If e-cigarettes were approved, they could be allowed for use by those suffering with serious psychiatric disorders in hospital. Those devices might help alleviate some of the deficits associated with schizophrenia, reduce the health risks of cigarette smoking, and allow for patients to smoke in hospital without the need to be allowed off the ward.
Planning for the future presents serious problems for parents of people with significant disabilities; when those families are dealing with psychotic illnesses, the future is especially frightening. While it is impossible to deny that progress is being made, the simple fact is that our world, as it stands, has little desire to label people with mental illness as anything but crazy and dangerous.
With traditional first aid, those who are trained would give CPR to someone in cardiac arrest until the paramedics arrived or staunch bleeding or do mouth to mouth. The ill individual would be helped and then handed over to the professionals. Does MHFA accomplish the same? Do those they counsel end with professional help? The answer from the evaluations that have been done is no.
There are no other evaluations of the program that I can find searching the medical literature and the number of participants they evaluated was very small. My suggestion to the psychiatric contrarians is to can the hype on Open Dialogue until independent studies do confirm your views that it is vastly better than what currently exists.
I need the medications to stay healthy. My need is not one that comes from weakness; it comes from an underlying chemical imbalance that talk therapy alone could not fix. People still tell me there are ways of treating my illness that don't include drugs. I wonder if they say the same thing to their friends with high blood pressure and diabetes?
The CIA was not spying on me. Nor were FBI agents looking to bring me down. And I was neither the President, Jesus Christ, nor Cleopatra. These, I had heard, are the content of delusions that characterize schizophrenia. Given that logic, I did not consider myself to have schizophrenia. I think that these shallow nuances of delusion kept me in my illness and away from probing psychiatrists.
With Bill C-54, if you are deemed to be "high risk not criminally responsible," you will be held for a minimum of three years before you ever have the chance to see a review board. As someone who has not only been a patient in three separate psychiatric hospitals in Ontario, but has also worked in forensic psychiatric institutions, I know that they aren't always the best places to get better. With proper treatment, I was healthy again and posed no threat to the public within a few months. Had I been forced to remain in hospital for three years, I likely wouldn't be the productive, law-abiding citizen that I am today.
Imagine a truck driver collapses over the wheel and slams into a school bus killing eight children. He'd had a heart attack. Now imagine a man takes a gun, enters a theatre and shoots randomly, killing eight children. It seems he had an acute psychotic break. The truck driver probably won't go to jail. But the young man? He'll be maligned and incarcerated. In truth, neither one is to blame for their illness or the tragic unpredictable events.
People with schizophrenia don't have a Master's degree in Neuroscience. I'm simply too intelligent to have schizophrenia, right? Then why do rats eat my brain, why do voices yell at me, and why am I being stalked by a homicidal man with a sniper gun (I've got proof)? I assume it is normal. I don't have any friends and I have withdrawn from my family so no one but Them (doctors, nurses -- everyone in league with the enemy) diagnose me, treat me. So here are your pills. You would think that after all of this, I would surely realize that I had schizophrenia. I didn't, though.
When people suffering from mental illness receive intensive treatment in programs specifically designed for them, most of them do much better. Anti-psychotic medications are understood to provide the foundation upon which any other treatments can be added. These messages are in direct conflict with the message from journalist Robert Whitaker. Robert Whitaker does excellent work describing the egregious practices of the pharmaceutical industries. However, his extreme stance against the value of psychotropic medications is scary. Any parents of a psychotic son or daughter who heard his recent presentation in Vancouver would want to keep their child far away from the early psychosis intervention programs that offer the best hope for recovery.
The stigma that is still associated with mental illness keeps so many hidden away. Fear is our biggest enemy: fear of receiving the diagnosis; fear of accessing care; fear of others finding out; fear of those with mental illness. Twenty-seven per cent of the population are fearful of being around people who suffer from serious mental illness. It just isn't cool to have a mental illness. You don't see the famous or the infamous proudly wearing a bracelet identifying them with the needs of the mentally ill.
Advertisements and billboards around Canada are encouraging us to discuss mental health problems as part of Bell's "Let's Talk" campaign on Feb. 12. However, those of us who wish Canadians could finally receive much needed public education about psychotic disorders are disappointed. Canada is fortunate to have quite a few early psychosis intervention programs. But given the poor state of knowledge about both the early signs and the existence of programs, too many families aren't getting the knowledge they need. These are major public health problems. Let's talk about them.
It is the stigma, the shame and prejudice attached to the phrase "mental illness" that keeps people from accessing care. Mental illness is not in the mind; it is in the brain. Changing the name from "mental" to brain illness can be the beginning of a change in attitude towards those of us with these illnesses.
Since my daughter experienced her first psychotic break while still a young teenager, she missed the kinds of gradual steps others get to take in developing work skills. Fortunately for her, Vancouver has an agency focused on helping people living with mental illnesses. But its funding might be cut back.