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Mental Health and the Law

Mental health and the law
Expert takes your questions

November 27, 2008 at 11:53 PM EST

Mental-health services are in short supply, even for those who want care. But for those who refuse treatment, the situation can be dire and deadly. Many end up caught in the revolving door of the criminal justice system, their health — mental and physical — spiralling downward, Andre Picard writes in Friday's Globe and Mail.

In such cases people who care for a the person who refuses help end up in a situation that pits people's civil rights against their health and the safety of others.

There are about 60,000 admissions a year for involuntarily psychiatric care in Canada, and that doesn't include those in the criminal justice system, research by psychologist John Gray shows. Decades ago those peole were hospitalized indiscriminately and often treated in a horrific fashion.

Now, civil rights have swung to a point where involuntary hospitalization and treatment are next to impossible. Only those who pose an imminent danger to others can be held and treated, and an army of untreated people have taken to the streets or often ending up sleeping on cold slabs in prison.

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Mary Liz Greene holds a photo of her 24-year-old son John James Greene Candow. He has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and can be extremely violent, but is refusing treatment. (Sandor Fizli / For The Globe And Mail)

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 "The fundamental problem is that we've deinstitutionalized the mental-health system, but we haven't deinstitutionalized mental-health law," Dr. Gray says.

Has your family struggled trying to help someone who has a mental illness? What would you like to know about mental-health laws in Canada?

We're pleased Dr. Gray will be joining us Monday at 2 p.m. ET to answer your questions about mental health and the law. Send them now and return Monday to read his answers, which will be posted below.

John Gray is the lead author of the recently published book Canadian Mental Health Law and Policy, 2nd Edition (with lawyer Margaret Shone of Edmonton and psychiatrist Peter Liddle formerly chair of Schizophrenia, University of British Columbia, published by LexisNexis).

John Gray has a PhD in psychology from the University of London, UK and a Masters from the University of New Zealand. He has worked in Saskatchewan as a clinician and executive director of that province's psychiatric hospital. For more than 20 years he was a program advisor on the British Columbia Mental Health Act while working in their Ministry of Health.

Dr. Gray has served on the boards of the Canadian Mental Health Association, in Saskatchewan and the Victoria and provincial BC Schizophrenia Societies' boards. He is a past president of the Canadian Schizophrenia Society.

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Dec/1/2008, 12:20 pm Link to this post  

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