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OP/ED: Tragedy should not have been the reason we get to know about mental illness

So here we go. In the midst of a trial about the murder of a young boy by a person with a mental illness, the local media is writing up articles about the illness and its impact on a person’s life. An example of too much, too late perhaps?
As a community we need to support the people we come into contact with who are different. They may have a mental illness or a disability of some sort. But we don’t. And the limitations (read money) on the expertise and the availability of supports for the “different” people in our world is disappointing to say the least.
In case you think I’m just talking through my hat, I’ll come clean. I provided supports to people with disabilities for many years in their daily living and their employment. Not an easy task for anyone who is a caregiver. There are many joyous moments and the people we supported were very good people, but the bottom line when it came to those we supported with a mental illness I know from experience that there just isn’t enough help.
Perhaps if more of us did understand what it means to live with a mental illness, or how to reach out to them, less people would be placed in isolation and fall into a state in which they cannot see the light.
It doesn’t mean those involved in Kimberly Noyes’ life didn’t try. But often the availability of experts is beyond the reach of our local workers. In a system that promised an abundance of local care for mentally ill people in B.C. when the province shut down all the large institutions, the reality was more of a trickle.
From talking with Noyes’ lawyer, Deanne Gafar, she has been undergoing treatment that has resulted in her best mental health in years. Why did it take a tragedy to get that to happen? Why does it seem that our system is more and more based on a ‘catch and release’ program? People go into the hospital in Trail for a mere few days and are sent home to their own demise.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for large hospitals and lengthy stays. But isn’t monitoring and ensuring a drug is actually working a large part of the program? And the type of drugs we are talking about require days for blood levels to be achieved after which one can determine the effects. Yes, the community workers are there to support people, but I doubt that even they will say they have enough hours for everyone who needs them.
So now a tragedy has happened, we are all ready to read about what it is to be mentally ill. And then what?
The real resolution is in a caring community who doesn’t shun their own. 

And in a system that is adequately funded to fill in the gaps.

If we can’t include enough hospital time to give people a chance to truly recover, then we need to fund our communities well enough to give the appropriate after care. Bottom line: it’s time to stop shorting our health care on the community level. We just can’t lose another child.