This blog is an informal place to talk about patients’ Mental Health Act rights. Posts take a closer look at an issue related mental health rights, especially in BC, and are written by patients and people with lived experience, care partners, clinicians, legal experts, and researchers.
This content has not been reviewed for legal accuracy and should not be considered legal advice.
“Through collaboration with experts in mental health at BC Children’s Hospital and with input from patients and families with lived experience, this resource was developed primarily for health care providers admitting children and youth under the Mental Health Act,” says Angela Olsen, project manager at BC Children’s Hospital and Child Health BC. The team also created tools to support children, youth, and their families as they navigate the admissions process.
Olsen encourages people to share these tools widely among professionals who work with children and youth who are admitted under the Mental Health Act. If you have questions or feedback about these resources, contact her or Brittin Oakman.
The board has seen tremendous shifts over the past couple of years, with a new chair implementing a restructuring plan, a move from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of the Attorney General, and a corresponding physical move to a new office.
This year’s annual report offers a glimpse of the progress and effects of this restructuring. Here are a few highlights, along with some of my reactions.
In the recently released report, Committed to Change, the BC Office of the Ombudsperson detailed disturbing findings that involuntary patients aren’t consistently told about their rights under the Mental Health Act. Further, family care partners aren’t always told that their loved ones have been detained. These stories are appalling, but will enforcing better record keeping prevent these scenarios from happening?
Their care team is supposed to send Form 16 to that near relative. Form 16 tells the near relative that the person (a) has been detained and (b) has rights under the Mental Health Act. This form is supposed to be sent or given to the near relative immediately after the person has been admitted.
The BC Office of the Ombudsperson found:
Form 13 in only 49% of patient files,
Form 15 in only 43% of patient files, and
Form 16 in only 32% of patient files.
In response to these poor compliance rates, the Office of the Ombudsperson issued this recommendation:
Recommendation 9: By June 30, 2019, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions work together with the health authorities to establish clear and consistent provincial standards aimed at achieving 100 percent compliance with the involuntary admissions procedures under the Mental Health Act through the timely and appropriate completion of all required forms.
In other words, these three forms should appear in 100% of patient files. But will mandating 100% compliance solve the problem of patients and family care partners not knowing patients’ rights?
In a series of focus groups, members of our research team asked clinicians about the barriers they face when giving involuntary patients rights information. One barrier participants mentioned over and over was that many of their patients didn’t understand English.
Form 13, the document clinicians use to to tell patients about their rights, seems to be available only in English.
Translated rights materials
To help fill the gap in availability of Mental Health Act rights information in other languages, we’ve translated:
In Committed to Change, a report detailing the failure of the mental health system to uphold the rights of involuntary patients hospitalized under the Mental Health Act, the BC Ombudsperson issued 24 recommendations “to ensure the rights of people with serious mental illness are respected and public confidence in our mental health system is enhanced.” (BC Ombudsperson 2019, p. 3)
One of the recommendations is that, “By March 31, 2020, the Ministry of Health update and reissue the Guide to the Mental Health Act to incorporate the changes made arising from this report and other changes.” (BC Ombudsperson 2019, p. 98)
When I interviewed people who experienced involuntary hospitalization (certification) about their information needs, some of them told me that, when they choose to exercise their rights, they’d like more information about what comes next.
What happens after you hand in Form 7 to ask for a review panel hearing? Or what happens after you hand in Form 11 to ask for a second medical opinion?
Involuntary patients over the age of 16 have the right to ask for a second medical opinion from a doctor who’s not on their treatment team. My interviews with former involuntary patients and with clinicians seem to show that both groups are confused about how this right works, so this post aims to answer some of the most common questions about it.