The Vancouver Sun, September 23, 2016, featured an opinion titled: “Charter challenge to B.C. Mental Health Act long overdue.” The Community Legal Assistance Society had just launched the challenge because BC law takes away the right for those detained to consent to or refuse psychiatric treatment. Even a trusted family member or friend cannot act on behalf of the patient. This means that they can be forced to take psychiatric drugs, have electric shock treatments, and even told where to live.
For years, I was a psychiatric patient but never detained under the act. However, I lived under the cloud of the legislation and was extremely careful about challenging the professionals, especially about questioning my medications which, as it turned out, were causing many of my psychiatric symptoms.
So when I read a newspaper article December 14, 2017 in the Globe and Mail where a woman defended BC’s detention system for those with mental illness, claiming that forced treatment benefits some people, I just had to reply. I wrote a letter to the editor stating that “It is scandalous that BC’s powerful Mental Health Act (MHA) strips detained psychiatric patients of their rights and freedoms.” The Glove and Mail did not publish the letter.
Then January 14, 2018, the Times Colonist in Victoria featured an op-ed about a man who could not get mental health care and viciously attacked someone. This is my chance I thought, and wrote the following letter to the Times Colonist.
“I was shocked to read the mother’s account of her son’s attack that showed gaps in mental health system. The psychiatric system allowed his poor treatment, thus causing this tragedy. Seeking solutions is a top priority. We must be careful of knee-jerk solutions such as locking people in institutions. In BC there are 11,000 BC citizens detained per year under the Mental Health Act. Each one still has rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Keep in mind that most people with mental health issues are more likely to be victims of crime rather than the perpetrators.
There are caring, dignity-saving, effective solutions. I know because I was a Master’s prepared nurse who has read the literature and witnessed sloppy care when I worked in mental health. I know because I was a long-term psychiatric patient who fully recovered.
- Rethink mental health care, and during the process involve those with lived experience in a meaningful way.
- Reinstate the office of the Mental Health Advocate.
- Support an independent voice for us with lived experience.
- Rewrite the Mental Health Act to ensure human rights, fair processes, and accountability.
When we offer compassionate mental health care that helps patients live as equals in our communities with fulfilled and engaged lives, everyone benefits.” The Times Colonist published it January, 29, 2018.
Community Legal Assistance Society’s report: Operating in Darkness: BC’s Mental Health Act Detention System http://www.clasbc.net/operating_in_darkness_bc_s_mental_health_act_detention_system
Now to spend time with Anna, my little dog, who is anxious to play after resting in her house which was a Christmas gift.