FORMER MLA Brenda Locke who’s running for Surrey Council says the creation of an institution for mentally ill individuals is a backward and ill-conceived proposition. In making the claim that she wants a Riverview-style facility in Surrey, Linda Hepner shows her ignorance of mental illness, compounded by her lack of awareness of the healthcare needs of the people who live in her city.
“Institutionalizing mentally ill people does not work. It did not work at Riverview and it will not work in Surrey,” says Locke, former minister of state for mental health and addiction services, and TeamSurrey endorsed candidate. “Mentally ill people need real healthcare alternatives to being locked-up or left untreated. The stigma around mental illness is perhaps one of the most oppressive parts of the disease, and forced institutionalization will only heighten that stigma, and cause mentally ill people to fear seeking help.”
Mental illness is a problem that will affect many families. In fact, one in four people are touched by mental illness, either personally or through a family member.
The people of Surrey are being misled when it has been said that there’s not a mayor in the Lower Mainland who doesn’t think cities have been disadvantaged since Riverview closed. The truth is, any disadvantage that resulted came from the lack of transitioning and lack of supports offered to mentally ill individuals in their own communities. The human warehouse called Riverview, a facility built in 1913, had to be closed as both the physical space and healthcare objectives were not being met. That lack of support and lack of transitioning services are still evident today, which is why it makes no sense to go backward in time and throw out all the healthcare knowledge gained in the past 100 years.
“Surrey needs forward-thinking leaders who are actually familiar with the struggles and challenges we face in all neighbourhoods in this city,” says Stephen Gammer, community activist and TeamSurrey endorsed candidate. “We cannot continue to elect individuals who would prefer to sweep problems under the rug, or into a building.”
Locke agrees, asking “why would anyone want to discard best practices for integrating people with mental illness into the communities they call home? How does warehousing people in a Riverview-style facility address these best practices?”