Patients Lose Rights
call for improvements to mental health care
Released by the BC Green Party
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
"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,"
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