B.C. Schizophrenia Society Disagrees with Community Legal Assistance Society Report

In response to the report published on November 29, 2017, the B.C. Schizophrenia Society (BCSS) disagrees with many of the allegations made in the report by the Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) on the B.C. Mental Health Act.

According to the many family members and people we hear from who live with and are affected by severe and persistent mental illness, involuntary admission and treatment are crucial for people with severe and persistent mental illnesses like schizophrenia. The CLAS report does not offer solutions that would benefit the families and individuals we represent, but rather infringes on the rights of those living with severe and persistent mental illness and denies them their liberty and “the right to be well.”

The current B.C. Mental Health Act helps those with schizophrenia and other serious and persistent mental illness receive the treatment they require in a timely manner. When people with severe mental illness are involuntarily committed, it is because they are unable to make rational decisions on their own behalf. One of the key symptoms that occurs in schizophrenia and bipolar illness is anosognosia, a condition that renders a person afflicted by brain disorder (i.e., victims of stroke, Alzheimer disease, Parkinson’s, brain injury) completely unaware that they are unwell.

People under the care of a psychiatrist have worked with medical and other professionals to maintain a treatment regime that works best for them. Unfortunately, this sometimes means that, once they are stabilized, the person may believe that they are cured and able to manage without pharmaceutical interventions. Without appropriate pharmaceutical treatment, many ill people are then caught in the “revolving door” syndrome—whereby they repeatedly relapse and fall victim to positive, negative and cognitive symptoms until, once again, they must be involuntarily committed.

It is only with the support of the B.C. Mental Health Act that people with serious and persistent mental illness are able to receive treatment in a timely and effective manner. BCSS represents the many family members and people living with severe and persistent mental illness who have said that they strongly do not believe that changing the psychiatric treatment sections the B.C. Mental Health Act would serve them in coping with their illness.

In cases of severe and persistent mental illness, the longer a person is left in a state of untreated psychosis, the more severe and damaging are the consequences and results of that person’s relapse. According to a research study entitled “Schizophrenia: Overview and Treatment Options” published in 2014 by Pharmacy & Therapeutics. “In the event of an acute psychotic episode, drug therapy should be administered immediately.” This timely response helps people living with chronic mental illness recover and return to normal functioning as soon as possible. Delaying appropriate medical treatment means increasing the duration of untreated psychosis, increasing the potential for worse long-term outcomes and cognitive impairments that affect a person’s quality of life. Poorer prognoses and more long-term negative impacts are the result of such acute psychotic episodes.

By delaying treatment, the people most affected are the 46,000 individuals living with schizophrenia in B.C. and the family members who care for them.

BCSS will be distributing a more detailed response to the report in the future.

For additional fact sheets of relevance:

B.C. Schizophrenia Society Position on Charter Challenge
Get The Facts: The B.C. Mental Health Act = “The Right To Be Well”
McCorkell Judgement – Summary of Highlights
The Case for the B.C. Mental Health Act