Mental health: Dismissive attitude to treatment must stop

…every day, we turn people away, or place them on long waitlists.

We don’t talk about the real threats to our children.

Most parents worry when their children begin driving. They warn teens about the risks.

In 2011, despite that care and concern, 291 British Columbians died in car crashes.

That same year, 526 people took their own lives—80 per cent more than those killed in car crashes.

Road crashes don’t come close to taking the toll of mental illness and problem substance use. Why don’t we, as a society, urge parents to have serious talks with their children about those risks?

Stigma, in part. No one tells cancer patients to buck up and wish their infirmities away. But people with mental illness routinely face prejudice and a dismissive attitude.

People who have an obvious illness tend to get help. At the least, emergency rooms provide urgent care. Those with a mental illness and substance abuse issues face a much tougher reality.

Joshua Beharry wrote about his experiences in the Vancouver Sun last month. In 2009, at 22, he went to a hospital emergency ward because months of depression had left him increasingly suicidal.

“I spoke to an emergency room doctor and a psychiatric nurse,” he wrote. “They asked if I had a plan to kill myself.” People are only admitted if they have mapped out a specific plan to take their own lives, he learned.

“I didn’t have a plan so I went home,” Beharry recalled.

And a month later, he tried to kill himself.

The ER staff aren’t at fault. They send people away because there are no treatment spaces.

The community social services sector plays a huge role in addressing mental illness and substance abuse. But every day, we turn people away, or place them on long waitlists. Budget freezes and cuts and a lack of integrated responses have created a crisis.

The cost is enormous. A 2010 study estimated the cost to the economy due to lost work days was $50 billion a year. Add the damage to families, the costs of homelessness and health care and the total rises sharply.

Former senator Michael Kirby, the first chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, noted that mental health and substance use represent about 35 per cent of the disease burden in Canada, yet receive about five per cent of the resources.

Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond noted this year that lack of political leadership has left this province with a fragmented, inadequate system of supports for youth facing mental illness.

A new government has the chance to address these serious problems, providing leadership, adequate resources and a collaboration strategy linking health and the social services sectors.

We should make sure that mental health and problem substance use services step out of the shadows.

Michelle Fortin is the executive director of Watari Youth, Family and Community Services and the chair of B.C. ASAP—Addiction Specialists and Allied Professionals. She wrote this article on behalf of the Roundtable of Provincial Social Services Organizations.

 

Just Posted

Rockets prepare for three-game series against Prince George

The Kelowna Rockets will be looking to Kyle Topping during the series

Okanagan rugby community raises funds for cancer services

The first ever fundraiser held on Sunday raised $14,000

Kelowna to be home of green self storage facility

The building will be the first of its kind in North America

One night raises more than $100,000 for Kelowna charity

Third Space Life Charity’s gala raised more than $120,000 for mental health programs in Kelowna

Dog control ramping up on Okanagan Rail Trail

RDNO taking extra precautions to ensure dogs remain on leash

VIDEO: Rare close encounter with whale pod spotted off B.C. waters

Pod of southern resident orca whales breach within arms length of whale watchers

Dead B.C. motorcyclist was member of group that raced down mountain road

Some group members record their rides on Strathcona Parkway and post times to page

Indigenous athletes in spotlight at BC Sports Hall of Fame

New gallery to feature Carey Price, Kaila Mussel and Richard Peter

Okanagan College student population climbs

Enrolment up nearly 14 per cent

B.C. couple who went missing on flight from Edmonton named by family

Family released a statement Wednesday saying they’re still intent on finding the two-seater plane

Coldstream supports Okanagan College Campus residence project

Project would see a 100-bed residence on the Vernon campus in Coldstream

VIDEO: A close look at what you were breathing during the B.C. wildfire season

Electron microscope images show soot and tar particles generated by worst B.C. fire season

Okanagan show supports youth mental health, suicide prevention

Robb Nash will be performing Oct. 2 and 3 at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre

B.C. woman donates $250,000 to ovarian cancer research for friends

Two of Patty Pitts’s friends passed away from the disease within a year

Most Read