Current care for schizophrenia in Canada needs improving

Victoria B.C. Canada, August 29th, 2013. Written by Annuska van der Pol, BA, IMHA – Museum Educator / Mental Health and Addictions Practitioner

1. 2001 Bachelor of Arts degree in “Arts Policy Management and Education”, inHolland University of Applied Sciences

2. 2013 Post Degree Diploma “Interprofessional Mental Health and Addictions” program, Camosun College, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Address: PO Box 8825, Victoria BC V8W 3S3. Ph. 250-881-2323

A while ago there was an article in the Times Colonist Newspaper which mentioned that there were a number of individuals in the Wilkinson Jail system in Victoria, British Columbia with mental health and addictions issues. I could not understand how this could be, as Mental Health and Addictions were both medical conditions and both, in my view, should be treated in the hospital, or a medical setting in contrast to the individuals being in the jails.

The current Mental Health system does not support all individuals who are severely mentally ill. For example, if an individual is homeless, and has symptoms of schizophrenia, but who has not been officially diagnosed by a psychiatrist as having schizophrenia, this individual (male or female) will most likely fall through the cracks. Falling through the cracks means that the individual will continue to display symptoms of schizophrenia whilst at the same time, trying to cope with life situations, such as housing, employment, family and friends. Often times, family and friends really cannot comprehend the symptoms of schizophrenia and they try their best to comprehend what the individual is going through. A lot of the times, an individual with schizophrenia will feel isolated and will feel like no one understands him / her and in a sense that is correct. Understanding schizophrenia is a very hard process and involves attaining knowledge of the illness – however, because a lot of the symptoms of schizophrenia are so human, many individuals go undetected until something happens which often brings them in contact with the police department. When the police get involved, some police officers in Victoria will be able to identify the symptoms of schizophrenia, but some police officers will not. Some police officers will be able to make the distinction between someone who is on drugs and someone who has schizophrenia and who is on drugs, or someone who just has schizophrenia – but not all police officers are experts in the field of severe mental illness. Currently in 2013, the police department is becoming more and more the front-line Mental Health officers in contrast to being a police officer. The crimes, if you can actually consider them crimes, are not really crimes at all – in fact they are the result of symptoms of losing touch with reality and perhaps reacting in a very unusual way.

When symptoms of schizophrenia present themselves to the public, most individuals find them so bizarre that they do not understand. Depending on the economical status of the individual with schizophrenia, one could receive adequate care through the current medical system, however if one is homeless and not DSM diagnosed, the individual could land in jail. If one has a DSM diagnosis as schizophrenia, then an individual has been labeled as “not in their right minds.” This excuses an individual from certain minor crimes. However if one has schizophrenia, and has not gone to a psychiatrist, and has not received a DSM diagnosis, then that individual will be left to fend for himself.

In today’s society, I believe that leaving an individual with non-diagnosed schizophrenia to fend for him / her self not acceptable. I think it is cruel and inhumane to let a person with symptoms of schizophrenia fend for themselves, without proper medical treatment and care.

Currently in 2007 (the most current statistics on serious mental illness in the Canadian jails), according to STATSCAN there were 416 diagnosed individuals with severe mental illness in the Canadian Federal Jails. These individuals are diagnosed individuals and are locked away in a criminal jail – when officially they were never in their right minds to begin with and hence cannot be responsible for their own actions – still they get locked away in jails despite the facts.

I feel that homelessness occurs because there is an unequal division of medical services to the extreme poor. I believe that schizophrenia should be acknowledged if one has a DSM diagnosis or not. I believe that if one is not in their right minds, then they should have trained medical professionals to help them. I am sure that an individual with undiagnosed schizophrenia, who has been in and out of a jail system and in and out of having a home and losing a home deserves a chance in society versus having absolutely no chances at all. I think the current Canadian medical system regarding schizophrenia is elitist and that needs to change. It is wrong to let individuals who need help the most suffer the most. It is down right despicable for any civilized society to allow victims of schizophrenia to undergo such depth of social injustice. It needs to stop now.

My opinion in this article is based on 400 peer academic articles which I read in 2012 – 2013. Those articles were based on schizophrenia, the justice system and victimization and criminalization.Image



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