Saturday, 8 March 2014

A Bit of a Rant by Susan L.

  It was the PREFER (Peer Recovery Education for Employment and Resiliency) Summit today. My friend E and I drove down to the city in order to attend. We ended up leaving early very disappointed for a number of reasons. . It's wonderful that peer supporters are gaining a foothold in major hospitals. It's wonderful there are so many opportunities in the Toronto area for peer workers to have gainful employment. It's wonderful that the city has so many resources for everything from housing assistance, addictions support and mental health recovery options. Gay or straight, you have your own resources. Male or female, the same. All of this is within a bus or subway ride. There were more acronyms tossed around this morning than are in a can of Alphabet Soup!
  We are the only two people, who have taken the PREFER program, living in a rural community. All the Toronto talk was irrelevant to our situation. Yes, Alliston is lucky to have a Krasman Centre, the Mary McGill Centre and a CMHA office with case workers to support those in need. The Krasman is a drop in with limited hours of operation even though statistically we serve a huge percentage of the local population. Mary McGill is only by doctor referral unless you are in crisis at the ER and then only before 8 PM. If you don't have a doctor, their door is closed and accessing their counselling and group therapy services is impossible. The CMHA is there but sometimes the waiting period for a case worker can be months long. To see a psychiatrist it is anywhere from nine months to a year wait...they also need a doctor's referral. If you end up with a doctor god (and there are lots of those) who is offended and uncooperative when you want to take control of your life and your recovery it's back to the drawing board. Yes, GPs will refuse on occasion to treat a mental health patient as well. Isn't that scary. Again, you are shut out of being able to access important resources.
  Then there is the issue of how to get there. We don't have public transportation. Taxis are expensive because disability income is often limited. Once rent and hydro are paid for there isn't anything left. Food is provided by the food bank. That is a whole other rant.
  Our local hospital, one of the best equipped rural hospitals in Canada is great if you are having a baby, a breast exam, or stitches. If a mental health crisis arises, it can be hit or miss as to how you are treated by the ER nurses and doctors. More than one visit and you are considered a nuisance even if you have no other supports in the community. Even if it's been over a year since the last crisis. Recovery is not a straight line event. Most of us who have ended up there have literally nowhere else to go and it is a last resort and the last place on the planet we want to be. Especially if by going to the ER, we are in a position to be stripped of our basic rights and the spectre of being "Formed" arises. That's a seventy two hour hold in a psychiatric facility without our consent, if not longer. That should only be used if you are a danger to yourself or others. It should not be used as a standard admitting practice.
  We are twenty years behind the city in regard to basic mental health care and awareness. Words like dignity, respect, autonomy, rights, and simple compassion often ring empty within the rural medical system. The Krasman is a jewel because we believe in all these things. We know that when these are restored, miracles happen.
  I know, I know....see a need, fill a need. E and I had a great discussion about how to bring mental health knowledge in a rural community into the twenty-first century. It will probably come kicking and screaming. A couple of ideas surfaced on the drive home that we will pursue, voluntarily. As for myself, who is on partial disability, all I can do is trust that the Lord will provide the finances for gas and travel. I pray He will help me walk softly while carrying a big stick and open doors for us where we will do the most good. I pray as well that closed and prejudicial minds will be opened.
  "A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." Prov 16:9

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