’s emergency department, where she was admitted to the Sherbrooke Centre. Psychiatrist Dr. Hem Phaterpekar put her on a new medication.

“Unfortunately, that is a reasonably common occurrence, where medication after some time may not have as good an effect as it did before,” explains Dr. Phaterpekar, who has a specialty in geriatric psychiatry. “Also, when a person ages, his or her body change significantly in its metabolism.”

Three years after that short stay, Joyce was again brought to emergency. “My podiatrist had come to my home, and she realized there was something that wasn’t right,” says Joyce.

This time she was admitted to the Sherbrooke Centre for a month. Her medication dosage was adjusted again. “The staff was so caring, and that made a big difference,” she says.

After being discharged, she followed up with the local community mental health centre and is now using her family doctor as her first point of contact.

“Our goal is always to have short hospitalizations where people can begin to recover,” explains Royal Columbian Hospital Psychiatry department head Dr. Anson Koo, “and where we can establish appropriate services and care in the community so people can continue their recovery in the community.”

These days, Joyce says she feels good. “I can cope. I am out almost every day. I socialize. I’ve got lots of good friends,” she says.

Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation is working with donors to raise $9.1 million for a new Mental Health and Substance Use Wellness Centre. Visit, call 604.520.4438, or email for more information.

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