Still Crying for Help: The Failure of Our Mental Healthcare Services by Sadia Messaili

This is a true story about the suicidal death of a 32-year-old man, Ferid Ferkovic, the son of the author. It is a story told straight from a mother’s heart with nothing but a loyal love for her son and her total discouragement with the Quebec mental healthcare system that failed her and her son. It has been translated from the French by Alishia Jensen.

The book opens with a photograph of Ferid on the left and on the right, the date April 21, 2013, the date they discovered his lifeless body in his basement apartment.

Everything came rushing to the surface like lava. The entirety of my son’s suffering which I had watched as a powerless mother expanded in my chest. The struggles, the dashed hopes, the tremendous effort it had taken to live one hour at a time, the pain he’d pushed down to make himself as small as possible, as little of a burden as he could-all this flashed before me in overwhelming clarity. My eldest son is no longer there for me to take in my arms. I can no longer tell him how much I love him and that I’m here fo him. I’d never be able to hold him in my arms again.

It is difficult to imagine not only this mother’s love for her son (my relationship with my mother was never like this) but the sense of loss she felt. She could have withdrawn into herself and not shared Ferid’s story. But we are all the richer for her writing it down. Ms. Messaili is an intelligent, passionate woman who has struggled all of her life, primarily as an itinerant immigrant, now trying to build a life in Montreal. But she continually learns. She works hard to provide for her family after her and her husband part. She works. She studies. Added to all this is Ferid’s slow, gradual retraction of himself from his family and society. She takes him to doctors, mental healthcare services, even getting him committed to a psych ward for his own safety. It never ends, the pressure relentless. 

I struggled along with Ms. Messaili as she tries everything in her power to get Ferid the help he needs. Typically, medication is proffered as the only solution, but it leaves him zombie-like, which Ferid detests. She researches the drugs and finds that she nor Ferid were informed of the side effects, such as suicide.

This is an important book for those that are on both sides of the mental health equation. It shows what a grieving parent goes through (“We grieve twice” she tells us) as they come up against a system that just does not work. And it’s not just Quebec’s mental healthcare system (as it is here in Still Crying for Help), it is fairly standard across Canada. (See It’s Not About Us!)

“A powerful book that is required reading to further the conversation about mental illness. It is a vital addition to a long list that raises public consciousness surrounding mental illness.”

Susan Doherty, author of Ghost Garden, Inside the Lives of Schizophrenias Feared and Forgotten (PenguinRandomHouse 2019)

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4 thoughts on “Still Crying for Help: The Failure of Our Mental Healthcare Services by Sadia Messaili”

  1. Great book Jim, Still Crying for Help, I will consider purchasing thru Amazon once available in the fall….

    Vito Calabretta, Toronto , Ontario

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