Will the Minister update the Mental Health Act to include family members?

Oct 5, 2023 | 42-4, Blog, Governance, Legislature, Question Period, Video | 0 comments

I have heard from many families that psychiatric emergency services excludes them from the care of their loved ones in a mental health crisis.

It is wonderful that Health Minister Adrian Dix met with Crystal Kenzie and Cindy Zimmer following my questions, and he acknowledged that the mental health care professional understand the importance of family, there are too many tragic examples where the policy and the practice limited the involvement of the family.

Government needs to update the Mental Health Act, and again Minister Dix steps around the question in his response.


A. Olsen:

I’ve heard many stories of how the mental health crisis impacts family members. I’ve heard how psychiatric emergency services dismiss family members’ desire to support their loved ones. I’ve heard how these services are reluctant to connect with family members to inform them of the status of their loved ones, only to have that mental health crisis come to a tragic end.

Our current mental health system excludes family members who want to be involved in the support of their loved ones. To the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions: will she make the necessary changes to allow more family involvement in the psychiatric care of their loved ones?

Hon. A. Dix:

I think this is an important question. As you know, family members will be meeting outside the Legislature today. It is my intention, if that works, to meet with them today to hear what they have to say. There are some specific cases involved that are the subject of patient quality review.

I think it’s clear that, and…. The people who know it’s clear are the doctors and nurse practitioners and nurses and health care workers that I’ve met with in the last few months who have spoken to these questions. They understand the crucial role of family, and what we continue to do is adapt clinical standards to ensure that they can fully involve families as much as absolutely possible in support for people who are dealing with mental health issues in acute care.

A. Olsen:

We’ve heard how psychiatric emergency services are overwhelmed. Hundreds of people have taken to social media to tell their stories over recent years. Stories that reflect how the treatment that they received let them down while they were at their most vulnerable time.

My constituents Cindy Zimmer and Crystal Kenzie are here today, and they’re advocating for changes in the mental health and addictions policy. They were excluded from the care of their brother, and earlier this year, he was discharged from psychiatric emergency services at the height of a mental health crisis. PES was convinced he wouldn’t commit suicide. That’s exactly what he did, only minutes after discharge.

Cindy and Crystal are just two of many family members that I’ve talked to and other members here have talked to who want to be a part of the care team of their family members, but they’re excluded. Will the minister make the necessary policy changes so other families don’t have to experience the premature loss of a loved one?

Hon. A. Dix:

Well, I think it’s the very least, let me say, that our heart goes out to the families in these circumstances, and I’ll look forward to meeting with them today personally on behalf of the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions to have that discussion.

Certainly, those who work with people dealing with mental health crises in the health care system are fully aware and fully supportive of the involvement of families in that process. In addition, we need other supports, the supports that are being provided and increased for suicide prevention, for early intervention, for reducing risk to save lives. All of these are elements of the comprehensive mental health system that we are building in British Columbia and we need to build.


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