Chazz Petrella : The Boy Who Should Have Lived – the fifth estate

Chazz Petrella : The Boy Who Should Have Lived – the fifth estate


(♪♪)>>Gillian: Tonight on The Fifth Estate …. From the time he was out of the womb, Chazz Petrella was a boy on the go.>>He had such a zest. Just, uh, bubbling all the time.>>Gillian: But soon that energy was too much for even Chazz to control. (Chazz screaming)>>I hate this so fucking much!>>Gillian: Mental illness was something the Petrellas, like most families, didn’t understand.>>We’d reached out and asked for help. And said we don’t know where to turn.>>Gillian: There were programs, professionals.>>If this was cancer, this would be stage 4.>>Gillian: In a province that prides itself on treating the mentally ill, 9 different agencies had Chazz and his family on their books. Until it was too late.>>And after all that, how does that 12-year-old boy end up hanging from a tree? I want to know.>>Gillian: Tonight the story of Chazz Petrella. The boy who should have lived. (♪♪)>>Gillian: Good evening. I’m Gillian Findlay. Stories about mental illness are difficult. Hard to tell and hard to watch. Stories about children suffering from mental illness likely make you want to turn away. But we’re hoping tonight that you won’t. Because tonight a courageous family is going to share their story about mental illness. About a son who was much loved and who is now terribly missed. They’re doing it because they think there are things to be learned from their experience, things that can and should be changed. And because theirs was a boy who lost his battle with the darkness, a boy who should have had every reason to want to live.>>Um, hey guys, I um, I just recently started playing guitar. So I am gonna, um play, uh, a guitar song. I sort of suck so … yup. Tell me guys if you don’t like my video, but I don’t get much um, people watching, but um, I don’t know. But, here I go! (guitar playing)>>Gillian: There was always a sweetness about Chazz Petrella.>>Go get him. Come on. Come and get daddy.>>Gillian: Right from the beginning. (laughing)>>Come on — oh! (laughing)>>Yeah!>>Gillian: He was always the baby, the youngest in the Petrella’s brood of five.>>I think that made him the biggest cuddler of all the children, he loved to cuddle. He was charming. The negotiator, always had a comeback. Always had something to say and um, you know, a great sense of humour.>>Gillian: He also had a great sense of adventure. Into everything, sports in particular. A kid in perpetual motion.>>Chazz was always full of energy, loved to try anything. He loved to play. He loved life. He loved, he loved everything. He really, really did.>>Gillian: Which made growing up in Cobourg, Ontario pretty ideal. Dad, Frank, owned a hair dressing business. Mom, Janet, was a sales manager. A heritage house, a hobby farm, and a group of friends including Keegan Ellison, who shared his love of daring.>>This is Chazz Petrella doing the roof jumping.>>What we liked to do was here and there we’d go like over, like climb fences and like jump off of the play structures, and…>>Gillian: You guys were daredevils weren’t you.>>Yeah. (chatter)>>This dude is my idol, man.>>Yeah.>He’s the one that got me to drop in. Without him, I wouldn’t do it.>>Gillian: At the local skateboard park Chazz was often the smallest and the bravest. Everything seemed as it should have been until he started school. (♪♪)>>Gillian: There the fearlessness and the impulsiveness were problems. Chazz couldn’t seem to focus, and when he got frustrated, he got aggressive.>>We thought, okay, maybe this Is a school issue. Maybe he’s having problems with that specific teacher. Um and he didn’t, he stopped wanting to go to school, so then it became a battle of getting him there. So we thought let’s switch schools.>>Gillian: Did that help?>>No.>>Gillian: They had him tested for learning disabilities, but that didn’t seem to be an issue. His behavior was the problem. Chazz’s pediatrician diagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD, and like thousands of children in this country he was put on medication. But the drugs kept him awake at night, and his behavior got worse. There were obsessions: fire, smoking, even marijuana. His parents found home made pipes stashed in his bedroom. Chazz was 9.>>Man, sometimes I get really upset.>>Gillian: The older he got, the more defiant he became. Erratic. He’d fly into rages and break things. And minutes later, be sobbing.>>When he finally did reel himself back in or get — manage to calm himself down, he realized that he had broken something that he really liked and then would get himself escalated again. Um, and then he would feel horrible and um…>>Huge remorse.>>Remorse and uh…>>And so much guilt and embarrassment. Um, so it was really difficult. How he felt afterwards was just absolutely heartbreaking.>>One moment he’d be an angel and the next he’d be destroying everything in his sight.>>Gillian: What Chazz’s sister, Gia, remembers is the turmoil. What was it like living in a house with that kind of a tension, I guess.>>It was very hard, you know. I — like, not only did our relationship with Chazz suffer but our relationships with each other suffered, you know. We weren’t talking as much. Our family dinners didn’t happen anymore. Our family fun nights we’d have on Saturday, they weren’t anything anymore without someone getting upset and frustrated or breaking something. (♪♪)>>Gillian: Whatever was wrong, Chazz didn’t understand. Sometimes he just needed to get away. He’d be out his bedroom window and into the woods. For hours he’d be gone. They’d often find him just sitting in a tree. Did you worry about him?>>I did, you know. I just tried to be understanding and be loving and compassionate to get him through but there was also a point where he didn’t — he didn’t understand that’s what I was trying to be, but how could he when he was feeling so overwhelmed in his feelings.>>Gillian: He was only 9 or 10 at the time but, did he have the Ability to articulate what was going on?>>No. He would say you know he can’t shut his brain off. He would say, um, he can’t think, he can’t control it and I think that was really hard for him because he couldn’t articulate, um, how he felt.>>Gillian: Do you think he was scared of himself?>>Yeah, I think so. Yeah, yeah.>>Gillian: He was scared and he was about to do something that would scare everyone else. It was after another meltdown that they discovered a chair in the basement. And a rope.>>He had strung a rope in the basement through a pipe. And ah, you don’t think much of it, you just think oh, he was just playing or climbing something. So you don’t worry, but I know my parents were very worried. I know they had talked about it.>>When we approached him on what was going on, you know he assured us he wasn’t doing anything, and he wasn’t going to do anything. Um, I was just joking around. We really didn’t know what to think about it at that time.>>Gillian: How does a 10 year old even know about the concept of suicide?>>I have — like I said, I have no idea.>>We had many serious conversations between the two of us, some of the outcomes that we could expect with Chazz and his behaviour, and um… But we always hoped that … excuse me, sorry — that we would get him over the hump, you know, maybe he would level out a bit.>>Gillian: For the Petrella’s the rope in the basement was a turning point. The trouble with Chazz was more than they could handle on their own. They’d tried special school programs, reached out to Children’s Aid. The local mental health provider, Kinark Child and Family Services had opened a file. But none of it produced answers and the family was exhausted. It was a social worker who suggested a residential facility, 24 hour care. And that is how, at the age of 10, Chazz Petrella ended up in an institution. When we come back…>>I was told to come and get my son. And I was like pardon me? Chazz is in a jail cell. (♪♪) (♪♪)>>Damn it. That’s better. Looking so pimped to go to rock ‘n bowl tonight.>>Gillian: At the age of 10, Chazz Petrella was a charming but troubled boy. So troubled that in 2012 his parents decided he couldn’t live at home anymore. And they placed him in an institution. How difficult was that decision for you to make to take your child….>>Oh, it was…>>It was horrible.>>It was really, really horrible for us. But we really felt like, you know, there was gonna be a strong chance that we would lose him if we didn’t make that choice.>>Gillian: Besides, the place called ‘Hand in Hand’ didn’t look like an institution, more like a home. It had programs, the Petrella’s were told, and lots of experience dealing with children like Chazz.>>We were getting a sense of relief that, that help was on its way. That programs and tools were being put in place to assist him primarily, but also to assist us.>>Gillian: But Chazz wasn’t happy at hand-in-hand. He was the youngest by far and complained the older kids bullied him. His file shows the psychiatrist in charge of his case had serious concerns about the quality of care he was receiving. She suspected Chazz suffered from a generalized anxiety disorder. But the only way to know for sure, and therefore to know how to treat him, would be to have him psychologically tested. As soon as possible, she said. And yet for some reason, those tests never happened. Do you know why he wasn’t assessed?>>No.>>No. I don’t know if they don’t have the doctors. I don’t know if they don’t have the funding for it, I don’t know what it is that each time they would say that he would need something and it never, never gets done.>>Gillian: instead, after six months Chazz was returned to his family.>>Swag! (♪♪)>>Gillian: What followed was, in retrospect, a bit of a honeymoon for the Petrellas. Chazz was happier at home. They’d adjusted his medications and that helped — for a while. And he was able to return to school part time. To keep an eye on him the rest of the time, Frank decided to move his hair salon into the family home. And they also hired an educational assistant. Stacie Sawyer, one of the few who seemed to be able to get through to Chazz.>>He was funny, he was cute. He was just like a normal little boy spending time. And I know people will say he was difficult and he was rude and all those other things but I was able to separate the boy from the behaviour. So I saw past the behaviour. I knew that the behaviour wasn’t Chazz.>>Gillian: Chazz seemed to know that too. At one point he was asked to fill out a questionnaire: what were his strengths? Skateboarding, breakdancing and making friends. His challenges? Homework, controlling his anger and sleep. How badly did he want to change his behaviors? Chazz circled 7, totally. Did he think he could change? Again, 7. He really did think he could. But as anyone who has struggled with mental illness will tell you, even the best intentions can go sideways. By the summer of 2013 Chazz was still having trouble sleeping. And was back to old habits, climbing out of his bedroom window in search of adventure or simply distraction.>>We had started setting our alarms for every two to three hours at night over the night so that we would wake up and make sure he was in his bed. I can’t put bars on his windows. it’s against fire code. We locked all the doors and we had sensors for all the doors. He went down to the basement and cut the wires to our alarm system. So that the doors, wouldn’t, like, the sensors wouldn’t go off.>>Gillian: They were never sure where they’d find him. One night he was curled up asleep in the mall. But they soon learned about the crowd he was hanging out with. Kids in their late teens, even twenties. Kids with access to drugs. Childhood friends like Keegan Ellison were all but forgotten.>>When I heard that he was doing drugs I was really upset and disappointed.>>Gillian: Did you try to talk to him about that?>>He didn’t really — like he wouldn’t listen when I talked to him about it.>>Gillian: So you tried to ask him and…>>Yeah.>>Gillian: He didn’t want to listen to you?>>No.>>Gillian: By the time September rolled around, the Petrellas were hoping a new school year might bring stability. But on day two Chazz went into a rage, throwing his desk and trashing the classroom. There was no way he could return. When the behavior continued at home his panicked mother called the mental health crisis center, half an hour away. But Chazz was refusing to go. So Janet had to enlist his pregnant sister Gia to help get him there.>>We kind of carried him hand and foot out to the car and I basically had to hold him down in the back seat.>>So, my mom was holding him down trying to get him calm and saying that we were going to get him help, you know. And then he gave up when we got to the 401.>>And I thought okay, we’re all right, we’re going to get there. Within seconds it turned again and he grabbed her hair while she was driving and basically her position of her head was like this, looking up at the roof of the car, so she couldn’t see anything.>>I somehow managed to pull over to the side of the road. I was very scared. My mom was very scared. So we got him calm again and then kept on driving and then it happened a second time.>>Gillian: For a second time she managed to pull over. But still Chazz was determined.>>He undid the window and was trying to climb through the back window, and he was getting to a point where I knew, like, I wasn’t going to be able to hold on to him anymore. My biggest thing that was crossing my mind is he’s gonna run out into the 401.>>Gillian: Amid the commotion they’d managed to call 911. With all the adrenaline pumping through his system, it would take two large police officers to restrain Chazz, a boy of just 89 pounds.>>And I just remember looking in and seeing him so upset in handcuffs and he would hit his head off the window, like so hard. It was just heartbreaking. (♪♪)>>Gillian: An ambulance delivered Chazz to the crisis center where his parent’s asked he be committed under the Mental Health Act. The 11 year old was placed in a secure room with padded walls. His parents assumed he’d finally now get the help he needed.>>I believe it was within 3 hours they released him.>>Gillian: They released him? After all that?>>Yup. So, I was so upset and I didn’t know what to do, and I called them, some of the agencies and I said, what do I do? This is what it took to get me here and now they’re going to tell me just to put him back in my car to take him home? Like that isn’t even safe for me to put him in a car.>>Gillian: Even before the incident on the 401 there had been meetings. All the agencies involved with the Petrellas – Children’s Aid, the school board, the regional mental health provider. Everyone was concerned and yet no one seemed to have a plan. In June of 2013, another agency was brought in. Service Coordination, an arm of the Ontario ministry responsible for child and youth services, with a mandate to bring some cohesion to Chazz’s Care. And to take charge of funding. Alex Muir was the service coordinator assigned to Chazz’s case. He quickly noticed that the comprehensive testing that had been recommended more than a year earlier still hadn’t been done. And so he fast tracked Chazz into one of the best pediatric mental health facilities in the province: a place called Youthdale, where he could be monitored for up to 30 days.>>We were told they had the facilities to do sleep-analysis, neurological testing, medication tweaking. Under monitoring, so change the dosage or change the medication, but have that surveillance or the team of people who know what to look for.>>Gillian: Because these are the specialists?>>This is the — we were kind of sold on it that this is the crisis centre this is, like, we’re gonna get some answers here.>>Gillian: Youthdale could have been a turning point in Chazz Petrella’s life. It was the place someone might have figured out what was wrong with him. But Chazz was still being uncooperative, refusing to talk to some of the doctors outright. And there was another problem: money. Some of the tests the doctors wanted cost extra. In Chazz’s case, up to $4,000 more. A request was made to service coordinator Alex Muir. But for reasons neither he nor the ministry will explain to us, the funds were never approved. So the tests were never done. There is a discussion about who’s going to pay. And at one point, and there’s a document and I don’t know if you have seen this Frank, but — That money was an impediment to testing came as a surprise to the Petrellas. We showed them the documents we’d found in Chazz’s file. But did you know at the time?>>It was never…>>No, no.>>It was never brought up to us, anything about money, anything about financing for any of the programs. If it ever was an issue of funding, why didn’t somebody invoice us for funding? Why didn’t somebody say to us, here’s what it’s going to cost, this is what testing is going to cost. Can you pay that?>>Gillian: Would you have paid it?>>We would have found a way to definitely, like, find that kind of money, or to even find out how to get the money if we didn’t have the money. It just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. (♪♪)>>Gillian: Discharge notes from Youthdale show that doctors suspected Chazz suffered from anxiety, possibly major depression. But the kind of comprehensive assessment that might have lead to a diagnosis was never done. And after the 30 days, he was released. As you’ve read thru this what conclusions do you come to…. With the Petrella’s permission, we shared Chazz’s records with a panel of experienced child psychiatrists. All of whom called Youthdale a missed opportunity.>>Everybody agreed that the psychological testing was necessary.>>Gillian: Dr. Marshall Korenblum is in charge of a leading psychiatric clinic and teaches at the University of Toronto.>>This boy was so complex and so difficult to treat. If this was cancer, this would be stage 4. So he was already in a treatment, a somewhat treatment tesistant phase. Which requires longer time spent.>>Gillian: But for Chazz there was no more time. Ontario law says 30 days is as long as any child can stay in a crisis facility on an emergency basis. Youthdale had no choice but to release Chazz Petrella, which to our panel underscores a huge problem with the system.>>You know the waiting list for Youthdale is as long as it is anywhere else. And, you know, that’s where I think that kids are not widgets and childrenús mental health centers are not factories. And if we use a cookie cutter approach where every kid is in and out by 30 days weúre not going to be meeting the needs of the kids.>>Gillian: Instead the question would become: where could 11 year old Chazz go next? There would be another residential group home, another disaster. Police had to remove Chazz from that one after he allegedly punched a staff member. His parents were at a loss and, increasingly, so was Chazz.>>He started to almost feel like he was being bounced around because he would quite often say to us, well dad, what’s the point. Um, it’s not gonna make a difference anyways.>>Gillian: He was losing hope?>>He was.>>He was because anything that they had put him into –>>Yes.>>– didn’t work.>>Gillian: But then last winter a place that looked like it might work after all…. (♪♪)>>Gillian: Did thrive there? Did he do well there?>>He did really, really well.>>Gillian: But at what price? When we come back the Petrellas face a terrible choice. They said to you –>>Yes –>>Gillian: If you want your son to go here just –>>There’s money if he was a ward of the state. (♪♪) (♪♪)>>Gillian: By the time Chazz Petrella was 11 and a half he’d been in and out of three schools, two residential facilities and a psychiatric crisis centre. He was surrounded by doctors, mental health workers and social workers. And yet no one had succeeded in doing the tests that might have led to a diagnosis. In the meantime his behavior was deteriorating. After being kicked out of the last group home, a place was found at a rural treatment center east of Toronto. Bayfield is a privately run school specializing in kids with behavior problems. Tuition here starts at $21,000 a year, which buys a lot of individual attention.>>Everything there was there was designed to support kids like him. So he didn’t feel centered out as far as his behaviour.>>One of the things that Chazz enjoyed about that and he told me specifically was that if he felt overwhelmed, he could excuse himself to the hallway and they would have a staff member outside with him. You know supervising him. But he could go out there and just decompress for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes. Whatever amount of time it took.>>Gillian: His report card reflected the difference: all A’s and B’s. The kid who’d been labelled disruptive his entire life was now described as a ‘pleasure’ in the classroom. A good team player and often a good leader. For his parents it was almost too good to be true.>>Gillian: And as it turned out, it was too good to be true. Once again Chazzús treatment would turn on funding. Because he’d arrived at Bayfield on an emergency basis, his tuition was covered by the government for the first 30 days. Alex Muir, the service coordinator, agreed to extend that twice, which allowed Chazz to stay ’til the end of the school year. But if he was to return to Bayfield the following year, it would be up to his parents to pay. With three other children still at home, that was out of the question.>>We’re not in a financial situation to pay for this program. I mean, we’ve just spent the last two to three years proving that he needs to be in a facility. Realizing that he needs to be there. It’s a great spot for him. And it comes to money?>>Gillian: And it would get worse. It turned out there was a way for Chazz to stay at Bayfield for free. All the Petrellas had to do was give up custody of him.>>If my son was awarded to the Crown or you know, a ward of the state, there would be funding for him to go to that school. So, if I gave up my rights to him as my, as a parent, they would have the funding to send him to that school. But, because I wouldn’t give up those rights, there’s no funding for him.>>Gillian: Did somebody suggest to you that you should give up your rights?>>Yes.>>Several times.>>Oh yes.>>Gillian: They said to you?>>Yes.>>Gillian: If you want your son to go here just…>>There’s money if he was a ward of the state.>>Gillian: What did you think? (laughing)>>It was unbelievable.>>Gillian: It does seem unbelievable, at the very least unfair that government agencies would have pressured the Petrellas that way. According to Ontario government policy it never should have happened. No parent, the government says, should ever have to choose between keeping their children and getting treatment. As for who should have paid for Chazz’s tuition at Bayfield, documents show that service coordinator, Alex Muir, made it clear to the Petrella’s that Chazz had been initially funded as an exception. The cost of keeping him at the school for another year was ‘not sustainable’ given the funds. And so in June, Chazz was forced to leave the one place he had thrived. His education now the responsibility of his local school board. In other words, the Petrellas were back to where they’d started.>>We got the letter from the principal saying that he should not be, he’s not going to be successful. He’s not ready, he can’t self-regulate to that point where he could be successful in a regular classroom.>>Gillian: Did that have an effect on the people who were making the decisions about funding?>>At this point, no.>>Gillian: How could anybody have thought that sending the file back to the public school board was going to be the solution at that point? Once again our panel saw it as turning point. Until he retired Dr. David Gotlieb was head of emergency psychiatry at one of Toronto?s largest hospitals.>>This is a kid whose done well in a structured setting and then the funding runs out and he has a completely unstructured, unfunded — no support at all over the last part of the spring and all through the summer and the uncertainty of I don’t know where I’m going in September.>>So there’s a clear linkage between treatment stopping and the situation getting dire. (♪♪)>>Gillian: Things did get dire that summer. Chazz barely came out of his room. When his parents checked they saw the results of anxiety and frustration. At the end of July, Chazz turned 12. He wanted no celebration, he told his family, just a milkshake from the Dairy Queen.>>You could see it in how he looked. He got skinnier and he just looked tired like he’d been working all day or something, you know? Like exhausted, not as any 12 year old should, you know. He looked like he was drained, emotionally drained. (Chazz screaming)>>Two nights before Chazz Petrella died his parents made this recording.>>I can’t do it. There’s nothing to do.>>Just relax. Just –>>And do what!>>Just go to sleep honey.>>I can’t.>>It’s 11:30 now.>>I need something to help me sleep!>>They wanted to show all the people they had trusted to help them with their son, just what they were up against.>>You took your sleeping — right.>>They don’t do anything.>>What’s that?>>They don’t do anything.>>Well, you got to relax, okay.>>But I can’t relax. I don’t have anything to do.>>What do you think that video showed?>>Um…>>His torment.>>Torment.>>Yeah.>>Gillian: It’s heartbreaking watching that.>>Yeah, yeah. ‘Cause like I said, he had no control, he couldn’t sleep, you could see he’s almost like crawling in his skin. Right, that he doesn’t know what to do with himself and we didn’t know what else to do. We really, really didn’t. (Chazz screaming)>>I hate this so fucking much! (Chazz screaming)>>Gillian: The next night his raging was worse. Chazz put his fist through his bedroom wall and Janet rushed him to the emergency ward. He got a cast and a powerful sedative. Twice an adult dose. But four hours later they were back at the hospital. Chazz, his mother told the doctor, had chewed the cast right off.>>In the room, she’s like I would keep him but I don’t have the staff. I don’t have the beds. And she said there’s nothing, there’s nothing I can do. And she talked to Chazz and she said why are you doing this? And he said to her, you know, I don’t know. I’m sad, I’m confused, I’m frustrated. Like it was the first time I’ve ever really heard him talk about emotions.>>Gillian: As Janet finished with the doctor, Chazz disappeared. He decided to walk the three kilometers home, alone. He arrived just before dawn.>>I was sleeping and he came into my room and came over to um … And he gave me a kiss and he said I’m home — sorry. He said … He said, hey dad, I’m home and I said that’s great son. I said go get some sleep. And he left my room and he went to his room, and then Janet called a few minutes later and she said we can’t find him, and I said he’s home.>>Gillian: it was around 10 that morning that Frank discovered Chazz’s bed was empty and went looking for him.>>I have an office at the back of the house here and, it’s above my garage, so it’s two levels, and beside my, beside the garage was his favourite tree that — — he would climb quite often when he was feeling overwhelmed. That’s where he would go and hide. So I guess it was about 10 to 12, I guess. around then. I went up to the office, and um, as I was coming back out I saw him in the tree and um, I thought he was just climbing it, so I yelled at him to get out, and that, you know, we were worried sick about him. And then as I came down the steps and got a closer look I ralized what he had done. (♪♪)>>Gillian: When we come back, demanding answers. (♪♪) (♪♪)>>Gillian: When Chazz Petrella died he left so many questions: Did he mean to kill himself? Had he thought it through, or was it just another impulse the 12 year old couldn’t control? He left no note. It’s a shocking statistic: in Canada suicide is the second leading cause of death in children 10 to 19, although most who die are at the older end of that spectrum. Chazz was unusual. But there is nothing at all unusual about the problems exposed by his case. Not according to our panel. How often are you limited in the treatment you can provide by funding?>>Daily. It’s a huge struggle.>>Gillian: Dr. Jaswant Guzder Of Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital says a family’s means often dictates how much diagnostic testing they get.>>Because there’s also an issue of a two-tier system. In the sense that if you have resources in a family you can ask for certain kinds of things. Which people who don’t have resources simply can’t provide their children at high risk. So that is one issue that is very clear to us.>>Gillian: Another big issue that’s clear: a system that’s too complex, too fragmented.>>The way the system seems to work is, I refer to this agency and this agency can only do so much, and then there’s an emergency and then they refer to another service. And then they’re done, and then they’re referred to this service and there’s no sense of continuity at these interfaces.>>Yeah, I would agree it’s definitely a matter of both, resources and coordination. Each agency was doing what it could. But it was the lack of coordination and communication amongst them and between them that in a sense, that’s how he fell through the cracks.>>Gillian: But how many times does the point have to be made? Since 2001 there have been 8 different government reports in Ontario all emphasizing the need to do better when it comes to children and mental health. In addition, at least four coroner’s juries have recommended specific changes that had they been implemented might have helped Chazz and his family. Making comprehensive assessments a priority, to be done first thing after a child is identified as having problems. And assigning each family a government-appointed guide, someone to help navigate the fragmented system, to protect their interests until the end.>>There’s a 12 year old boy who has by all accounts had some real strengths, really engaging, and for a number of years has had services in his life, people in his life. And after all that, how does that 12 year old boy end up hanging from a tree. I want to know.>>Gillian: Irwin Elman is Ontario’s children’s advocate. Like the Petrella family he wants an inquest into Chazz’s death. And this time he wants the system to learn.>>I often think of children like Chazz as the tip of the iceberg, that we know there are symptoms of something larger and we need to solve that.>>The best care and support for children in our province so that it can reach our full potential.>>Gillian: We wanted to Interview Tracy McCharles, Minister for Children and Youth Services about the issues exposed by Chazz’s case. She refused our many requests. Instead she provided a statement. Her ministry is working tirelessly, she says, to fix what she calls service gaps in Ontario’s mental health system. As for the various agencies that dealt with the Petrella family, no one at the Office of Service Coordination, Kinark Child and Family services or the Children’s Aid Society would talk to us either.>>I think there has to be accountability. I think — it doesn’t have to be a personal accountability, but there has to be someone to say that these are flaws in the system that have –>>Yes.>>– to be held accountable by each one of these agencies.>>That’s — that’s very well put. Yes.>>For sure, for sure. (family chatter)>>Gillian: Seven months after Chazz’s death the Petrella’s are slowly coming to terms with life without him.>>Eva? Come to see nonno?>>>Gillian: There’s a new baby in the family now. Chazz’s sister Gia has a daughter.>>Let1s eat!>>Gillian: A little girl who will never know the uncle who was once so taken with her.>>I remember he was in a facility thanksgiving one year and we brought her. She was just brand new and he held her the whole time. She would cry and he just wouldn’t let her go. He said I’ll rock her. I’ll get her quiet again. And he would. They made each other smile. It was really beautiful. He loved being an uncle.>>Gillian: Who knows what Chazz Petrella might have become had he gotten the right kind of help, had he had the chance to grow and mature. They are the “what ifs” his family will always live with, along with the memories.>>You know, there’s key pieces of things that you want to make sure aren’t lost or destroyed or, there’s a care that goes in to putting them away. Or things that you want another child to use because it brought him such joy.>>It’s hard because you get to a point where you realize that there’s no new pictures of Chazz. There will never be new memories of Chazz. So those kinds of things become more cherished. You know so many people have said to us, oh when I was younger I tried to commit suicide. And I felt exactly the same way and you know when I hit like my 20s I was able to control it a little bit, or with the right treatment, you know, I was able to — And I think we just feel like he didn’t get that chance. (♪♪) (♪♪)

100 thoughts on “Chazz Petrella : The Boy Who Should Have Lived – the fifth estate

  1. I haven't all the comments here and 41 mins into the video as I write this comment. Every learning and development issue is related to the chemicals in our bodies that make us act and react in a certain way. These facility and school never look at the root cause. They make money and loads of it by programming us, training us. But that's not going to help. The "cure" is out there but no one's going to tell us that because how are these institutes going to make their freakin money. It angers me to my core. I courage parents, do more research don't rely on a system there are cheaper cure not fixed upper robotic measures out there. Research Biomedics.

  2. This was absolutely heartbreaking. The system failed him completely. He was scared and confused and his family was doing their best, but no one helped them. I just can’t say anything.

  3. i feel really bad for chazz and his parents… i cried almost during the whole video. i can't, this is too sad and painful. i hope he rests in peace and his family could heal mentally and emotionally. ♡

  4. Well at least they were trying to get him help but I believe it was just too late I have been suffering since I was a child with mental disabilities and thank God I was sent to a doctor right away and been seeing one ever since but mine comes from the fact that I have epalepcy and I started having sezeres when I turned 5 year's old so I feel so sorry for this young boy and I pray that he is in God's hands now and that his family when they see him again he will know them and run to them all and they will see that our GOD is a awesome God and he had been heald in every way possible our holy father has him now and I know he is truly blessed in every way possible and loved like no one here knows love to be because now the Lord has his arms around him and he is so beautiful and now has the wings to fly through the heavens and laugh with the other baby's in the heavens he knows no pain or hate only love love love praise God for his blessings to the family of this young boy just know now he only knows peace and love for you to come and see him again so he can show you that he is beautiful and so sorry for what you saw in him here on the earth that was a shell that is no more you will see him sooner than anyone else on this Earth so beautiful and loved by many ANGELS AND our holy father in heaven he just needed a little help with the baby's and now you're son is there and helping out with the other kids and the younger baby's love to you all and I hope you know all will come to pass and you can count on that today and every day he watches you and knows what your going through my friends soon you will be back with your son and all his new friends and family SOON SOONER THAN YOU THINK GOD BLESS YOU ALL IN THE FAMILY OF OUR LORD

  5. He was such a handsome kid and in his eyes you could tell he was sweet but also struggling with his inner demons. rest in paradise. 💕 I know how this kid feels, I suffer with major depression and anxiety. Shits exhausting, and like the sister said it’s emotionally draining.

  6. So tragic. Governments have money to help those that are not citizens giving them everything yet can't help one of their own. My condolences to this family. RIP Chazz.

  7. I don't know how in the world the Mom got through these interviews without crying or coming close..
    Especially so soon after her 12 year old Son hung himself. I dont mean to sound judgmental but did anyone else think she almost looked annoyed when her husband broke down in tears?

  8. Some kids are just too vulnerable in life. Even with treatment he may have suffered greatly the rest of his life. I have a daughter who tried to hang herself at six. We went through all of this and more. She is pretty much okay but we all went through hell for years. RIP Chazz beautiful boy, "this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you."

  9. We really need to focus more on these kids. Especially being a parent seeing the signs going to seek help ,mostly showing your child I got your back no matter what. Parents are selfish and need to take responsibility for there actions. Your kids comes first💯

  10. This family tried so hard for their son! So sad 😭😭😭😭😭 each spring my dairy goats kid, & our pen is filled with adorable, bouncy baby goats. My best dairy goats name is Candice, & I have a tradition to name the kids after the first letter in the mom's name. Next spring I'll name one Chazz to remember this sweet boy too 😢

  11. Possessed. Did they try an exorcist ? Did he have a brain tumor ? Interesting how parents are blaming the system because they could not afford to pay for the schooling of their child. Did they consider mortgaging their house or did they consider, letting go their hold over their child ? If the state was willing to pay, they should have let him go….. They failed him. Too low key father here, not understanding the pain his child is going through. They should have released him to the state. These parents simply annoy me.

  12. That poor poor child. Anxiety may have been part of it, but I am 99% certain he had early onset bipolar disorder.
    Mine also started showing at an early age, and it showed primarily as rage.
    I am so sad that he wasn't able to get the right help, his parents seemed to try so hard. My heart breaks for them.

  13. thats definitely a demon on that kid ! i dnt know what he did in his previous life or what sin his father may have committed but that was a curse !

  14. This kid never got a chance to be a kid. Drugs and sneaking out at 10. Adderall since he was starting school before you can formally assess.

  15. My brother used to sneak out the window. When he was 5 he was diagnosed with hyperactive. Back then adhd was identified. He was on medication and we lived in Germany because our dad was in the service
    There was a wine festival it was October fest. Some bigger German boys got him drunk. He had to go to the hospital to get his stomach pumped. He was always running off somewhere and stealing things. When he got older in his 30 he stayed with us my husband thought he could help him and change him. It didn’t help like I figured he stoked a few thousand dollars from me. He was always in and out of juvenile places and prison. When he stole from me he lady and went to Florida
    A couple years later he was out drinking somewhere and he ran out in a six lane highway and got hit by 2 trucks he died. He got cremated and the ashes got sent to our mother. We would of went our self to get him but we had no idea where he was and we lived to far away.

  16. You are resting now beautiful kid Chazz is your name and you are at peace with our heavenly father ♥️no child should have to go through this ……. Thank You Family for sharing this. Im sorry for your loss 😢❤️

  17. sweet baby boy in heaven, i hope you’ve found your peace and happiness and that you can finally breathe again💓 this angel didn’t deserve this. as a 22 year old dealing with the same issues, i don’t know how a 12 year old boy could have handled it for so long. he’s the strongest boy that’s ever lived. the video clips of him having episodes echo in my mind because that was ME at his age. his pain is gone and he’s thriving in heaven. God had a better home for him. i hope his life and all of his accomplishments continue to be celebrated. i hope the ones responsible for the children’s mental health system are haunted by this. this little boy was too pure in his heart for the evil ways of this earth. he’s found his heavenly home💓

  18. So sad this young boy was being tortured by something he couldn't understand and ultimately he took his life to end the torment as he couldn't stop it or get the help he needed

  19. I couldn't imagine what he went through. Not being able to sleep properly was already a big contributor to depression. I have a very mild anxiety disorder, and when I couldn't sleep well, I was more prone to fits of anger and couldn't control my temper. After that, the guilt would make me cry. It took me a while to realize lack of sleep is negatively detrimental to me.

    RIP Chazz 🌷🌷🌷

  20. Too familiar… The only competent expert (simple, private, experienced child psychologist, maybe specialised in this type of cases) was sided in this story.

  21. Blaming the system is not going to help. I am sure there were payment plans the parents could have taken on. Privileged mindset is an illness within itself.

  22. Why weren't the parents trained in how to deal with him. Instead of only concentrating on institutions, they should have supported his home situation. Maybe having the government take care of everything is the worst thing ever.

  23. This hit me hard, being someone with ADHD myself understands how hard it is to not understand why your focus goes in or out of being frustrated it really is hard. The hardest part is no one can help those who have ADHD because back then there wasnt a lot to be known about ADHD. People to this day still tell me its not a thing and it really is and it is frustrating because it makes you feel crazy when you have something like this when everyone else is telling you its normal.That everyone goes through it, like no. You don't understand its much more than that.

  24. His parents are really good parents and I admire their partnership with each other, as well. There must’ve been something biologically amiss with Chazz’s brain chemistry….from birth… something that couldn’t have been predicted nor prevented (only treated, as at that rural residential school where he thrived)… What a good public service this documentary is. Thank you to the Petrella family for your willingness to share this. May it move and shake the system. For the sake of others like Chazz. ❤️

  25. This is such a similar story to what happened to my best friend Brendan and yet his family barely even talk about it , from Oakville Ontario, most times I feel like I was one of the few that fully heard him out, 2 years ago he took his life a week before his 19th birthday. Chazz had such a similar soul always had so much to say and felt like no one wanted to hear it anymore.😓 Chazz also reminds me of someone with bipolar or bpd

  26. Give this kid morphine every day for Chrissakes!!!
    Did the mother or father keep their job? Whoever is the bigger earner stays working and the other stays w their son full time.
    Never ever put your child away. Home school him and take him with you everywhere you go….if u want to keep your son.

  27. So all needed to be able to thrive was the ability to take timeouts when he felt overwhelmed, and the school system couldn’t give him that? This is why I hate public education. They act like all children can fit into a mold. Anyone who doesn’t fit their mold is labeled a problem.

  28. I can’t get over that video of him suffering you can tell he couldn’t control the way he was feeling very sad report my condolences to the family and I hope his story brings change

  29. If kids have ADHD change there diet don't put them on drugs that's the worst thing you can do he was to young to be on mind altering chemicals just heard he was drinking a milkshake from dairy Queen food intolerances can cause severe symptoms. I'm really sorry for there loss poor kid

  30. Watching this and listening to the parents describe what happened, reminds me of EXACTLY what my husband and I went through with our 9 yo daughter. She had a sudden change in her behavior, aggressive, angry, dangerous and uncontrollable. We tried getting help from every medical facility possible with no avail. Every doctor wanted to put her on new meds. She even had a 7 day stay at a mental health facility. Again, NOTHING! Our family was living for months of constant fear and sadness, not knowing how to help her.
    Finally, a friend came to me with a new suggestion… brain balancing. I was hesitant at first but eventually decided we had nothing to lose. We took my daughter to a brain optimization specialist and within 5 minutes we had an answer! She was suffering from the results of past concussions. My daughter has had medically diagnosed concussions, she’s very active and athletic and had 2 at school a few months before her behavior issues started. We mentioned these to all the doctors and not one of them suggested doing an MRI.
    She had 4 in office treatments in a week and continued treatments at hims a few minutes a day for a couple weeks and that was it!!!
    My daughter was back! Our family was together again!
    I share this because I wonder if this was what Chazz suffered from and if there are other parents in this same situation, it might save a child from ending as Chaz’s did.
    I know the pain, the feeling of being lost, helpless, confused, frustrated and sadness as a parent who went through hell trying to find answers for my daughter and to help her. My heart goes out to all the parents and children struggling.

  31. the fact that some institutions were silent about this case is exactly why the mental health issues are not resolved. poor family, poor kid.

  32. So government can’t help them pay the money they needed but they can definitely pay for other stuffs. It just nonsense seeing the government rejecting your help request. We all pay taxes and for sure they have been paying their taxes so it pretty simple to assume that they just didn’t want to help that’s it because if they wanted, then it could’ve done at first sight, at first location they went for help. IT JUST NONSENSE

  33. I'm nt judging the dad, but when chazz came in their room and said he was home, he should have asked his son to sleep beside him and give him a really tight reassuring hug… He may have stayed around 1 more day… Soo sad…

  34. My daughter didn't have Addhd the teachers wanted her drugged. She had sever angziety and that can trigger depression symptoms. She's now 24 a college graduate and well adjusted. I did everything I could including sleeping on the floor outside her bedroom door. To keep her safe. My cousins was ignored for yrs and he hung him self 2 yrs ago at the age of 30. I told his family he had what we do but his family denied the issues.
    I live every day knowing he could have been saved.
    Do anything u can to keep them safe including letting them know how much there loved and your going to have there back always.
    I miss my cousin every day.
    Parents don't give up they are sometimes there bullied by doctors. Always get second or third opions if necessary. Do what ever you have to. I'm so sorry this family went threw this and they lost there precious child. My child acted just like this boy!

  35. Such a handsome little guy!! Break my heart seeing the parents crying I can feel their pain!! Rest In Peace little guy!!!

  36. Such a heartbreaking story that didn't have to happen…Prayers go out to this family and all the families dealing with mental illnesses like this!

  37. Idk seems like he was a very smart kid! Cutting the wires so the censors wouldn’t go off, building bongs at 9-yrs-old, etc. these are all negative things but still showed how mature and smart he was for his age! This is so sad! Honestly I feel like he could of done great things in his life. Very sad. Mentally illness is so common and never treated properly!!

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