More help needed for mentally ill

"We have some pretty amazing people working hard in this community and it is not hard to find them."

I am writing in response to the front-page article in Friday’s paper entitled “Businesses asking City for help dealing with society’s vulnerable” (Trail Times, Aug. 28).  As a previous psychiatric nurse, with over 20 years experience, including community mental health, I am aware of the many deficits in the provision of care for this population.

First, I do not see that the services we have are a band-aid, as Daniel Haley stated.  We have some pretty amazing people working hard in this community and it is not hard to find them.  I would not count the provincial mental health service providers among this group.  There are too many expectations of the mentally ill to have the skills needed to seek their services.

The Kootenays is listed as one area in BC in need of increased services (or better utilization of services) documented in the “Conversation on Health.”  Recommendations included increased access to supportive housing, outreach teams that actually get out on the street and reach out, adopt an attitude of preventative care (mentally ill people need support to ensure they take their medication, eat well and have a safe place to call home), working within a multidisciplinary/multi-organizational liaising framework and adopt a more flexible way for the mentally ill to access services (mental health services are grossly un-advertised, confusing and unaccessible to the mentally ill).

There is a need for more structure in the services for the mentally ill, there are too few advocates and life skills workers; they need stronger social circles.  There are too many rules.  Mental health programs are disorganized, treatment options are not made clear to clients, and the process of obtaining help takes too long and is often intimidating.

Finally, the Downtown Trail Business Group I would have to say to you that “these people” are not newcomers ‘dumped here’, most are not homeless: they are our people.   There is no bus dropping homeless people off in Trail.  The majority live here and some may have come because of the low-cost housing, but not the majority.  They do go home after discharge be it Castlegar, Nelson or Grand Forks.

There were comments about a ruckus during a belly dancing event.  Emergency and after-hours mental health services can help.  Additionally, and most importantly, having a community that is afraid of the mentally ill only helps to contribute to incidents such as this.  These are our people and they need to be accepted in their community.   The mentally ill have, for too long, been the subject of ridicule and judgement.  They are under-supported.  Daniel Haley states “No one knew what to do because they were scared.”

Well, so are “these people.” Setting ourselves up as victim of the mentally ill, and looking for a solution to the “dumping” will do nothing.  We need to look at developing a strong community that takes care of its own with pride.

I worked in community mental health for many years and I can count one time when I did not feel safe.  I have, however, felt unsafe with many people not mentally ill.

We have the resources.  There are services working hard, the City of Trail is supportive, the RCMP are trying but let’s all take a look at ourselves, our downtown business attitude and the BC Mental Health and Addictions Services and ask: What are we doing to help?  Who are we liaising with to build bridges?  What services and attitudes are helping to decrease the anxiety and sense of aloneness the mentally ill experience on a daily basis?

Holly Wilson