Mental health is deadly serious, information and understanding are the only cure

Two years ago a 12 year old boy from Toronto cut the alarm system in his family home so he could sneak out.

That sentence might make him sound like a smarter than average, normal preteen.

His reason for sneaking out is heart breaking. The history that lead him to that day is worse. And the fallout after the fact is down right rage-inducing.

Two years ago, Chazz Petrella left his house. He climbed his favourite tree, where he would often go to calm down after bouts of rage and depression uncommon in children his age, especially from loving and supportive homes like his.

This time, though he never intended to climb back down.

The 12 year old boy hung himself.

This kid went through more in his first decade of life than most people go through by the time they’re 30.

By the time he was nine he’d been diagnosed with ADHD, and to cope with the medication and his problems in school Chazz had turned to smoking.

Cigarettes would be bad enough for a kid his age, but his parents also found weed and home-made pipes stashed around his room.


Chazz would have breakdowns and experience anger beyond the normal tantrums of moody or “spoiled” kids. And those bouts of rage and frustration that, as a child, Chazz could not communicate or control  – made him feel guilty and remorseful for what he’d done to the people and things around him.

But his parents never lost hope that one day they’d find the right help, the right medication or that Chazz might even age-out of his behavioural problems.

By the time he was 10, he’d been in and out of different schools and eventually ended up in an institution. A nice one. And it was a last resort for his parents. But even that didn’t last long.

His doctors filed report after report about what Chazz needed, specifically psychological testing, and yet the home simply refused the recommended treatment

His parents and psychiatrist were rightly skeptical about whether he was getting the right treatment at the place that was supposed to specialize in troubled and mentally unstable youth, and so after only six months, it was more or less back to square one.

then there were more school problems.

No tests were done.

Chazz ended up in another institution.

He didn’t last long their either.

Still, Chazz went untested and therefore, likely, improperly treated.

Chazz came home again.

He ended up in an emergency crisis center after a particularly terrifying outburst.

Then he went yet again to yet ANOTHER institution.

This time, things were so good his parents were able to find their hope again. Until he got kicked out. This time, not because of his behaviour, but because of funding.

The option that his parents were given was out of a twisted fairy tale. They could give up all parental rights to their son and he could stay in the facility, or he could go home and have no more support.

His parents, understandably, could not reconcile making their child a ward of the state. So he came home in time for his 12th birthday.

Soon after that, Chazz was dead.

That’s the condensed version of the story if you don’t have time to watch the video. And is an explanation of this child’s past so you might better understand the pain his family is going through in the present.

After waiting two years, his family has learned that their child didn’t get the care and understanding he needed when he was alive, and he won’t be getting now that he’s dead.

They have been denied a coroner’s inquest into what happened to their son.

His parents are not the only ones who think their son deserved better, that mental health sufferers and their families deserve better. And that an inquest could suss out a lot of the problems that exist in the current health care system, and help the future generations of children like Chazz.

Ontario’s advocate for children and youth, Irwin Elman, said Chazz’s case is crying out for an inquest. He has also written to the chief coroner.

“I can’t see an inquest at this point in time that would be of more interest to the public than the heroic battle that families and children struggling with mental health issues take on each and every day, ” he said. “There are so many families in this province touched by that battle.”



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