EDITORIAL: Mental-health savings costly

The true cost of evening closures of mental-health clinics remains to be seen.

Few can argue against the statement that mental illness touches everyone.

There are, of course, those with diagnoses. Then there are their children, siblings, parents, friends and co-workers.

Even complete strangers are often hit with the ripples, as society is forced to bear the burden of missed work days, medical visits, inadequate treatment options, etc.

Perhaps if it felt easier to talk openly about mental illness, things would be different. But it’s a subject rarely broached in the public realm.

There are people in this community who worked hard to change that.

Helen Connolly was one. Prior to her death from cancer in 2008, Connolly was tireless in advocating for people with mental illness – a journey of more than two decades that was inspired by her own son’s struggles.

Jim Booth was another devoted advocate. Along with his wife, Ilze, Booth (who died in 2010) hosted an annual international soiree aimed at opening eyes, minds and hearts to mental illness – how pervasive it is, how much more needs to be done for diagnosis and treatment.

If they were still alive today, both Peninsula residents would, no doubt, be disappointed to learn of Fraser Health’s recent decision to phase out evening hours at several of its mental-health clinics.

Health authorities assure the move is not a cut in services, and that it will only affect one per cent of those who currently access its mental-health services. But it’s unlikely that statistic factors in the family members, co-workers, friends and others who love and support the people that make up that one per cent.

There is a bigger picture to consider.

Perhaps it is easier to make such decisions without considering the broader impact.

That approach, however, does more harm than good. It may take a little while to notice, but the decision will have ripples – at home, in the workplace and beyond.

It will impact forward strides that have been made in the realm of mental illness and mood disorders; strides that include leading society to better accept mental illness as a disease.

It remains to be seen how far-reaching the impacts will be, but for those who could only access the evening clinics, the decision literally closes doors to a healthier future.

It begs the question, at what cost?