Doing My Bit in the Fight Against Stigma

Parliament building, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Image by Vlad Vasnetsov from Pixabay

As a nurse in my province (British Columbia, Canada), if I am hospitalized for mental illness then the provincial Health Professions Act requires the hospital to report me to the nursing regulatory college, and the college must treat this as a complaint about my fitness to practice.  This ends up with being offering the non-choice to either give up my practicing license or have the college take it away.

Clearly this is stigma in action.  I tried to pursue this issue back in 2013, after my last hospitalization and the temporary loss of my practicing nursing license as a result.  I was in grad school at the time and one of the things we’d covered was policy briefs, so I wrote up a policy brief and sent it to government and whoever I thought might listen.  A couple of organizations expressed some interest, but in never went anywhere.  My nursing professional association and my union didn’t even bother to reply.

I couple of days ago I saw a news story that said the government was calling for public submissions, as they’re reviewing the Health Professions Act after the damning results of a commissioned review looking into one of the regulatory colleges.  The story said they haven’t gotten many submissions yet, and the deadline is the end of this week.  So hey, might as well give it another try.  Here’s the email I wrote to them.

 

To the Minister of Health:

I am writing regarding a particular section of the Health Professions Act that I believe should be changed as part of the current review of the Act, regardless of whether it is revised or rewritten.
Under section 32(3) of the Act, there is a requirement to notify the appropriate professional college any time that a regulated health professional is hospitalized for mental illness or a substance use disorder.  The college must then treat this is a “complaint” about an individual’s fitness to practice.
In the attached document I have outlined a number of concerns at greater length, but I’ll briefly present them here:
  • To treat mental and physical illnesses differently as a matter of course, and to make judgments about an individual based on whether their illness is mental or physical, is blatantly discriminatory.
  • Section 33(4) of the Act already addresses the handling of concerns about a registrant’s fitness to practice regardless of the reason for the impairment.
  • No other province in Canada has mandated reporting based solely on hospitalization.  Most provinces make no specific mention of mental disorders in terms of fitness to practice concerns.
  • The provision in section 32(3) promotes and perpetuates stigma against mental illness.
  • Health professionals hospitalized for mental illness are afforded a lesser degree of confidentiality compared to health professionals hospitalized for any other reasons.
  • This mandatory reporting requirement poses a significant deterrent for health professionals with mental illness to seek out mental health care services.  In turn, this poses significant risk of harm to health professionals with untreated or under-treated illness.  In the end, this poses a far greater risk of harm to the public.
I hope the Ministry of Health will take advantage of the current review of the Health Professions Act to remove this regressive, discriminatory section.  Health professionals like myself living with mental illness, along with all British Columbians, deserve better.
Regards,
Ashley Peterson

 

 

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32 thoughts on “Doing My Bit in the Fight Against Stigma

  1. Jeanne says:

    Health professionals hospitalized for mental illness are afforded a lesser degree of confidentiality compared to health professionals hospitalized for any other reasons.

    This. 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

  2. BeckiesMentalMess.wordpress.com says:

    Ashley, I certainly hope and pray you get results from this letter, not like what happened back in 2013. Hell, I’d go as far as sending this is to your local news outlets for that matter.
    Hey, the Ministry of Health wants to hear more, go through every channel necessary!

  3. M.B. Henry says:

    “This mandatory reporting requirement poses a significant deterrent for health professionals with mental illness to seek out mental health care services.” – This was my first thought when I read the opening of this post and your story. How many people won’t get help for fear of losing their license and their job? A very good letter – so brave of you to speak out!

  4. Meg says:

    Sorry, I must’ve spaced out and left the page without posting my comment earlier! 😮 This is a great letter, and it seems very legalese! Great job! I’m saddened by this sort of workplace discrimination. It’s not something anyone should have to worry about!!

  5. Alexis Rose says:

    Way to go Ashley. You are definitely doing your part in so many ways to fight stigma. This email is fabulous. I hope they revise the very outdated rule.

  6. Invisibly Me says:

    Hell yeah, Ashley! This is fantastic – you’ve covered lots of great points and have been so damning on the aspects that are discriminatory, well done! I really do hope you get a reply to your email.. keep us updated! xx

  7. eLPy says:

    Well done. You’ve made a great point that the brain, mental health is treated so differently than any other part of the body. Good luck in these efforts, keep it up and do keep us posted.

    Thanks for sharing!

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