My Visit to Mad Pride Week...Mad Pride Week 2013
I attended the Mad Pride festivities for 2013. I found it interesting, refreshing, and something absolutely necessary. What I found interesting was the intersection between law and mental health. The Proposed Bill C-54 was a great concern to the lawyers who spoke on Wednesday, because they felt that it un-necessarily rolled back the rights that the mentally ill had won during the 1990s. In one case, the bill was criticized “...not for being law, but for pushing forward an ideology of law and order...” and I think this is correct.
There were survivors who spoke passionately about their treatment, mistreatment and mis-handling, although they were in the audience and not on the panels that I saw. However, the fact that people feel so strongly as to bare their psychiatric souls as it were, suggests that there is some reform to be considered. I agree with that issue.
In the session I attended on Wednesday, there was a comparison of how the laws worked twenty years ago and now; it does show that there is a degradation of rights. The speaker pointed out that there were instances of people being held in isolation with reduced rights for over two hundred days. Interestingly, there was also reference to a person who died after being physically restrained after six days; I don’t remember hearing about this in the news.
I think it is important to have discussions like this, and I think it is great that people feel strongly that they are individuals and that they should be respected on that basis. What I did not hear was re-integration: I did not seem to hear people use the words community, teamwork and rebuilding. This is significant to me because if we are going to recognize that people have “mad rights” as one person seemed to say, then we should also have a re-integration beyond the apparently dwindling ODSP benefits. [Apparently these benefits are cut, and cut repeatedly...something I didn’t see in the 90s from a friend who was needing that help].
I think, based on the conversations I heard and the discussions that took place, there is an erosion of the rights of the mentally ill, and it is happening by stealth. I think that we are seeing a quiet devolution in care and that started with the exodus from mental institutions in the late 1980s and early 1990s. That trend has kept up momentum and is now leading to...what?
I think that we are going to see a pressure toward law-and-order first, mental health second and last given the cases that are heard from in the news. The problem is not that these cases happen – they are tragedies when someone is killed because another has a mental health issue- but the problem in this case is that we don’t know how people with mental illness experience their everyday lives. We only see the spectacle, the spectacular and we only hear about it in the news after the fact.
Certainly Mad Pride Week is good and sadly necessary – as are the Mental Health and Mental Illness Awareness weeks, held in the fall and spring. However, what is equally necessary is the integration of those with mental health challenges into the community and culture.
It’s great we’re talking about it...at length and in detail apparently, but as someone wisely pointed out, “...talking ain’t doing...”
So what are we going to do now?
Addendum: Bill 52 in Quebec
Quebec wants to separate Quebecers from life. Have a read of this letter on the issue
I notice that there is discussion in some circles of Bill 52 from Quebec. One of the instances in this bill is that a person has to be suffering “...physically and psychologically and this suffering can have no cure...” As one person pointed out, this definition captures people suffering from ailments that won’t directly kill them like arthritis or diabetes. It was pointed out that psychological suffering includes the mentally ill in definition, and that suggests that there could be instances, like in Holland, wherein people who are suffering from mental illnesses can ask for, and get, medically provided death on that diagnosis alone. It was also pointed out that there is care for those who are not physically ill, but that psychological care is presumed in the act of killing. To my mind, this creates a situation wherein illness can be other-defined and acted upon accordingly. And remember, in Canada, your doctor can put orders on your chart without explaining, getting your consent or acknowledgement. [Downie, 2005: Smith, 2007]
The above report is a preliminary one: I am going to do more research on this one. I just thought it was timely, given the government wants to save money, people with mental health issues are discriminated against and there’s really nothing stopping a medical professional from doing the deed…