Dec. 17, 2019

It's time someone came up with a solution for mentally ill

Mayor Leonard Krog got a lot of attention for taking a pro-active approach to treat mentally-ill people who are homeless on our streets. The mayor wants the province to place severely mentally ill homeless people in mental health facilities. Many are unable to fend for themselves, often addicted to alcohol and illegal substances.

Krog rightfully pointed out it’s not just homelessness, it’s mental health, it’s addictions, it’s the petty crime that flows from it and it’s the severe cases that are being shuffled in and out of psych wards. 

The mayor said the modular homes that replaced a tent city are helping but those suffering from mental health conditions need specialized care. They hear voices and are paranoid. They won’t go to shelters because of past experiences or the state of their mental health. They can’t take care of themselves, feed themselves, are taking street drugs, and are threatening to people. 

The emergency shelter housing for them is part of the problem, existing in a community brimming with drugs.

This is not a new problem, it is a long-standing issue. A bit of history perhaps can put it into perspective. A Social Credit government developed a plan to close mental health facilities and “integrate the people into the community.” They started it, and then the NDP did not put a halt to it, they instituted that policy and the situation has gone from bad to worse since then. When BC Liberals replaced the NDP as government, they continued on merrily with the program. Oh, they have been integrated into the community since then, and how!

What mental patients, as we used to call them then, had was a roof over their heads, a clean, warm dry bed, three square meals a day, and professional medical treatment. No matter how you slice it, that is much, much better than living on the streets.

The reaction of some people on social media bad-mouthing the very idea of involuntarily placing people in treatment underlines the real problem. Some took issue with the “wording” of the media reports and the fact that this was, as they stated, not the “politically correct” way to say it. Use of the word “institutionalize” ruffled their feathers.

It’s not a punishment or imprisonment in the usual sense. When people have serious mental illness they lose the ability to make their own decisions, as the mayor said. For their own good, society has to act for their best interests when they are unable to do it for themselves. 

One thing is certain, looking the other way and pretending it isn't happening is not the answer.