Tuesday, October 25, 2011


In recent weeks I have been involved in several intense conversations with different members of the congregation about the mental health of loved ones. In a couple of situations the health of these family members has deteriorated to the point where they are at risk to themselves and possibly others. Part of the frustration is that laws which were implemented to protect the individual do exactly the opposite when mental health is severely compromised. Individuals who have lost touch with reality are still in charge of their own destiny until something catastrophic happens. Meanwhile the people who care about them most are left trying to provide practical support and to seek help, essentially in the dark.

We have just passed World Mental Health Day (October 10 see poster above) but I have come to the conclusion that the mental health care system in this province is insane. At times I can barely contain my anger as I see how everyone involved suffers. The mentally ill person is in indescribable anguish. The health and wellbeing of family members deteriorates and the strain tests even the most loving of families. The pathways in the system as they are today are essentially a maze which defeat everyone involved. I am waiting for someone to describe a situation where they feel well served by the mental health system.

While I know this sounds rather bleak I don't know how else to say this and be honest. Perhaps there will be changes which address the whole person including that person's family support system. In the meantime communities of faith need to be vigilant in supporting those who are suffering and create a climate in which folk are not afraid of being stigmatized by the reality of mental illness in their lives.

I try to remind myself that Jesus was a healer, including those who were outcasts because of their "demons." We can walk with our friends and pray for them, even when they feel that they are beyond prayer.



IanD said...

Your generalities paint a rough picture. I would be interested in looking at specific cases or families to see just how the system and its intricacies are failing them.

Government is a big ship and it can hardly turn on a dime. Hopefully through en masse lobbying and increased public awareness, people adversely affected by the system can start to change things.

janet.rice said...

Very well sail from all perspectives. Sadly I believe that the medical profession does not have sufficient trained staff or an effective treatment/cure for the mentally ill. It is very difficult to be hopeful in these circumstances; hence the importance of faith and an understanding church family.

Nancy said...

Interesting, I was at a workshop yesterday on mental health issues with young people. I was blown away by the stats, 1 in 5 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are affected by mental health issues. The workshop was making us, as educators, aware of signs and the services that are available. The biggest discussion was around stigma and making those affected feel part of a community. I feel that more and more is being done in the area of mental illness, but we have a LONGGGG way still to go. Check out the announcement made last week by Ontario Shores. http://www.ddsb.durham.edu.on.ca/Pdf/about/media_desk_pr/Press_Releases_2011_2012/Ontario_Shores_mental_health.pdf (if this link doesn't work, the announcement is on the DDSB website, www.ddsb.durahm.edu.on.ca

janet.rice said...

So glad to hear from Nancy that this kind of workshop is happening in our area. Ottawa boards are very much involved in educating teens, as a result of the DIFD - (Darron Richardson) campaign. The Dubreuil/Berard skaters on Battle of the Blades need your votes...their charity is DIFD and the Royal Ottawa.

lionlamb said...

I too am gratified that the school system is addressing the need for education to remove stigmas about mental health issues and encouraging young people to seek appropriate health.

It just isn't enough. Public education doesn't address the dearth of psychiatrists and the lack of support services and the laws which shut out concerned loved ones.

You suggest that I am offering generalities Ian. I wish that were the case. I could give you scores of specific examples of how our health care system has been effective with physically ill individuals, despite its shortcomings. Mental health is another matter. There has not been a single situation in the last twenty years of my ministry (since privacy laws changed) where families have felt well served by the system. Not one. Of course I can't give specific examples because of confidentiality but otherwise I could share "chapter and verse" of the failure of our health care in this regard. Good people who feel frustrated and marginalized.

During this past provincial election I heard the right noises from different political parties including the Liberals but I will believe it when I see it.

Laura said...

Having experienced first hand a desire to help a loved one with diagnosed mental illness, I share David's concerns. Although the individual isn't well enough to make the best decisions to move toward healthy living, their personal freedoms are protected, as is their privacy, so families desparate to help are rendered helpless.No information and no path to let us help them to help themselves. Too often the only "help" we are allowed is to call the police if we feel threatened.
Nancy...great to hear that the Board is working on these initiatives for young people. have talked to two friends this week who have young teens desparately struggling to cope with life. I will check out that announcement. Thanks.

lionlamb said...

Here is a link to a reflection by a parent in our church family whose son has struggled with mental illness. It describes the challenges, the uncertainty, the helplessness which is part of a loved one's journey.