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Freedom to be sick leaves families feeling chained

From Friday's Globe and Mail

Caregivers who can't get mentally ill loved ones to seek help grapple with laws designed to protect civil rights ...Read the full article

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  1. Bert Russell Paradox, BC from Canada writes:

    Now our mentally ill have joined the victims of crime, apparently enabled by the Liberals Cotler and his Human Rights, Civil Rights activist following. The Liberals have done Canada a serious injustice by allowing greedy lawyers to support special criminals rights, taking away our free speech and truth in Journalism .. at the taxpayers expense.
  2. Squish_a_p From BC from Canada writes: Thank you for this article and thank you to the parents for sharing their stories. I too am a mom of a mentally ill, addicted child who lives on the streets of Vancouver. I wish I could force her into care. She has been in trouble with the law and last time I saw her, she was high, dirty, cold and uncared for. She was diagnosed with depression at the age of 12 after her father abandoned her and her brother. I was never able to force her to take her medication, just as now I can do nothing to help her. My heart is broken.
  3. june Conway Beeby from Kingston, Canada writes: After reading this heart rending article, surely Ontario politicians will revisit our mental health laws and find the courage to amend the law to allow treament for those poor souls whose illnessess prevent them from helping themselves. Along with the myths of mental illness , there are myths about the horrors of neuroleptic medication. (Stay with me, I'm going to digress for a minute. But it's often puzzled me that some of those who have successfully been treated become activists to prevent others from receiving the very treatment that brought them back to heath). Back to the myths Unfortunately, these medication myths have generally become accepted by the public including those lawyers who earn their living by keeping the mentally illl imprisioned by their delusions. In fact, there are many people who curse a system that let them remain sick for years, losing great blocks of their lives. After they were treated and recovered well enough to understand what they had lost, never to be recovered. They mourned those terrible years they spent in the streets, psychotic and unable to prepare themselves for the futures they had dreamed about. It seemed unreasonably to them that no one intervened. It comes as no surprise that BC has the most humane mental health laws in Canada. John Gray has been a champion for the mentally ill in BC , tirelessly advocating improved mental health laws for a long time. He has probably prevented more suffering than he can ever know. Thanks, John.
  4. Russell Barth from Nepean, Canada writes: medical marijuana is good for bi-polar. she could get him a license from health canada.

    or she could load him up on pharmaceuticals.

    or put him in a cage.
  5. Jenny charbonneau from toronto, Canada writes: Actually, if someone is in deep distress they take on the only personality or mentor that has been ingrained in their brain. Like I said in the previous post, the only guy with power is the dude on tv.
  6. Jenny charbonneau from toronto, Canada writes: Its sad that parents are so busy that they dont have the time to properly care for their kids that have special needs. No one else can really do this for them unless the parents adopt an uncle. Most people with illness have just about the same potential as most other lazy middle class kids so the competition is also a killer.
  7. one voice from Nanaimo, Canada writes: This article was scary. If we read in the paper sometime in the future that Ms. Greene dies at the hands of her son who is to blame? Her son who is too ill to recognize his illness, or the medical facility that has banned him because he assaulted a doctor, or the police for not protecting heror the government that enacted legislation that in essence abandoned the mentally ill? Untreated mental illnesses are dangerous to the patient as well as to the general public...and in this new atmosphere of "financial restraint" we are entering into there sure as hell won't be any more money coming from government to provide care and support for the mentally ill.
  8. Jane Orion Smith from Toronto, Canada writes: The bar should not be so high for mandatory help. Years ago, I remember having to go live with my mother (who was schizophrenic and having trouble) for 6 weeks because she was wandering around town in the middle of the night in her nightgown with a suitcase - had to meet someone. She'd even go down to the shipyards like this. It was terrifying and, being ill as she was, not easy to negotiate alternatives. The medical folk did not see her as a "danger to herself or others" so she could not be admitted by me, and she would not get help. It was a nightmare and did my mother no service.
  9. Snowed in in Barrie from Canada writes: You know, recently I read a feature article in the Globe that suggested the best way to get our country back on track was to use this opportunity to spend, spend, spend on the infrastructure we've been neglecting.

    So, this looks like a really good time to build some mental health hospitals. Good for the mentally ill and good for the economy.

    Let's hope some politicians out there are reading this article.
  10. A. Nonymous from VoIP Ville, United States writes: It's great that children and the mentally ill have all these 'rights'.

    They can refuse any and all treatment, and if anything is forced, they can sue people.

    We will have a whole generation of mentally ill people on the streets. A great army of cheap reserve labor without any education, which companies can use for any dangerous work.

    I hope somebody appreciates all the rights they were given.
  11. Glen , from Canada writes: Snowed in in Barrie . . .
    I agree completely and would add that equally important, perhaps more so, would be to build upon and invest in the "infrastructure" of earlier, community based interventions with children and youth that have mental health problems. Most adult mental health illness has roots during childhood and adolescence.
  12. Sue W from Canada writes: Of course it would be our government and it's plethora of tax-payed 'experts' who knows whats best for these sad individuals. Not the families and friends who actually care about them.
  13. Brett Knoss from Rockglen, SK, Canada writes: If the problem is that mentally ill indeviduals are becoming repeat offenders in the revolving door criminal system perhaps the solution is to redesign prisons to better accomidate and treat the mentally ill and have longer sentences. If someone was to get say 6 years in prison and perole after 4 years for say attacking thier mother they could tehn get help in the prioson system and be foreced into care as a perole condition (the numbers are not specific).

    One of the problems however is that prisons are big, they have lots of prisoners and a mash of persons with various porblems mental illness and drug addiction, but also gang problems. It has been suggested that communities are the most succesful below a population of 150 persons. Perhaps if we build more prisons of this size with adequate living conditions, working conditions, education and psycological care; a system where prisoners are sorted based on psycological needs effective care could be ensured without the revolving door problems or the civil righst problems of forcing people into mental health programs.
  14. Karen B from toronto, Canada writes: "successful treatment" means getting a person to a state where they are not creating enforceable complaints by others. "A mother decides to have a baby because it will keep her family and husband together. Her body will heal while the things drinks and sleeps and poos. It will become cute and something to hold on to and cuddle with, dress up and talk about, and give her and her husband an acceptable reason to make lots of money. The baby grows up and the parents can arrogantly show off their knowlege and territory and power to the young person who is made to feel welcomed and protected for no reason whatsoever. Probably because they are perfect. Then the parents force the child to find a partner to protect their kingdom and start building one for themselves. A sick child is hurt and seduced by strangers, is thrown to their parents who (hopefully) fake their power, territory and knowlege. The only way out is for the parents to fake being enslaved by the doctor and proving that the husband went out and killed him and his family in the middle of the night - again. Then the child is left alone with other kids who tell him that they saw the doctor and his family who are alive and well and buying tons of ralph lauren paint at the local mall. Guess what happens next." "Freedom to be sick" gives people a chance to find and face the truth. Its a privelge. Who has rights? The parents. Rights suck.
  15. Brett Knoss from Rockglen, SK, Canada writes: That is part of the problem Sue. In the passed especially between the 1940's and 1960's too many people were commited, and they wern't getting ht ebest care. We built these huge asylums (much like our huge prisons) these places would throw people with a huge range of conditions together so that none of them could get the best treatment, but more importaintly was that we had mothers commited for post-natal depression, we had people commited for quirks, we had people commited for speach imperements, and these people were put with those people who were truly dangerous. Whatever we do we can not return to this.
  16. Olivia Beck from Canada writes: The only reason why we have a pendulum that has swung pretty much 100% the other way in terms of forced treatment is because of a pretty icky recent history with "involuntary commitment." Remember, only 50 or so short years ago, disagreeable wives and promiscuous daughters could be admitted to hospitals indefinitely based on the family's proclamation that their family member is ill.

    We are still trying to find that delicate balance between the rights of the individual (who happens to be suffering from an illness that interferes with their social behaviour) and the rights of the society (who have a right to live free from harm according to our laws).

    People are thinking about these questions and these issues. But what seems so cut and dry for many is not so cut and dry for many others.

    Speaking from experience, I think prevention (of any illness) is key, but our government is more interested in crisis management than they are in preventative approaches to healthcare. I don't know why it is this way, it makes no sense really, but it is that way.

    There are preventative approaches to mental health care. Other countries practice preventative approaches. Demand and expect it from your government. No one with a mental illness, in our day and age, needs to suffer in the ways we are seeing. Suffering arises from sociopolitical neglect and a "wait and see" approach. Demand change. Expect change.
  17. Karen B from toronto, Canada writes: there are no myths about the horrors of nueroleptic medication if people are medicating themselves... (haha) zzzzzzz.
    there are no myths about the horrors of nueroletiptic medication if people are medicating people they hate... (haha) zzzzzz.
    there are no myths of mental illness if people take time to learn facts and build a system for themselves that protects them from telling others about them and that fosters creativity for themselves.
    there are no myths of mental illness if people have enough self-respect to challenge people eye to eye
  18. Brett Knoss from Rockglen, SK, Canada writes: Good point Olivia. I think early diganosis and early childhood care which is specialized to childrens special needs is imoprtaint. My prison idea was a way to work with adults who are part of the revolving door system but early childhood development and assistance throught the school system.
  19. Squish_a_p From BC from Canada writes: Olivia Beck , I would love to know more about how other countries practice preventative approaches. I'm not sure where to find that information.
  20. jill of all trades from Ottawa, Canada writes: It's not just the families of violent mentally ill children who suffer - it's also the community at large. Several years ago I was once forced to vacate an apartment due to the fact that my neighbour decided that she didn't need her schizophrenia medication anymore. After months of harassing us and our neighbours, our landlord tried to evict her. The police were called on a regular basis. Her attacks escalated to the point where the landlord hired an off-duty police officer to sit in our foyer. She attacked another police officer, damaged property (and injured herself) and threatened to kill us all. The deciding moment for me was when she announced that it didn't matter if she was evicted because she knew where we lived and she was going to kill us (we also discovered that she had recently attacked someone else with a machete). I understand the rationale that people should be free to choose their own treatment or to refuse treatment. But surely the rights of the community at large outweigh the rights of the individual? If an unmedicated mentally ill person poses a threat to themselves or others, then I think they should be given a choice: institutionalization or treatment. Although extremely violent cases like this woman are (thankfully) rare, left untreated she is a murder waiting to happen. Does she really have that right?
  21. Not the Green Taliban from Vancouver, Canada writes: If mental illness is to have no stigma and be treated like any other illness (which I agree with) why do we have two laws - one for people who have a physical illness and another for people with a mental illness. If a child of JW's refuses a blood transfusion that could save his life the state steps in and gives them the blood transfusion. If a person falls into a diabetic coma we don't wait till they awake to ask if they want help. If someone is in an accident do we just watch them writhe until they ask for help? That would be cruel. Why then can't society step in and help (forcibly or not) a person with a mental illness. Surely, when they were well they would never have chosen a life of degradation on the street with addictions. We force people with Alzheimers into institutions because we know they will be safer and they would not want to be wandering around in their pajamas if they didn't have dementia. Why the double standard. Help these people get on the medications that can help them - and there are fewer and fewer side-effects. Diabetics know there are side-effects to taking insulin but they take it because the alternative is death. Its the same for mentally-ill people - a death of hope, happiness and health. Civil rights people are no different than those who would get in the way of a woman having an abortion or a person trying to have euthanasia - a bunch of buttinskis.
  22. Squish_a_p From BC from Canada writes: Not the Green Taliban; very well said.
  23. c. f. from not specified, Canada writes: Prevention of mental illness is a huge undertaking, and no one knows for sure where to aim the prevention. Sure mental health professionals know what causes personality disorders - those horrific childhoods of abuse, rape, terror, and horror. But what activates the schizophrenia gene in some people and not others? Good mental health is desirous in any community. People who are harming and threatening others in the community should not have the right to live in that community whether they do it because they like to, or because they are mentally ill. The laws governing both situations suck. Police say, ''can't do anything until he actually causes harm" - well when I am dead then, please do arrest him! Sheesh. We need to update our mental health laws. We need more inpatient mental health beds, because dealing with chronically ill mental health pateints in a family setting is exhausting, and there needs to be respite places for breaks, and places to get treatments, assessments, and 'tune-ups' when drugs lose their efficacy. No I dont' want some 'big brother' deciding a family can haphazardly commit a person to an institution for life, there must be checks and balances, but there has to be a system to get these people assessed properly. Once a person is brought to a place of mental stability using medications and treatment, THEN the discussion about whether or not they want to persue treatment or they want to be held in a long term institution can be had. I have no problems if someone doesn't want to take the drugs for his illness, he just doesn't have the right to terrorize his family, or the community. Finally, the more harried our world becomes, the more pressure we put on individuals, the bigger the recessions, the harder to find work, the more people will fall mentally ill. No shame in that, but where do we find the resources to help them... or if you really don't care Canada, should we be giving out lessons on suicide?
  24. Brenda Mathieson from Canada writes: In many cases, the mentally ill (especially those with psychosis) are far too confused to be an immediate danger to themselves or others, although some have the impression that the mentally ill are all "criminal". This is not the case. Most cannot function well enough to feed and cloth themselves, hold down a job, look after their children or even cook a dinner without risk of burning down the house. Many are so ill that holding a conversation someone else is impossible as the voices in their heads are so loud. Their health and finances deteriorate. They may put themselves in harms way. With diseases such as schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, there is a physical disease at play here - an imbalance of brain chemistry. Perhaps, "mental illness" is the wrong description. Therapy, other than drugs have little impact. There are so many different drug choices out there that a drug treatment plan can be found to alleviate or eliminate the symptoms of disease with as few side effects as possible. For some patients, drugs have little or no effect and they will remain chronically ill for life. Interestingly, there are similarities in the brain chemistry imbalances with both Parkinsons Disease and Schizophrenia. One would not consider putting a Parkinsons patient into therapy or looking at deficiencies in their upbringing as a root cause of their illness. In fact scientists studying these diseases often work together. For those of you who have lived with someone with schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder and have stood in my shoes, this information is nothing new to you. For the rest of you - none of us are asking for the draconian laws and removal of our civil liberties as was the case in past. We are just asking for common sense in our mental health laws to be developed. The law needs to be changed so that there is a "middle ground" and a process by which families can apply to have the ill person assessed by professionals and placed into care if necessary.
  25. Not the Green Taliban from Vancouver, Canada writes: Brenda Mathieson- you said it very well. Many mental illnesses are bio-chemical in nature and medications have improved considerably to treat these diseases.
    We need to de-stigmatize mental illness as something caused only by parents or upbringing and recognize the physical aspects of brain disorders.
    That is why we should be treating the mentally ill the same way we treat people with physical ailments. Without stigma and with dignity and respect at the same time recognizing that in their healthy state they would never choose to be living on the street, addicted to drugs, having no home etc. They need treatment and supported or assisted housing to help them get back into life with their families.
    I still don't understand why we would call 911 for an accident vicitm but let a mentally ill person wander the streets in the rain and dark.
  26. Dixie McIlwraith from Vancouver, Canada writes: For several years my husband's conduct was becoming more and more atypical of the man I had known for thirty years. Finally he started acting in such bizarre ways I knew something had to be wrong. It took some courage for me to make an appointment to see our doctor on my own. I described my husband's behaviour and asked if he arrange for a neurological workup but the doctor, who knew him well, agreed there was likely a problem but said if he did not come in on his own and request help there was nothing a doctor could do. Fortunately my husband eventually did admit to me there was something wrong and we went together to the doctor. Within two months he was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia and within a year he died. But his drivers license was renewed less than six months before his death. I was amazed that, as a wife, the system would not honor my request and this obviously confused man would not be tested and treated because it would be a violation of his civil rights.
  27. Brett Knoss from Rockglen, SK, Canada writes: Brenda, thats not entieraly true. There is very little understanding of the brain and new "educationa" tequnices are bieng discovered all the time. Behavior skills training is one of the most effective wyas to help people with Autism, a condition for which no drug has been found to have any impact.

    We have to be careful by waht we mean when we use terms such as mental illness, mental conditionmental disability. People with mental diabilities may have special skills that people without that disability have, many people with a mental illness are content, serve society very well, may even be geniuses who have won the Nobel Prize or changed the world.

    There are people who need help but aren't a risk to themselves and others then there are the violent indivduals described in this story. Prison may sound harsh, but prisons were invented not to be dungen but a place of light and warmth where criminals are taught hard work, and given long hours to reflect on their crimes. If we focus on this idea and build a prisons as a place of safety where violent indeviduals are required to get treatment, and use manditory perole to integrat these people inot society (presuming perole violations are enforced properly).

    But this is only for violent indeviduals and the rights of people with minor mental illness must be protected.
  28. mary liz greene from Dartmouth, Canada writes: Thank you Andre Picard for his story. John is "my beautiful son." His illness is serious and recurring. As Andre noted, John has anosognaosia-an inability to recognize you are sick. It is very strange that he will find his way to a psychiatric institution when he is very, very ill and dangerous, mainly to others. John can keep it together for awhile and then he has to be locked up in a room called TQ for approximately ten days, then close observation and gradually allowed among the patient population. He never gets well. The government's policy would seem to be more admissions but shorter ones ensures that my son is never well. Apparently the government is building an $11,000,000 complex on land that they will have due to the demolition of a building , which was formerly deemed part of the Nova Scotia Hospital, but is condemned. As a mother, I contacted Chris Power's office (CEO). I was told that they had to do something with the land so they are building a forty bed complex. I know of no research indicating such a need. There is a need for small settings for the mentally ill such as my son. There would need to be 24 hour supervision. Residents would be able to resume their lives, if they were cared for and observed taking their medication and prevented from taking illegal drugs. Community Treatment Orders are new in this provinve and not used appropriately, but they could facilitate the mentally ill person's well-being in the community. My son needs to be supervised, maximum outreach has failed. John was a patient at the East Coast Forensic Hospital for fourteen months followed by eight months with me. He went to university full time and achieved B's. He worked part time and was a huge help to me as I have rheumatoid arthritis. He received an Absolute Discharge based on a fictitious report. I spoke to the nurse and she said she wrote what he told her even though she knew it wasn't true. That was the beginning of the revolving door.
  29. annick aubert from toronto, Canada writes: Hello Mary Liz,
    Thank you for sharing your story, unfortunately you are not alone, when I read Andre Picard's story, and then yours I thought of a friend suffering the very same ordeal, in Kingston !
    Did you know that some family members and a psychiatrist are trying very hard to advocate for adequate care and treatment ?. They have a website You can write to them too.
    The Globe had the courage to start a mission which hopefully will improve the lifes of the seriously mentally-ill, and their families.
  30. marc l from Petawawa, Ont., Canada writes: Help IS definitely out there. I have dealt with this stuff for many years. You must talk to friends and others you know: a lawyer, a police officer, the person's doctor, and if need be, write a letter to your local JP's and Ontario Judges who handle your area's courtroom. You MUST communicate, and it's very important to have at least one if not two other next-of-kin sign a letter or be with you when you talk to someone in authority. It is CRIMINAL to put very mentally ill people in jail: They are abused to no end! They don't know why they are there, and often dream up a reason why. People from all aspects of the legal system agree wholeheartedly that jail is NOT AT ALL the answer. It is so complex that it takes super energy to deal with family who are ill in this way. We as a society must come up with a better solution that a stupid jail where the VERY ILL person is abused and not given any solid help aside from sedatives. Maybe it will take a rash of lawsuits against the Crown to bring this to a head and set up the best possible solution.
  31. Brett Knoss from Canada writes: Marc I compleatly agree that the current prison system needs major reofrming to be effective to prostect all inmates from abuse and to do a lot more in the way of psycological care, but a reformed system may allow society to go around the problems of civil rights as sentences would be in responce to violent criminal acts. I also agree that familes need to work together to get seriously mentaly ill people to get help and to undertand the way the law works.
  32. Patricia Teskey from Kawartha Lakes, Canada writes: In Ontario, the Mental Health Law may not need to be changed so much as to be understood. It already provides for a person who is a danger to themselves or others, or WHOSE HEALTH IS SIGNIFICANTLY DETERIORATING to be treated involuntarily. The legal process is initiated by a psychiatrist who assesses the ill person's capacity to understand the consequences of accepting/refusing treatment and to make an informed decision. The psychiatrist presents evidence of incapacity at a hearing before the Consent and Capacity Review Board. The ill person must be informed their right to have legal counsel at the hearing.The family member should also ask for standing to present evidence of deterioration and provide essental information such as how many times the person has been hospitalized in the past, and what medications have worked for him or her. The Board makes a decision by balancing the individual's right to refuse treatment with the need for intervention if he or she lacks the capacity to make an informed decision. This is not an easy process to go through, but it's a lot easier than mistakenly thinking you can do nothing. When I went through this process, the Board granted the request - my family member was detained in hospital for 9 weeks and treated involuntarily. By 9 weeks, he had stabilized enough to understand that he needed to continue the medication, and to work with the ACT team after discharge to continue recovering. The miracle came 2 weeks after discharge (11 weeks after starting the medication) - the delusional and paranoid thinking cleared up like night and day.He phoned his former employer and got his job back. He phoned former friends who had fallen away because of his psychotic behavior, and got his friends back. That was 8 years ago and he has never had to return to the hospital. Instead, he has stayed on his medication, gone back to university and graduated. If you would like support for going through this process, I would be happy to help you.
  33. mary liz greene from Dartmouth, Canada writes: John will be going to court on the 18th of December. I expect he will be found NCR. Unfortunately, due to the violence of his delusions I feel he will need structure and supervision for the rest of his life, unless he makes the connection with taking his medications and not takng the illegal ones. He is doing much better, but is still ill. His eyes are scary. We do have protocols in NS, but CDHA does not have the will to make them work. We need at least ten small options under the Dept of Health, ensuring qualified staff know how to treat the seriously, mentally ill. I have lots of hope for my son. He did very, very well under the Criminal Code Review Board in the past and hopefully, he will be under their jurisdiction for a long time this time.

    If I had not escaped, eleven people would have been killed.
  34. K B from Canada writes: If you need and want money for medicaiton complain to a charity and do not talk about mental health laws.
  35. Betty L from to, Canada writes: "John" should have emmediatley seen a plastic surgeon to have the tip of his nose lifted and he would have had no problems in life.
  36. Betty L from to, Canada writes: The only deteriorating condition I would support forced treatment for would be one that is physically eating the brain or other vital organs.
    Other than that, treatment usually causes this.
  37. Betty L from to, Canada writes: "patricia teskey" what kind of support do you offer and who pays for it?
  38. Patricia Teskey from Kawartha Lakes, Canada writes: I offer my personal success story and my personal research to someone trying to navigate the mental health system (including mental health law) to get appropriate treatment and care for a loved one suffering from psychosis. I do not do this on behalf of any organization, agency or business, but rather, volunteer at the personal level, so there is no cost.

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