Wednesday, 12 February 2014
Mentally Ill - Jail vs Treatment
A NYTimes editorial on the weekend pointed to the devastating impact of a lack of community mental health supports in that country and the growing phenomenon of jailing mentally ill men and women to get them access to treatment they can't access in the outside world. They cite a Justice Institute report from 2006 that shows the problem is worse for women where approximately three-quarters of female inmates have a diagnosed mental illness. But I suspect if we looked a little closer to home and the numbers would be equally depressing. A horrible imbalance continues to grow as the insatiable maw of acute care eats up growing percentages of our health care dollars and research funding - while those patients facing conditions of the mind largely march along with little support or rejecting the existing and often out-dated treatment options which seem woefully behind the progress we've made supporting patients in other areas. I suppose I cling to this soap-box for obvious reasons - but it seems we are more than prepared to keep studying the scope of the problem than to actually act on whatever growing list of recommendations from special commissions, task forces, community-led inquiries that sit on the shelf. This point was driven home in a poignant account in the Times Colonist by an officer recounting the story of "Dave" - a man tortured by his addiction and mental health issues who found himself shuffled through a system not prepared to deal with his behaviour and his own resistance to abandon his crutches and accept the prospect of rehab. I know all too well one can not be forced to accept help when you are fundamentally not ready - but it leaves you wondering what the answer is to encourage someone without hope - to find the will to change. And how long it will take to find it.