A New Era….But Does It Help Solve The Problem.

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Last night my daughter and I attended the open house for the new Regional Mental Health Centre in London. It is a beautiful facility with relaxation rooms, private patient rooms, life skills kitchens and many other features the old hospital did not provide. Staff offices are state of the art and there will be a cafe, variety store, hair salon and more. It is in many ways a huge step in the right direction and will better meet the needs of patients and staff who are excited about the move November 16th.

I do have many concerns about the hospital though. The number of inpatient beds is cut down by almost half between London and St. Thomas. While the reason for this is explained by the government as a “Shift to community care” they continue to cut programs or spend all the money on administrative costs or “committees” to identify problems and solutions in the mental illness crisis in Canada. First lets look at a few facts…

Adults with severe mental health problems and illnesses die up to 25 years earlier than adults in the general population, with cardiovascular disease being the most common cause of death.

In  a recent study, only 63 per cent of people who had been hospitalized for depression had a follow-up visit with a physician within 30 days after discharge, compared to 99 per cent of people with heart failure.

In the same 30 days, 25 per cent of people who had been hospitalized for depression either visited an emergency room or were readmitted to hospital.

among those with the most severe and complex mental health problems and illnesses, unemployment is estimated at between 70 and 90 per cent.

One study reported that 27 per cent of caregivers lost income and 29 per cent incurred major financial costs related to caring for a family member who is living with a mental health problem or illness

Children with conduct disorders are eight times more likely to develop ADHD as teenagers. Teens with ADHD are twice as likely as other children to develop anxiety or a substance use disorder as adults.

Preventing conduct disorders in one child through early intervention has been found to result in lifetime savings of $280,000.

Improving a child’s mental health from moderate to high has been found to result in lifetime savings of $140,000.

Mental health problems and illnesses typically account for approximately 30 per cent of short- and long-term disability claims.

Mental health problems and illnesses are rated one of the top three drivers of both short-  and long-term disability claims by more than 80 per cent of Canadian employers.

In 2010, mental health conditions were responsible for 47 per cent of all approved disability claims in the federal civil service, almost double the percentage of twenty years earlier.

Mental health problems and illnesses also account for more than $6 billion in lost productivity costs due to absenteeism and preseenteeism.

– statistics provided by mental health commission

I’m not sure I understand the government’s decision to cut beds, not create a Mental Health emergency room and urgent care centre that would take pressure off of other emergency rooms not equiped to correctly and compassionately care for Mental Illness crisis. It is great to have services in the community and they are much needed. But if we centered on mental health (which acconts for 16% of Health care cost in Canada but only 7% of Health care dollars are spent on Mental Health).

Over $830Million was spent to create these new hospitals and while they are beautiful, the parking garage for the 700 staff employed there is bigger than the hospital patient care area. Every year close to 3700 Canadians commit suicide. This doesn’t count the 500 who attempt suicide for every one that succeeds. There is an increasing aging population with greater numbers of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients each and every year…Yet it took 23 years to finish the hospital plan, there is no strategy for mental health and suicide and the crisis is not being met. Experts in the field of psychiatry stated we needed more hospital beds and patient facilities and yet beds were cut. Maybe if the politicians and executives didn’t collect hundreds of thousands of dollars each year and spend even more employing their friends to run committees to tell them where to cut programs to save money, we would have health care dollars to spend in the right places.

There is no art or music therapy room…lots more offices though. I was happy to see that the nurses station of the one unit we were able to tour did not have glass around it giving the nurses a “clubhouse” to hang out in for their shift. Hopefully this will force them to interact with the patients and give them someone to talk to. Since the hospital boasts on it’s publicity page that the nurses are specially trained for the illnesses they deal with, I am looking forward to seeing their training be used in actually interacting with and caring for patients instead of the babysitting job most of them were doing for the patients at the old hospital. If the government wants to know what patients need….DON’T talk to the doctors wanting bigger offices and hefty research grants or the latest in technology…even doctors like their toys….don’t talk to hospital executives that spend all day in meetings trying to prove their worth and earn their incredibly large paycheck….

Talk to the mothers and fathers, daughters and sons who have a loved one with a mental illness and are left to cope with it on their own. Talk to the suicidal teenager who is sitting in an emergency room for two days with nurses who ignore them and treat them like a bother, only to be sent home in the middle of the night with no help and no direction….not even cab fare. Talk to the doctors and nurses in emergency rooms who don’t have the time, resources or training to help care for mental health crisis. Teach all health care staff compassion and dignity training…not from a book, from patients, families and others who know first hand what needs can be met just by a compassionate caregiver.

I am glad to see a new and very modern Mental Health hospital. I hope that the dream that has been sold with it will come true and resources, programs and proper care will be a reality for those coping with Mental Health issues in their families.

compassion-henri-nouwen

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