A Calgary mother made a tearful appeal on Thursday for help finding her son who walked away from a Saanich mental-health facility on Nov. 6 and has not been seen since.
Penny Hart said her 34-year-old son, Sean Hart, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, has been off his medication for 20 days. “At this stage, he would be very manic. He would be hallucinating, hearing voices and acting very erratically,” Hart said at a news conference outside the Saanich police station.
This is the third time Sean has left the Seven Oaks Tertiary Mental Health Facility on Blenkinsop Road, where he’s been living for about five years, but he’s never been gone this long before, she said. He’s either been found or gone back to the facility on his own within six days.
Sean likes his freedom and doesn’t want to be on medication, said Hart, who flew to Victoria on Nov. 18 to help search for her son. Typically, he takes off his shoes and walks long distances into the woods and she’s worried he could be lost or hurt.
“He doesn’t gravitate to people. He tends to isolate. He won’t be in a shelter or a tent city or any of those places. That’s what’s really concerning. The elements are so cold and if he doesn’t have his shoes on, you know,” said Hart, wiping away tears. “It’s not a good situation. And I need help.”
Hart has made up a missing-person poster with photographs of Sean and plastered them all over the city and social media.
Saanich police Const. Markus Anastasiades said Peninsula Search and Rescue Team began a methodical search for Sean in and around the Seven Oaks Facility and nearby Mount Douglas Park on Thursday morning.
“We’re looking for any clues about his disappearance,” said Anastasiades.
Saanich police investigators, detectives and patrol officers have been working around the clock to find Hart.
“We’ve been following up every lead that we have,” he said. “We’re at a point now where we are very concerned. He’s been off medication for 20 days and my understanding is he could be in a manic state and very dangerous to himself or others.”
At Seven Oaks, Sean was free to come and go as long as he checked in with staff, said Anastasiades. Police believe he is alive somewhere in the woods. They do not believe he is staying with anyone, because his only connections are his support network at Seven Oaks and his family.
In the past, Hart has travelled to other parts of Vancouver Island, including Metchosin, and the Lower Mainland. Other police departments have been involved in the search since the beginning, said Anastasiades. “If he is checked by any police agency anywhere in Canada, they will know that he is missing from Saanich,” he said.
Since their initial news release on Nov. 16, police have received a number of tips from the public, but have been unable to confirm a positive sighting.
Police are asking anyone who sees Sean to call 911 so they can get there as quickly as possible. “We’re treating any sightings of him as an emergency,” said Anastasiades. “We’re extremely concerned and we’re hoping that this does bring his return.”
Before his disappearance, Sean was doing better than he has done in years, said his mother. “Things were starting to open up. He was getting passes from Seven Oaks… He was starting to get stimulated and it was too much stimulation I think.”
Hart said her son doesn’t like a lot of stimulation and tends to isolate when he gets manic. He does not have a cellphone and there has been no activity in his bank account.
“He’s not on the streets, because he would be acting out and drawing attention to himself,” said Hart. “He might leave the woods if he wanted to go to the hospital. He has done that in the past. He knows he’s gotten too sick. But this is too long. How manic will he be and I’m so concerned. It’s so cold.”
Sean is six feet tall, very thin, with blue eyes and long, curly brown-red hair. When last seen, he was wearing black clothing and black shoes.
Anyone who sees Sean Hart is asked not to approach him but to keep an eye on him and call 911. He will require immediate medical attention.
Both Hart and Saanich police thanked the public for their help so far.