BCSS Works to Help Families Support their Loved Ones

Families of people with psychotic brain illnesses like schizophrenia often have concerns about the confidentiality of information they provide to treating mental health professionals. Many family members are also concerned when they cannot obtain information essential for them to care for and support their ill relative because the treating professional states that such information is “confidential.”

At the request of stakeholders and on behalf of our membership and the families we serve, BCSS has submitted recommendations to BC’s Special Committee reviewing the Personal Information Privacy Act (PIPA). 

PIPA is the law that governs psychiatrists, physicians, and other clinicians in private offices. However, there is a similar but not identical law that governs these same professionals when they see patients in mental health centres, hospitals, and all services run by Health Authorities. This law is the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA).  

BCSS has generally heard positive comments when clinicians are guided by FOIPPA. This legislation is clearly described in “Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Fact Sheet, Releasing Personal Information to Third Parties” from the Ministry of Health Information and Privacy Records Branch[1]. By contrast, restrictions in PIPA can cause confusion for professionals who see the same patient in their private office (PIPA) and Health Authority locations (FOIPPA). Therefore, BCSS suggests that PIPA should be amended to be more like FOIPPA, and that people with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses should be treated equally under both Acts.

BCSS recommendations for change to PIPA include

  1. improved indirect collection of information (e.g., from family) when it cannot be obtained from the patient or person;
  2. information provided in confidence be kept confidential from the patient or person;
  3. allow under PIPA the release of information essential for continuity of medical care—without consent if necessary—as permitted under FOIPPA.

BCSS respects the right to privacy, while acknowledging that it must sometimes be balanced with the right to health and safety for all people, including those with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. You can find more details on “Obtaining and Providing Mental Health Information: A Guide for Family Members” on the BCSS website.


[1] Guide to the Mental Health Act 2005 edition, p. 119 www.health.gov.bc.ca/library/publications/year/2005/MentalHealthGuide.pdf