We Canadians like to think of ourselves as an especially compassionate people, but you would never know it from the way so many of our fellow Canadians with a severe mental illness have been shamefully neglected.
Following the development of anti-psychotic drugs in the 1950s, Canada followed the lead of the United States in the mass eviction of patients from psychiatric hospitals. The intent was both to save billions of dollars in hospital expenditures and improve the lifestyle of these patients, by empowering them to live productively in the community.
The first of these aims has been amply achieved, but not the second. To this day, tens of thousands of Canadians with a severe mental illness have been abandoned in the community without adequate psychiatric care. Many go off their medications and get in trouble with the law. Countless others languish in dingy and noxious flophouses.
Granted, mental patients who have been diagnosed as a danger to themselves or others can still be hospitalized. And Canada is blessed with many outstanding psychiatrists who have dedicated their lives and careers to helping these severely ill and often demanding psychiatric patients.
However, there simply are not enough of these committed psychiatrists to meet the need. To some extent, that is understandable. The marvel is that so many psychiatrists are willing to get up in the middle of the night to help deal with some deranged psychotic who has gone berserk on an acute-care mental ward when they could live a much quieter and easier life counselling the