Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, on May 29 in Ottawa there was a Walk the World for Schizophrenia. This event is a major fundraiser that assists the Schizophrenia Society of Canada in its important work. In Saskatoon , the Walk the World for Schizophrenia normally occurs in the fall, and this year it will be held on September 24. I have participated in this walk along the banks of the South Saskatchewan River many times in support of the Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan.
This disease is one of the most serious mental health disorders. Its incidence is about one in one hundred persons or about 300,000 Canadians. The main symptoms of schizophrenia are delusions and hallucinations, thought disorder, lack of motivation and social withdrawal. The onset of the disease is usually in early childhood, which often disrupts the individual's education.
Adult schizophrenics often find it difficult to maintain employment for a sustained period of time. Furthermore, the chronic nature of the disease contributes to ongoing social problems. As a result, individuals with schizophrenia are greatly overrepresented in prison and in homeless populations.
Antipsychotic drugs are the main vehicle used to treat schizophrenia. The atypical antipsychotics have fewer side effects than the older typical antipsychotics, but unfortunately, significant weight gain is often associated with some of the newer drugs. Antipsychotic drugs effectively treat the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations and psychosis, but improvements in the negative symptoms, such as social withdrawal and decreased motivation, are more difficult to achieve. Thus, antipsychotic drug treatment is usually combined with other elements, such as educational support, primary care services, hospital-based services and community support, for example, proper housing and employment.
According to the Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan, there is a critical shortage of professional caregivers, doctors, psychiatrists and nurses that needs to be dealt with in the near future. In addition, there is a need for safe and decent housing for individuals being released from the hospital; there is an immense need for community support for the individuals suffering from schizophrenia; and most importantly, there is a great need to change the public attitude toward individuals suffering from schizophrenia.
As honourable senators will know, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology released its report, Out of the Shadows at Last , on May 9. The Schizophrenia Society of Canada and the provincial schizophrenia societies strongly support the recommendations contained in the report and they are encouraging the government to move forward on its implementation.
Honourable senators, there is an urgent need for the federal government to move quickly to establish and fund the Canadian Mental Health Commission.