A new report says British Columbia’s system for detaining people with mental health issues is violating their charter rights.
Report author Laura Johnston, a lawyer with the Community Legal Assistance Society, says the problems with the provincial Mental Health Act include people in care being put in solitary confinement or involuntarily given treatments like electroconvulsive therapy.
The report also found that female patients routinely have their clothes removed by male staff, doctors can make detention decisions without conducting in-person exams and there is no legal aid for patients needing advice on their detention.
Johnston says despite issues with the system, mental health detentions in B.C. have jumped over the past decade and about 20,000 people are now involuntarily detained each year.
She says the number of voluntary mental health admissions has remained essentially unchanged over the same period.
“Our mental health system is increasingly interacting with people with mental health problems in an adversarial way by removing their rights, rather than in a voluntary way that promotes autonomy and collaboration in the recovery process,” Johnston said in a news release.
“We need to ask why and take a hard look at what is going on in this detention system.”
The report calls for an independent commission to overhaul the Mental Health Act, and makes a number of recommendations, including better training for healthcare providers.
With files from the Canadian Press.