Why am I still talking about mental illness? Haven't I said all that I can say on the topic? You might be asking that question. After all, it's been a few years since I started this blog. Yes, I have asked myself once or twice if I should keep going or maybe close up my laptop and sign off. Maybe it's time to just stop. Then I see a report like the one that I watched last night.
Pop Quiz Time:
Question #1: If you are suffering from a mental illness and you go to a Canadian hospital, will you receive the care that you need?
Question #2: If you are admitted to a Canadian hospital because you are deemed at risk for death by suicide, will you be safe?
Question #3: If you are on suicide watch in a Canadian hospital, will you be watched?
The answer to these questions is, sadly and shockingly, not always.
Remember a few years back when Michael Moore made the documentary about the state of healthcare in the United States? Canada was held up as a shining example of a top-notch system. While I don't disagree that we are very lucky and, in most cases, it truly is excellent, I have to say that it's time we took a close look at all aspects of health and our medical system. Do we treat all illnesses with the same level of attention and due diligence? Nope - not even close when it comes to mental illness.
The Canadian investigative news program, W5, broadcast a story called Suicide Watch. In the report, they told the story of Ross Allan, a young man from British Columbia diagnosed with schizophrenia who killed himself by hanging in a hospital washroom. I admit that I didn't watch longer than ten minutes. I simply couldn't. Yes, I was saddened. Was it a trigger for me in terms of my own mental illness? No. A trigger for anger? You bet it was.
How is it that a person in a Canadian hospital, who is on suicide watch, is left alone to his own devices and is able to find what he needs (time alone, tools) to take his life? When someone is admitted to hospital with a life threatening illness or injury we don't say to that person, we are just going to put you in a corner of this busy emergency room for now and we'll get back to you in a few hours. Oh, and we are probably not going to check on you either. This is what happened to Ross Allan. Not OK. Not OK by a long shot.
As part of the investigation, W5 reported: "...W5 was able to extrapolate data to produce a national picture of inpatient suicides. It is believed that there have been approximately 300 deaths over ten years involving suicidal patients who were supposed to be son strict watch."
Here's another question. Are YOU OK with the loss of 300 lives? Is it alright that a developed, first world country treats its people who have a mental illness like second class citizens ? It sure as hell isn't OK with me and I am banking on it not being OK with YOU.
How can you help? Get loud! It's Canadian Mental Health Awareness Week. Educate yourself, challenge bias and stigma, and create conversation about this serious health issue. Do it for Ross Allen and the other 298 lost citizens. Do it for me. And keep the conversation going.
P.S. Learn more about Canadian Mental Health Awareness Week
P.P.S. Want to volunteer with a fabulous not for profit organization? Check out Partners For Mental Health