The moment Claudette Grieb heard about the death of four young children, she started to cry.
The 52-year-old Kitchener woman lost her two-year-old granddaughter two years ago.
The toddler was just a month shy of her third birthday when Grieb's daughter killed her and then took her own life.
Jackie Grieb, 26, committed suicide by hanging herself. Dagmar was found hanging from her mother's boot lace in their Shanley Street apartment.
Police said Jackie Grieb, who was a local artist known for her vibrant surrealistic paintings, had been depressed over a deteriorating relationship with her lover.
"I've been crying all morning," said Claudette Grieb in an interview Thursday.
"The entirety of what happened came flooding back to me," said Grieb.
"I was at my wit's end."
Despite more than two years since the deaths, Grieb's tragic loss is never very far away.
A photo album stuffed with pictures sits on the dining room table in her Kitchener apartment.
The album marks many of her daughter's milestones, including her first communion, confirmation, high school graduation, her many tours with a local drum and bugle corps and family barbecues.
The most recent photographs celebrate her successful art shows and the birth of her baby girl.
Grieb pauses when she sees a picture of a smiling Dagmar sitting naked in a water basin getting ready for a bath at the family cottage in Kincardine.
"Oh, we had so much fun up there," she said.
Other reminders include a self-portrait of Jackie which stands against a nearby chair, and a school picture taken when she was 16.
"I know the nightmare ahead for the survivors. It's an ongoing nightmare."
Grieb, who also has a 27-year-old son, said it's a daily struggle trying to understand why her daughter would kill herself and her child.
Jackie was depressed and seeing a therapist, and months before she died, she accused her parents of sexual abuse.
Grieb categorically denies the allegations. She believes her daughter may have been suffering from schizophrenia.
Siblings with illness
Claudette has a brother with the mental illness, and another sibling suffering depression.
"When mental illness creeps into a family, it's like somebody comes behind you with a two-by-four and hits you across the head," she said.
"This is another two-by-four hitting me again," she said of the deaths of the four children.
Grieb said more has to be done to "stop the carnage.
"We have to start protecting these kids," she said, adding more care needs to be taken on the part of social workers to watch out for these children.
"For a person to do this to a child, they have to be insane," she said.
For those left behind, such as the children's grandparents, Grieb says only time will heal some of the pain.
But Grieb says even she doesn't know how much time.
"The other day I was walking through Sears at the mall and I saw a little girl with blond hair holding her grandmother's hand. I had to run out of the store," she said. "It hurts so much."
Claudette Grieb holds a photo of her daughter Jackie, a local artist who killed herself and her daughter Dagmar two years ago. In the background is Jackie's self-portrait.
A Kitchener woman whose daughter killed her toddler and then herself in 1998 agrees that health records should be kept private, but not if there's reason to suspect a mentally ill patient's condition is declining as a result of their therapy.
Claudette Grieb was to appear before a provincial Ministry of Health standing committee today, which is into its second week of hearings on Bill 159. The proposed bill, introduced by then-health minister Elizabeth Witmer, is called the Personal Health Information Privacy Act and is intended to bring health records into the electronic age. But it's come under fire from dozens of health organizations because it would allow access to some personal health information by police, bureaucrats and researchers.
At her dining room table yesterday surrounded by photos of her late daughter, Jackie Grieb and grand-daughter Dagmar, Grieb flipped through her 60-page submission to the committee. It includes the suicide note left by her daughter who was 26 and a local artist when she hung her two-year-old with her bootlace and then hung herself in their Shanley Street apartment. Police said she had been depressed over a deteriorating relationship with a lover.
Her mother contends that a type of therapy aimed at recovering hidden memories of incest, which she said Jackie was receiving from an uncertified Kitchener therapist, helped push her over the edge.
And that is what has prompted her to become politically active. "What I want is a safety net for the mentally ill and their offspring -- innocent babies who can get killed."
Months before her death, Jackie accused her parents of sexually abusing her when she was two. Grieb flatly denies the allegations and notes the Canadian Psychological Association, the Canadian Psychiatry Association and the Royal College of Psychiatrists have all spoken out against the therapy and the suggestive measure it uses to uncover past sexual abuse of which the patient has no memory.
Grieb, who belongs to an international group called the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, said countless suicides have resulted from the procedure, which she considers malpractice.
She said she wants a provision in the new legislation that would allow friends and family of a mentally ill patients to call for the release of records when they have reasons to fear therapy is threatening the patient's safety and possibly that of their children.
"Third parties should be able to access a mental health ombudsman or a government committee or judge to investigate," she said. "You can't close the door on access to medical records if it means the public is going to be harmed."
Grieb, who believes her daughter suffered bi-polar disorder and possibly schizophrenia, said Jackie's family doctor turned over her medical records and an autopsy report to her without problem. But the therapist, whom she said worked through a government-funded program, refused to co-operate.
"While client confidentiality is of prime concern, such confidentiality should not be allowed to hide malpractice," she writes in her submission. Withholding records should be punishable by law, she argues.
Mother of a daughter, the a victim of malpractice The latter received improper care, and murdered her infant daughter before committing suicide herself.
Many leading figures in psychology and psychiatry have noted for decades that Canada's mental health system is in desperate need of reform. The most serious and widespread problem is the continued use of "psychotherapies" that have never been proven safe and effective by credible scientific research. Many of these "psychotherapies" are harmful or even dangerous.
Hundreds of Canadian families have been destroyed by these increasingly bizarre "psychotherapies" or "Mind Games". The most damaging of these quack treatments involved the controversial and unscientific notion of "repressed memories" of childhood abuse. Ignorant that they were using subtle methods of brainwashing and coercion, believing themselves to have found the secret to tapping the unconscious of their clients, therapists convinced thousands of depressed and therefore vulnerable patients that their mid-life problems were caused by hidden or lost memories of child abuse. These malpractitioners have escaped sanctions, because it was believed that these therapists were dealing with actual child sexual abuse that was always remembered, but not acted on by the clients.
Problem: Licensed and unlicensed mental health therapists have resorted to these intuitive, esoteric, unproven and outright dangerously suggestive therapeutic practices that are frowned upon by mainstream professional bodies. These practices not only harm clients, but third parties, the families that are destroyed by false accusations.
Recommendation: The government should pass a Standard of Care / Informed Consent bill that mandates mental health therapists to specify to the clients and patients which particular treatment they intend to pursue and what the possible outcome of the treatment may be, before the patient / client consents to continue therapy. An example of such a bill could be The Indiana Senate Bill 309. Most dentists use informed consent in their practices before embarking on major work, why should psychotherapists be exempt from this.
Problem: A specific concern are highly suggestive childhood trauma search therapies that became a fad in the late eighties, early nineties. These therapies have been condemned by both the Canadian Psychological and Psychiatric Associations as well as the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Recommendation: The Government should post the specific guidelines and warnings issued by these professional mental health bodies about these controversial and experimental therapies.
Problem: As a result of malpractice in this area clients have been led to believe that their mid-life problems were the result of incest or other childhood abuses that never took place and for which they had no memory. This has led in many cases to innocent parents and others being dragged through the courts, in some cases even to wrongful convictions. Judges who have presided over such court cases and have seen the transcripts of the therapeutic records are now well aware of such cases. Suicides among such clients as well as the falsely accused parents, and serious declines in health, and ability to function as well as early deaths have resulted from these misguided practices.
Recommendation: The government should not only make public and fully support the guidelines of these professional bodies, but inform the therapists and clinics it subsidizes that funds will be withdrawn if professional guidelines are not adhered to. Primary victims of malpractice as well as injured third parties should be able to claim victim compensation.
Problem: Incompetent and unqualified therapists have failed to recognize underlying serious mental illnesses, have failed to refer such clients to properly qualified professionals, assumed that these disorders were the result of childhood trauma and proceeded instead with unproven experimental and intuitive practices that are nothing less than the equivalent of "knife and fork brain surgery" causing the client to deteriorate seriously .
Recommendation: When a relative of the client or another third party recognizes that a client is not receiving proper care and is deteriorating as a result of malpractice, third parties should have access to a mental health ombudsman or commissioner who has the powers to make a speedy intervention to prevent clients and the children in these clients' care from coming to grave harm.
Problem: The College of Physicians and Surgeons and other governing colleges have often been slow or loath to take appropriate actions against members when third parties complain about the therapy that is harming a family member, taking a "buyer beware" attitude.
Recommendation: Aggrieved parties should likewise have the right to avail themselves of the services of a mental health ombudsman in order that the Government as a power of last resort re-assert ultimate control over the professions when they fail to properly regulate themselves.
Problem: Therapists should be made aware that when a client discloses childhood sexual abuse, their records may become legal evidence that may be open to scrutiny by a judge.
Recommendation: When such records are subpoenaed by a judge who finds that unprofessional practices were used to contaminate the memory of the client such as has happened again in a very recent Manitoba case, the Government should take action to put the therapist or the counseling centre out of business and certainly stop government funding. The judge in the Manitoba case was left to wonder what the qualifications were of the therapists in this particular counseling center who encouraged the client to believe dreams about events that had never taken place.
Problem: Many therapists whose records were demanded in evidence in the courts have been found to keep inaccurate or shoddy records.
Recommendation: Professionals must keep accurate records indicating the specific methods and practices used to help their clients. Not keeping records, destruction or withholding records must be made punishable by law. This should also apply the group therapies. While client confidentiality is of prime concern, such confidentiality should not be allowed to hide malpractice.
Problem: Many unsupervised counselors have crossed the thin line from merely listening and giving advice into the area of psychotherapy, sometimes using heavy psychodynamics, without having been properly trained to do so. The unregulated and uncertified practice of such mental health counselors is a grave danger to society which has caused the destruction of innocent families and often the deaths of vulnerable and mentally ill individuals in our society. Victims of such therapies have been set back for years, while the problems for which they entered therapy were left undressed.
Recommendation: All mental health practitioners, therapists and counselors must be licensed after having passed proper examinations as well attend refresher courses to maintain their competence. They should be trained to recognize problems they are not qualified to handle, refer them to specialist qualified to deal with mental illnesses and should in all cases where problems arise consult with two other fully qualified professionals.