Thursday February 9, 2012

BC Politics

Patients Lose Rights

BC Greens call for improvements to mental health care

Released by the BC Green Party


he Green Party of BC is calling for dramatic changes to the BC Mental Health Act to protect human rights. The policy would allow alternative decision makers and advance directives. These changes support prevention and recovery.

"I find it shocking that mental illness is treated differently from other medical conditions," says BC Green Party leader Jane Sterk. "If I have a physical condition like cancer, I have the right to refuse treatment, to participate in the decisions that are made about my health and to designate a competent person to make decisions according to my wishes should I be unable to do so for myself.

"And yet, In BC, if I am deemed mentally ill, I risk losing those basic civil rights. As well, treatment tends to be the prescription of drugs rather than less invasive options. That first intervention, as well as the commonly held belief that mental illness requires lifelong use with pharmaceuticals, can lead to unnecessary and often debilitating side effects. Implicit in a diagnosis of mental illness is the assumption that the person cannot recover and return to a state of normalcy."

BC Greens policy is endorsed by Dr. Robert Menzies, Professor of Sociology at Simon Fraser University who states:

This is a tremendously important and far-sighted policy initiative. As an academic researcher and teacher who has been working in this field for more than 30 years, I am particularly heartened by your framing of mental health policy and practice as a key human rights concern, and by your emphasis on the need for more and better "networks of peer-run crisis supports and nonmedical emergency responders" in lieu of the present over-reliance on policing and other intrusively counter-productive responses to people in need of care and support.

Irit Shimrat, editor of the West Coast Mental Health Network's newsletter, The Networker says:

As an activist, historian, researcher and writer on mental health issues, and as a survivor of psychiatric treatment, I applaud the Green Party for addressing the long-neglected issues of human rights, prevention, peer support, poverty, education, and accountability in the mental health arena. I particularly appreciate your interest in enacting legislation to establish the right of psychiatric patients to appoint substitute decision makers and develop advance directives.

"I am proud that the Green Party of BC is the first political party in Canada to recognize mental health as a foundational aspect of our communities and society. We have practical ideas for strengthening research, protecting both the right to access and right to choice, and developing ongoing ways to evaluate, support and improve mental health services," concludes Sterk.


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