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Reader concerned about nature and extent of mental illness and addictions in BC

Editor, The Nelson Daily

I am deeply concerned and distressed over the state of affairs in our Province in regard to the care and treatment that those with mental disorders, including addictions, receive --- or, more often, fail to receive.

As a practicing, licensed health care provider (i.e., clinical health psychologist in the Province of Alberta for over 30 years), who retired and moved to reside full-time in BC several years ago, I was (and remain) impressed with the unsurpassed natural beauty and bounty of the Province — including its residents.

However, I have become increasingly concerned over the mental health care plight of the citizens and residents of BC as I notice the steadily rising rate and extent of psychological, social, and physical problems directly related to issues concerning mental health and addictions.

As regular as clockwork — and all too frequently, we see those in positions of authority feigning righteous indignation when, for example: a young child is kidnapped, raped, and murdered by one of the numerous sexual predators living, without either adequate treatment or even monitoring, in the midst of our communities; an adolescent is driven to despair and eventual suicide by bullying or their depressive living circumstances; or yet another innocent victim has had their life tragically cut short in a motor vehicle crash caused by an impaired driver.

Yes, “feigning” — as indicated by a consistently woeful and morally reprehensible lack of effective intervention.

Hence, we see that these tragedies occur and re-occur on a continuously repeated basis in our Province.

Like most of my fellow citizens, I personally (together with my family) make as many cash and item donations, such as clothing and non-perishable food products, as possible to help local charities in an attempt to try to alleviate some of the pain and suffering that is normally associated with life, particularly during periods of economic stress.

However, my continuing anguish over this situation has caused me also to personally attempt, on several occasions, to come “out of retirement” and try to see what I could do in a direct, “hands-on”, clinical capacity.

In this regard, I have, for example: in response to a rash of suicides among the people of our indigenous coastal tribes, contacted the chief of the tribes and the associated BC minister in writing in order to volunteer my services “pro bono” (i.e., to professionally assist, without cost, in dealing with the reported crisis situation), but my offer was rejected without reason; or in response to an advertisement for a needed mental health care worker, I applied and agree to work for one-half of what I would be paid as a psychologist in public service (or one-third of what I would be paid as a psychologist in private practice), but my offer was again rejected — again without reason.

This vignette is representational (i.e., it is not about me, it is about the victims). It demonstrates that although the vocal demonstrations of concern by those in positions of leadership and authority are loud and noticeable --- particularly when these demonstrations serve a personal or political purpose/agenda, they are notably silent and absent when the only purpose/agenda is to alleviate the pain and suffering of those in BC with problems related to mental disorders and addictions.

Those affected, as well as those who are informed, are acutely aware of the very serious and growing problems facing BC residents and citizens in regard to mental disorders and addictions.

These individuals, including health care and social professionals and those involved in both policing and the judicial system, are also well aware that these problems are not diminishing, but rather are steadily, and in some cases exponentially, increasing.

The obvious question becomes “What can be done?” — in a situation in which: the “system” is not “self-correcting”; well-meaning and caring mental health care professionals, who work in the system, are being overwhelmed; and “outsiders”, such as me, appear unable to provide assistance.
I would, respectfully, suggest that the question is misdirected.

We know what can and should be done --- so what is the real question?

The real question is “Why does the current situation exist?” The answer is readily found in the absence of caring, concerned, and effective leadership.

The old adage, which is well known by British Columbians, is that “the fish rots from the head”.

In this case, the monstrous fish we are dealing with resembles more closely the mythical hydra.

This three headed monster consists, quite simply, of: (1) the Premier of BC; (2) the Minister responsible for the mental health of BC citizens; and (3) the director/head of the department of Mental Health and Addictions in BC.

Until ”these three” change their behavior to match their rhetoric, or until the electorate in BC see that “these three” are removed and replaced with those who actually do care sufficiently about the plight of those suffering from issues related to mental health and addictions AND are willing to effect positive change, we will ALL be subject to more preventable pain and suffering.

Please think about that the next time that you read, hear about, or see: a young child sexually molested or murdered; an adolescent commit suicide; or the innocent victim of an impaired motor vehicle crash.

Think, too, that we cannot simply don a cloak of self-righteousness and absolve ourselves from all blame.

Many of we citizens of BC, particularly those of us who: are uncaring and unsupportive of others with mental health and addictions problems; say unnecessary, hurtful things to others; sell drugs — even if “just” to support their own habit/use; drink and drive; use illicit drugs in the presence of their children, thereby both condoning and modeling drug use by their offspring; use drugs and substances of abuse, particularly alcohol, while pregnant; bully others, particularly the vulnerable — are major contributors to the sad and hurtful current state of affairs in our society.

In the interim, while you are thinking and hopefully moving to become part of the solution, I will continue to hope and pray for some positive resolution to this insidious tragedy playing itself out in our midst with increasing regularity and intensifying pain and suffering.

This letter is submitted in thoughtful reflection with my sincerest wish that all of my fellow BC citizens and residents can lead healthy and happy lives free from the ravages of mental illness and addictions. And, when mental illness and addictions do occur, that those afflicted receive the best care and treatment that is humanly possible.

Louis Pagliaro

Duncan, BC