EDITORIAL: Mental illness costs sizeable

It’s time to look at a broader spectrum of care in Victoria

The scaling back of mental patient facilities at Riverview in Vancouver and, to a certain degree, Eric Martin Pavilion in Victoria decades ago, offered hope for hundreds of people who were previously expected to live out their lives away from the public eye.

When we hear of cases where individuals battling mental illness are involved in serious attacks on others and even murder, we wonder, even if only for a few moments, whether such an experiment has proven successful.

The cases of the young Sooke man charged with murdering his mother, after numerous previous incidents of violence; and the Victoria man on trial for stabbing an innocent boy at a bus stop, after seeing in the boy’s face someone he believed was in a gang that was trying to kill him, are examples of people falling through the cracks.

We don’t advocate a return to the days of institutionalizing people with mental disabilities simply because they can’t function at a high enough level to live on their own.

But for people who demonstrate their inability to function safely in society in relation to others, there needs to be an alternative to being hospitalized or being locked up in prison. That option needs to be available early for families who can no longer care for the person, often due to the fact that the individual is an adult.

The long-term effects and costs, both financial and human, of removing the institutional option from our health-care system surely outweigh the cost of operating such facilities for those who need it.

Whether there will ever be the political will to change the system, to create a broader spectrum of care for those battling mental illness, remains to be seen.

We hope the province looks seriously at this option to give everyone a chance to live a healthier life.

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