In the past, there was a team of three psychiatric nurses in Kelowna who responded 24 hours, seven days a week when a mentally ill person became very disturbed but would not go for help.
They met with them and were often able to assist them with the help they needed. This service has been cancelled and is no longer available. This is a necessary service in any area.
Before the nurses were hired by Interior Health, I, as a volunteer and registered nurse, saw these people who were really ill with mental illness and enabled them to access treatment. I also assisted them in locating housing and setting up finances and supports.
I fully understand the problems entailed in these circumstances. To this day, I continue to facilitate support groups, to teach educational courses for relatives and friends and I am still involved in providing support to family members whenever I can.
But Crisis Intervention Teams are an essential service in any area.
In Kelowna, emergency services cannot be contacted directly, unless one calls on the police or takes the person to the hospital, something the ill person may resist or has to wait long periods before being seen. Relatives and ill people have a difficult time in finding information or help when they are in the middle of a crisis.
Another important issue is that parents and relatives must be a part of the treatment plan. They are the ones who know when the person needs more help. Often, they do not recognize they are ill, or do, but there is a stigma attached to the illness so they do not seek assistance or see a doctor.
Unfortunately, they can present a very normal, logical appearance when seeing professionals, even though the relatives are struggling with severe problems of a very ill person.
The family members are often not included in the treatment or even asked to supply information, although they are the ones providing support and finances to the person. Professionals must listen to them to get pertinent information to deal with the issues. Relatives also need information and education to be able to cope with the situation.
Often, there is little follow up when ill people are released from hospital. They must be stabilized on medications, but they need to have proper housing, nutrition and funding. They are often unable to force themselves to face social services, pharmacies or mental health services.
Sometimes, it is difficult to find their way in obtaining any help, so they don't even try. Services are often not provided unless they apply, but they can't.
Parents or close relatives should not be required to take the full responsibility and burden of providing such necessities. An integrated team of hospital staff and other agencies, such as social services and the mental health centre, should be working together and following up to make sure these people don't fall through the cracks and that they are safe and supported, to prevent relapses and continued returns to the hospital.
Direct funding in the community is absolutely necessary for these individuals.
These are some of the improvements needed to prevent so many problems involved when a person has a mental illness.