CANCER VS MENTAL ILLNESS
We need to change the current Health Care System to treat Severe Mental Illness in the same way as Cancer, Parkinson's, Dementia and other diseases are treated.
One of our caregivers explains her lived experience of having one relative diagnosed with cancer versus one relative being diagnosed with Schizophrenia.
Diagnosis: Tumour in the head just below the brain.
Consulted family physician.
Within 2 weeks was referred to specialist, then referred to a sub-specialist
As with all cancers, treatment is more successful if caught early
Numerous diagnostic tests, biopsy, referral to oncologist followed by daily radiation and complex microsurgery.
Weekly consults with nurse and Dr, access to drop in clinic any time regarding side effects,
numerous informational brochures about radiation side effects, directions for treating symptoms at home, who to contact for what.
Access to specialized clinics for pain, weight loss, nutrition etc.
Access to Dr. any time or to ER should things deteriorate
Diagnosis: Schizophrenia, a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Consulted with family physician.
Waited for 2 months to see a specialist
Early treatment is delayed, due to appointment delay.
Nowhere to go for advice while waiting to see Dr. at large teaching hospital. No educational information provided, no referral to a support group, no clinics to address medication side effects.
Patient refused medication, an all too common occurrence in the mental health journey. This patient was suffering from Anosognosia, a condition shared with PTSD and stroke, when the person does not recognize they are ill and have no insight in to their condition
Care, empathy & kindness from everyone.
Very little understanding among the general public. Anosognosia is common with diagnoses of schizophrenia and bi-polar but the general public hasn’t heard of it. Because of unusual beliefs that accompany these disorders, no one “gets it” other than families experiencing the same thing. Patients experience repeated rejections from friends, family, employers and even health care providers. Discrimination prevents people talking about it.
Expectation is that the patient wants to get well. No one is employed to advise the patient they could refuse treatment
Patients who have zero insight into their condition are advised they can refuse to be hospitalized, and/or refuse new or ongoing treatment even when treatment is proving to be beneficial. Advisors are paid with Ontario tax dollars to do this.
Assumption is that oncologists and cancer surgeons know what they are doing and are respected for it.
Psychiatrists’ opinions can be contested by the patient and overruled by lawyers who have no idea how sick the person is. The Ontario government pays for a lawyer to defend a sick patient who is unaware of his illness & refuses treatment even when treatment is proving to be helpful.
No Cancer Act controlling every move of hospital and staff.
Looming over the Ontario Mental Health System is the MH act which brandishes an iron fist over the doctors & hospitals to the extent that much needed care to the very sick is frequently foregone because either the MH act, the Capacity and Consent Act or the Privacy Act does not permit treatment or allows it to be challenged by those who don’t know they need it.
Every day in Ontario, legislation prevents treatment being given to family members who desperately need it. Outcomes are frequently disastrous and can be deadly to the patient and others but decision makers can point to and hide behind the legislation.
Family members of cancer patients are included in meetings and consults, advised by hospital staff about how to provide ongoing care, how to deal with side effects, referrals to other services and prognosis.
Information can be provided by family to the doctor but the doctor cannot provide feedback about patient progress, insight into their illness, medications, appointments, referrals to other professionals or information about long term prognosis. Families, frequently the caregivers, have many questions but get no answers because the law denies their right to know.
Cancer care is relatively well resourced with expensive diagnostics, surgical suites, beds, & usually comfortable up to date facilities.
Mental Health is the orphan of the Health care System in Ontario according to Gilbert Sharpe, in 2021, author of the Mental Health Act. The benefits of medical imaging in Mental Health can be found in the literature but is no where on the horizon in Ontario
Fundraising for cancer care is very overt and successful using real life stories to promote
Fundraising to support mental health research, capital development or new programming is almost invisible.