Monday, December 13, 2010

Changing attitudes about mental illness

An article published in today's edition of The Chronicle Herald:
Hyde Report a positive step, says schizophrenia society boss

By Ian Fairclough | FIVE QUESTIONS

Last week, a provincial court judge released a long-awaited report from the inquiry into the death of Howard Hyde, a Nova Scotia man with schizophrenia who died in jail a day after being arrested by police.

The report contained 80 recommendations and was welcomed by Stephen Ayer [pictured], the executive director of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia.

Q: What’s the most important lesson to be learned from the death of Howard Hyde?

A: There are three really important lessons; it’s hard to pick one of them.

The most important lesson is a combination of the need for increased education around mental illness and what to do when encountering a person who is in a state of psychosis.

There is also the need for communication not only with the individual who is in the psychotic state, but also communication between different agencies that would be interacting with that person, from the mobile mental health crisis team to 911 to the responding officers. Communications has to be better.

In relation to that is response. If we could increase the education and training of people who respond to situations where an individual is in a crisis with a psychotic episode, they would be able to communicate effectively between themselves and the other agencies or services involved, and then the response would be the most appropriate response for that individual.

Q: What’s the first thing that should be done?

A: We have to have some empathy and some humanity in terms of dealing with people who have a psychiatric emergency, no matter what the circumstances may be.

Q: What do you think it would take to change the way police and the justice system deal with mental health consumers?

A: One of the deputy sheriffs did a great job trying to calm Mr. Hyde down to the best of his ability. He took two hours to talk to Howard Hyde to get some insight into what was going on, so there are people who are understanding and empathetic within the system already.

I’m sure there are more than (him). I think police and correctional services need to take a look at their staff and identify people who would be most appropriate for training in regard to working with people who are having a psychiatric emergency and being able to understand how to deal with it appropriately and get the person the help they need.

Q: How are the supporters of people with schizophrenia reacting to the results of the inquiry?

A: Very positively, and I am as well.

As I reflect now on the report and having delved deeper into it over the last couple of days, my response is the same as it was initially. This is an incredible piece of work by an incredible person — Judge Derrick — and when this was released, I said it’s a watershed day for the people of Nova Scotia and all people who live with mental illness in their families. It’s so comprehensive and the recommendations are so thorough and so important. I continue to believe that and hope the report will be taken seriously by government and others who need to make changes within the way they provide services.

Q: How optimistic are you that at least some of these recommendations will be instituted quickly, and how likely do you think it is that they’ll all be accepted?

A: In terms of the word quickly, I’m not very optimistic at all. In fact, I’m quite pessimistic, because this government has shown that even though it talks the talk, so to speak, and we have a health minister who is a former social worker and who worked at the Nova Scotia Hospital years ago and campaigned on the fact that mental health was going to be a high priority, when push comes to shove and the rubber hits the road, she’s nowhere to be found in terms of making some changes.

That includes support for community organizations such as ours that are on the front lines dealing with crisis calls.

  • About one per cent of Nova Scotians are living with schizophrenia.
  • About 23,000 family members are affected by schizophrenia in that they are trying to help their loved ones deal with it.
  • About 30 per cent of people with schizophrenia completely recover, and another 40 per cent recover well enough to work with limitations. The other 30 per cent are so affected they are difficult to treat.
  • The Hyde Inquiry [report] contained 80 recommendations among its 462 pages.
  • In the past year, the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia answered more than 500 crisis calls and provided advice, information and assistance.
Source: Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia

Photograph by Peter Parsons, The Chronicle Herald.

1 comment:

Frances Pergano said...

I really loved this article see's how we are all reacting to this.