Canadians Living with Schizophrenia Experience Discrimination: Report

By Anne Kyle, Leader-PostMarch 31, 2009

REGINA — Canadians living with schizophrenia experience discrimination, which impacts the quality of their life and the level of health care services they receive, a new report says.

The report released this week by the Schizophrenia Society of Canada calls on Canadians, health-care professionals and government to support a national mental health strategy that addresses the disparities and inequities faced daily by those living with schizophrenia and their family members.

“We seem to be the province that is spending the least amount per capita on public mental health services and we have the fewest psychiatrists of all the provinces,’’ said Jackie Just, the co-ordinator of the Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan’s education outreach program.

Saskatchewan spends $138 per capita on public mental health compared to British Columbia, which spends the most at $230 per capita, according to the report.

Saskatchewan is also reported to have only five psychiatrists per 100,000 residents compared to Ontario, which has 22 psychiatrists per 100,000 population.

“One of the things we have found is that patients are waiting a long time for a referral for diagnosis and treatment. Nationally the average wait time is 18.6 weeks for referral to treatment for psychiatric care,’’ Just said.

“The wait times in Saskatchewan are even greater at 29.6 weeks.’’

The study also revealed that people who have disclosed they have a mental illness to their care providers feel they are being discriminated against in terms of some of their care options, Just said.

The report also looks at how the stigma associated with mental illness can lead to gradual social isolation, making it harder for people with schizophrenia to seek the help they need to manage their illness.

While 92 per cent of Canadians had heard of schizophrenia, most do not understand what it is or its symptoms, the report said. Sixty-per-cent of Canadians
also assume people living with schizophrenia are likely to act violently toward others.

“That is a myth. People who manage their illness with medication are far less likely to act violently towards others than members of the general population,’’ Just said.

“We just don’t hear about the success stories — the everyday person who goes to work, goes to school and takes their medication on a regular basis managing their illness effectively.’’

Public education aimed at alleviating the stigma and some of those misconceptions is the first step towards addressing those disparities and the inequalities, she added.

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