Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Suppressing Schizophrenia

An article posted yesterday by TheTyee.ca:
Schizophrenia is invisible in Canada's new mental health strategy.

By Susan Inman (pictured)

It is hard to imagine that life could get any harder for individuals living with schizophrenia (one per cent of the population) and the families who provide support to them. However, the controversial choices made by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), in the latest draft of the new Mental Health Strategy, make it likely that their situations can actually get worse. These choices, which were not apparent in any earlier MHCC documents, are not receiving the public scrutiny that is needed because this draft is not available for the public. This draft, which was shared with a very small number of people, is currently being polished, and the Canadian public will not see it until it is unveiled in early 2012.

Through both what the strategy suggests and what it fails to support, this plan represents decisions that are dangerous to the well being of people with schizophrenia.

None of the MHCC documents have provided even the most basic information about this often misunderstood mental illness. For instance, the public has never learned that 40 to 50 per cent of psychotic people don't understand that they are ill and so have no reason to ask for or consent to treatment. Nor does any of the educational material promoted by the MHCC in its Mental Health First Aid program mention that 90 per cent of people with schizophrenia who stop taking their medications will have a relapse. A clearer understanding of this neurobiological disorder can help people understand the mental health policies that are most appropriate.

One major problem with the strategy is its approach to legal issues. The new draft strategy promises funds for court challenges to human rights abuses. The public deserves to have open access to this document to find out exactly what the MHCC intends with this action. Since the MHCC has allied itself with groups opposed to involuntary treatment of psychotic people, it is likely that federal funds could be made available to challenge involuntary treatment orders that have been made under various provincial mental health acts. Some human rights activists insist that no one should be treated for psychosis unless they choose this option; however, the notion of choice does not make sense in this context because people experiencing a profound psychosis do not have access to their rational thinking processes. They are not able to act in their own best interest, which is why mentally ill people frequently end up homeless or, increasingly, in prison.
To read the entire article, please click here.

Photo credit

Also see:

Mental Health Strategy for Canada - DRAFT (June 3, 2011)

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