My previous critique of our Canadian health care system and its intricate deficiencies has inspired someone (whom I know personally as a good friend) to expose her opinion and experience. She has written this post as a response and in hopes of using this forum as a channel to communicate her own experience within the Mental health care “department” of our overall system; an experience that can be shared among many Canadians (either ill themselves or supporting an ill person).
The year 2012 was a year filled with many “crisis” moments, which include but are not limited to the Mayan interpretation of the end of the world, the downfall of the economic infrastructure in numerous countries within Europe, the aggressive Israeli invasion of Palestine, and lastly the topic of this post, the attempt to inform the public of and amend the mental health crisis that is plaguing North America.
It goes without saying that within the past two decades (at a minimum) the increase in diagnosis’ of chronic mental illnesses is symbolic of the “advancements” and “changes” in our societies; societies that we have struggled to keep up with, or have not been equipped with the tools to cope with. And, while the causes of these illnesses differ strongly across the board, they’ve managed to emerge with the issues that “technology” was aimed to facilitate. Take for example, the cell phone which was initially marketed to facilitate communication on the go, during emergencies, or even simply for leisure. Instead, we have as a society, managed to hide behind our screens, communicating our “warmest” and most important of messages through text. Not only does this inhibit the development of our social skills (and will do so more prominently in the generations to come), it has ironically come at a time when people are feeling more alone and disconnected from others, when people are more afraid to communicate their feelings. Most importantly, it has become a time where people don’t seem to know HOW to communicate their message effectively. It is a paradox that harms us in the specific way that it is aimed to aid us.
But, before I go off into a rant about that issue in itself, I just want to narrow down the topic even further: in a time when “communication” and information is so “available”, how is it that we are struggling to keep up with the higher diagnoses of mental illness? ; And more so, the difficultly that is associated with the COOPERATION of those in the health care system, and those who are serving to represent the law in aiding someone who is mentally ill.
I cannot stress enough how difficult it is (and I speak from personal experience) to help someone who is mentally ill, who themselves are unable to identify the issue within their self and therefore refuse to consent to treatment. This issue has been the bane of my existence for the past decade. Prior to my rant, I’m going to break down and mention a few factors to be considered:
1. In Canada, it is the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that provides and protects our rights [Federally], and anything that infringes on those rights cannot be enforced upon anyone. What does this mean? Well if a mentally ill individual is not aware of their own condition, and perceives nothing as being wrong with them, what would be the purpose of them going into treatment, right? WRONG!
2. When one is mentally ill, they generally fall into two categories: those who are aware of their illness and its effect on their lives, and the more challenging, those who are not at all self-aware as to how detrimental their illness has become to their health and lack the ability to think rationally (known as Anosognosia).
3. Unless a the individual is a threat to his/herself or to anyone else around them, a mentally ill person cannot be placed in hospital without their personal consent. Basically, this person can be rotting in their own filth, BUT so long as they do not have any plans or intent to harm themselves or others, they cannot be forced by police nor anyone in their family to be placed in a care facility. Essentially, not even their own family who wants to see their loved one stop suffering and go on with a normal life can intervene. If you are unfortunate enough to reach this rock and a hard place, I am so sorry to hear that. I’ve been there.
4. At what point do we allow ourselves to take out anger and frustration towards the mental health care system on the mentally ill person and just give up and accepting their suffering? Many homeless individuals suffer of mental illnesses. In some cases, their mental illness has cost them their jobs, their friends, their ability to live a normal life, but most importantly their family.
At some point, after so much desperation, and so many failed attempts in which even the GOVERNMENT isn’t on your side, you make the decision that you can no longer afford to continue to emotionally harm yourself and those around you by allowing this behaviour in your environment. Personally, I do not wish this on anyone, and fortunately, I have not reached the point of giving up on my loved one. Why? Because I’ve been on their end, I too have been involved in our mental health system. I have developed the utmost empathy for those who are mentally ill at the hands of their minds. For as much as you may want to yell at them, and as much chaos as they may bring into the home in the time of a relapse, they are your blood and cannot be justified by the blur their illness has plagued their perspective with.
—M.D.M. Toronto, ON