LETTER: We’re failing miserably with the mentally ill

The Editor,

We have all failed by allowing government, namely the health ministry, to turn a blind eye to the thousands of ill citizens living with concurrent disorders.

The public should be outraged that our police resources have become the front line for mental health clients. We traumatize this vulnerable group through the justice system, do nothing to treat them and wonder why nothing changes.

We have to change now. Stand up and speak out because one day this might be your child. Wake up to the reality; most people are homeless because they are ill. Tell your politicians this is unacceptable.

Best practices for our mentally ill are being comprised by internal B.S. within health authorities, communication is impossible under the guise of privacy laws and the public’s point of view is based on data from 30 years ago.

Mental health issues are growing to epidemic proportions; the denial is within all walks of life. Our hospitals are constantly turning away seriously ill people because they suffer from mental health and addiction. Yes, this happens daily at Surrey Memorial. Addiction is a mental health issue. If you wonder why policing has reduced funds to go after the bad guys, this is why.

The Conservatives’ "tough on crime" strategy will only further harm these people, who are not of sound mind and who lack insight to help themselves. What’s more, the large majority of Canadian police chiefs state, "Don’t build more jails, build hospitals." We should only be judged based on how we treat our most vulnerable!

We are failing miserably with this population group. All stakeholders agree but are limited to change until we experience a major paradigm shift with how we think about our mentally ill in general, especially in the justice system. More than 30 per cent of people incarcerated in the justice system are ill. And we continue to put these powerless souls in jail. Build treatment centres for these citizens at all costs. After all, a section of the B.C. Charter of Rights states all residents are entitled to health care services – it’s the law. Let’s enforce this one.

Gord Bylo


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