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1999 News Releases

Supreme Court Of Canada Releases Decision In Regina V. Mills

November 25, 1999 – The Canadian Mental Health Association is pleased with the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Mills and is particularly delighted that the court relied upon and adopted many of the submissions of the Canadian Mental Health Association. Through its decision, the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized the importance of individuals’ rights to privacy in their health records. Health records should be used to provide treatment to patients. Any use by third parties should be strictly limited to situations where there is a compelling public interest.

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), founded in 1918, is one of the oldest voluntary organizations in Canada and the only one to deal with all aspects of mental health and mental illness. It is a national organization with approximately 135 branches in communities of all sizes, in all provinces and territories, and a Division office in each province and territory.

CMHA takes public positions on current social policy issues with the goal of enhancing protection for the rights of those who receive mental health services and was an intervenor in the Supreme Court case.

Confidentiality of mental health records is a long-standing issue and concern of CMHA. CMHA was critical of the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in O’Connor (1995) because the decision did not provide sufficient protection to complainants and witnesses in sexual assault cases. Therapists were unable to assure their patients that their records would be kept confidential. CMHA urged the federal government to pass a law that provided greater protection to the patients’ right to privacy. The CMHA was involved in the consultative process that led to the passage of the new Criminal Code provisions and many of the CMHA’s recommendations were adopted in that legislation. CMHA believes that sections 278.1 to 278.91 of the Criminal Code are a step in the right direction. CMHA takes the position that therapeutic records do not belong in the trial process for the following reasons:

1. Therapeutic records are not prepared for the purpose of maintaining a factual account of the assault. They are maintained in order to pursue a plan for treatment, and they contain the therapist’s interpretation of the comments made by the patient. As such, therapeutic records are not intended to contain a narrative account of the events surrounding the alleged crime. They are not checked by the individual receiving counseling for accuracy;

2. In fact, in most cases, they do not see the records at any time. For these reasons, therapeutic records often contain factual inaccuracies.

3. Someone in counselling, after experiencing sexual violence, talks about the feelings – the fears and confusion – that result from being sexually abused. These regularly include periods of:

(a) denial that the abuse ever happened;

(b) blaming themselves and feeling guilty for what happened;

(c) anger and rage;

(d) hopelessness and helplessness;

(e) feeling sorry for the abuser; and

(f) depression and suicidal thoughts.

To take these thoughts and emotions out of the counselling process and enter them into a court of law can be misleading, injurious and prejudicial.

4. The threat of disclosure of therapeutic records to the court and to the defence will deter victims from reporting a crime.

5. The threat of disclosure of therapeutic records to the court and to the defence will deter complainants from seeking and obtaining therapy. It is essential not only to survivors of sexual assault but also to the proper working of the justice system that survivors of crime receive treatment and therapy for the emotional and psychological results of crime.

6. People who have received psychiatric treatment or therapy have traditionally suffered from discriminatory attitudes and biases. They have been isolated, stigmatized and feared as being dangerous and unreliable. Fair trials are promoted by ensuring that irrelevant material that perpetuates discriminatory beliefs is not brought before the court.

In the future, the CMHA will continue to monitor the impact of federal and provincial laws to determine if they provide sufficient protection for mental health records.

The law firm of Blake, Cassels & Graydon (Calgary) represented the CMHA before the Supreme Court.

Excessive worry, panic, compulsion or fear?

You may be experiencing an anxiety disorder

October 4, 1999 – Anxiety disorders are a group of disorders which affect behaviour, thoughts, emotions and physical health. Although they affect an estimated one in 10 Canadians, they are frequently overlooked. Anxiety disorders are one of the most common and treatable forms of mental illness. They are more prevalent among woman than among men, and they affect children as well as adults.

Sudden attacks of terror, shortness of breath, overwhelming and unreasonable fears, excessive worrying, repeated actions, or flash backs of a traumatic event are some of the many symptoms of anxiety disorders.

Although research is ongoing, it is thought that anxiety disorders are caused by caused by biological factors and an individual’s circumstances. According to the World Health Organization: “an anxiety disorder does not mean that you are weak or losing your mind, or that you have a personality problem. Severe anxiety is a disorder that can be overcome with treatment and effective treatments are available.”

In support of Mental Illness Awareness Week , (the first week of October) the Canadian Mental Health Association has just published a new series of pamphlets on Anxiety Disorders.

Topics covered include: Understanding Anxiety Disorders, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Phobias and Panic Disorder.

The Canadian Mental Health Association is a national voluntary organization with 140 branches across Canada. Our mission is to promote the mental health of all people. For the 81 years of our existence , we have helped Canadians to look for and identify the signs of mental illness, and to get treatment and support when they need it.

For more information about mental health or anxiety disorders, please contact your local CMHA branch.

Obituary: Mr.George Rohn

July 26, 1999 – It is with sadness that we announce the passing of Mr. George Rohn, former General Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association. Mr. Rohn died on Thursday, July 22nd, 1999 in Toronto. He was 74 years of age.

Mr Rohn was associated with the Canadian Mental Health Association for over 40 years and served as General Director from 1972 until his retirement in 1987.

Among his many achievements, Mr. Rohn will be particularly remembered for his commitment to promoting the mental health of all people. He pioneered CMHA’s international role and personally helped to foster relationships and programs with mental health associations in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and parts of South Africa .

Mr Rohn is survived by his wife Blanca, sister Draha, and children Gregory, Marcy and Robert.

Mental Health Week Targets Workplace Stress

May 3, 1999 – Canada’s annual Mental Health Week takes place May 3-9,1999. Sponsored by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), this year’s focus is on reducing stress in the workplace.

Workplace stress and related illnesses cost the Canadian economy an estimated $ 5 billion a year.

” Mental health is a vital tool for increased productivity and profits”, according to CMHA National President, Tom Walters. ” 42 percent of Canadians in our national survey reported that workplace stress has a negative effect on how well they perform their jobs. Mental health is as important as physical health and it must become a workplace priority. Every employer in Canada has a stake in making mental health matter.”

To promote workplace mental health, CMHA branches are working together with companies and organizations across Canada to help employers, employees and the communities in which they live to make mental health a priority.

Activities during Mental Health Week include, stress reduction workshops, mall displays, and the distribution of informative pamphlets on mental health and stress reduction.