Officials call for change in how mental illness is treated
Anne Kyle, Leader-PostPublished: Thursday, June 12, 2008
REGINA -- Mental health needs a champion, someone with a public profile, to come forward to advocate on behalf of persons struggling with mental-health issues, say the people who work in the field.
"They need to have someone brave enough with a mental illness, who has maybe some celebrity status, who steps forward and says, 'I have schizophrenia and I am doing pretty good.' Being able to have a role model to look up to will give others hope and help to remove the stigma attached to mental illness,'' said Anita Hopfauf, executive director of the Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan.
Stigma is really just a nice way of window dressing the discrimination people with mental-health problems face during their illness and their recovery, according to Hopfauf.
Friday and Saturday consumers and mental-health workers and advocates will gather at the Travelodge Hotel in south Regina to hear leading national and international experts discuss how to transform the current medical model of treatment of mental-health problems to one where services are recovery-oriented.
"The concept of recovery is essentially a very personal one. A recovery-oriented system is one in which consumers have more control to define for themselves what the issues are, but also have a part in the solutions to those issues,'' said Michael Seiferling, a psychosocial rehabilitation worker who works with persons with acquired brain injuries.
"The recovery plan touches every aspect of service from care in acute hospital settings to the supports provided in the community. At its core the recovery-oriented model must offer the individual the promise of hope, healing and recovery at every intervention.''
When people in the field talk about recovery they are not talking about a cure but are talking about people doing well at where they are at in their recovery process, Hopfauf said.
"They are able to live a productive and satisfactory life whether they have symptoms or don't have symptoms,'' she said. "It definitely doesn't mean the person is cured or completely recovered.''
The central focus to the concept of recovery is one's quality of life with or without symptoms, Seiferling said. "Recovery means finding meaning in life and healing from the trauma or the effects of the illness. Central to one's recovery is the hope that things will get better and improve. This provides a drive to move forward,'' he said.
The recovery model, he said, demands an increased involvement by the individual and their family at all levels, who bring with them the experiential knowledge of the unique challenges and successes of living in recovery.
There are four internal conditions that are to be facilitated in recovery -- hope, healing, connectedness (and connecting with community) and empowerment, Seiferling said.
"It is the hope, healing and empowerment -- the ability to manage these symptoms when they flare up and to take control over some of the things that are causing intrusions in your life -- that enable you to manage their long-term impact,'' Seiferling said.
Hopfauf said it is time for the federal and provincial governments to step forward and implement a much-needed and long-overdue mental health and addictions recovery plan in Saskatchewan.
Statistically one in four Canadians will experience some mental health issue in their lifetime, she said.
"This is huge and it needs to start getting the proper attention that it should have got years ago,'' she added.
Hopfauf and Seiferling said that in this time of economic prosperity in Saskatchewan they are hopeful that the provincial government will inject some much-needed funds into the mental health system.