Sunshine Coast Schizophrenia Society receives praise

By: Margot Grant

The Sunshine Coast is a small step closer to better care for people with mental illness. Vancouver Coastal Health is in the process of hiring a psychiatric nurse who will come to a person’s house in case of a mental health emergency. Together with an RCMP officer, the nurse will stay with the person and arrange a trip to the emergency room. The service will start before the end of summer. 

Susann Richter, VCH Manager of Mental Health and Addiction Services on the Sunshine Coast, announced the new program Friday at the Annual General Meeting of the Sunshine Coast Branch of the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society. The meeting was held at the Davis Bay Community Hall.

Guest speaker was Susan Inman, author of After Her Brain Broke: Helping My Daughter Recover Her Sanity. Inman was pleased with the new service on the Sunshine Coast. “We need help to get our loved ones to hospital when they are psychotic. It is a nice touch that the family can ask the RCMP officer to come in uniform or in plain clothes.”

Inman hopes that a person with acute psychosis will not have to wait too long in the emergency room and that there are beds available if needed. She wants Riverview re-opened. “It is unacceptable that prisons are the new mental health institutions. These people need attentive, loving care in state of the art psychiatric treatment centres and they need psycho-social rehabilitation services. 

“When a person has leukemia, the medical profession works closely with the family. Why can’t this happen in the case of mental illness, which is a brain disorder?”

Six out of ten people with mental illness can work, she said. With the right support, they want to work. Douglas College in Vancouver and Vancouver Community College now offer courses for people with severe mental illness who want to learn how to learn again. The classes are paid for by the Fraser Health Authority, and people love them, Inman said. 

Cognitive losses are a big problem for people with schizophrenia. They have trouble remembering things and putting them in logical order, they experience difficulty with problem solving and their judgment can be severely impaired. 

Families should be more aware of the cognitive loss that comes with schizophrenia, Inman said. “It is easier to deal with things like the person not knowing where they left the phone, or forgetting what the phone message was, if you realize it is part of the disease.”

Inman praised the Sunshine Coast branch of the B.C. Schizophrenia Society highly for being active and for being a safe place for parents whose children have been newly diagnosed with schizophrenia. “This branch provides a lot of education. Many parents say in hindsight that they’ve made wrong decisions or responded in a way that was not helpful because they simply lacked knowledge.”

She also praised the Sunshine Coast branch for its science-based approach. “It still happens that parents get blamed for their children’s mental illness: they must have done something wrong. But science clearly shows that parents are not the cause. They need help to manage. The Sunshine Coast is lucky with this group. It makes a real difference in the community.”