How Do We Help or Can We help?

Dear Editor,

The following is an excerpt from an editorial by Will Ferguson (award winning author) (Calgary Herald). “We have emptied the asylums-but to what effect? The other extreme, after all, is equally fatal. Mental illness is real. It is not a “lifestyle”, it is not a “choice”. Those who would treat it as such run the risk of enabling the mentally ill to death, illness requires treatment. The great cruelty of mental illness is that it attacks the very decision-making process required for assistance.”

Again, it is good to be reminded that the mentally ill are by far the most marginalized group in Canadian society. Their families are often exhausted, both emotionally and at times, financially. The increase in AISH payments to the mentally ill are helpful, but the real problem, that of untreated mental illness remains untouched. Our laws state that once a person turns 18, they may not be committed unless they are threatening to hurt themselves or someone else. Often, by the time the police are alerted, it is too late, another mentally ill individual has ended his/her life by an “accidental” overdose of prescription or street drugs. The family is left to drive alone, the misunderstood mentally ill person, just another statistic.

How do we help or can we help? The first step is to stop judging. Unless you have or have had a mentally ill family member, you cannot begin to comprehend the anguish these families experience. The calls at all hours of the day or night, the risk of homelessness because the rent money went somewhere else, the intervention by police, who aren’t trained to deal with the mentally ill; the admissions to hospital, the doctor’s reports; an endless maze with little light at the end of the tunnel.

Compassion is the key that unlocks the door to hope. Never stop caring. Sometimes the tiniest gesture can revive a flickering candle.

With respect,

D. Ruth Jewell

Three Hills, AB