Maple Ridge councillor targets mental health discrimination

Kiersten Duncan proposes motion to LMLGA, council agrees

  • Apr. 7, 2017 6:00 p.m.
Coun. Kiersten Duncan

Coun. Kiersten Duncan

A Maple Ridge councillor is championing the rights of people who receive mental health treatment in getting insurance.

Kiersten Duncan learned from a friend who could not get travel insurance because a mental health condition – anxiety disorder.

“They were quite livid – understandably so.”

Duncan said both anxiety and depression are common, adding one in five Canadians will suffer mental illness during their lifetime. She looked into the issue, and found what she considers systemic discrimination by the insurance industry.

“Across the board for mental illness, anything related to psychiatric treatment, whether its current or on your past record, will typically exclude you from any coverage,” she told council.

Duncan got the support of her council colleagues, will now present a motion to the Lower Mainland Local Government Association conference. From there, she hopes it will receive the support of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, and ultimately that the provincial government will deal with the issue.

The Canadian Psychiatric Association has been lobbying for chances in this area since 2001, said Duncan, and it is a well known problem in mental health.

Coun. Tyler Shymkiw pointed out that patients with an existing heart condition can be excluded from health coverage. But Duncan said, in the case of mental health, there is broad discrimination.

“It is discriminatory. It’s one thing if you look at specific physical illnesses and say they will not be covered for X reasons, but to across-the-board essentially attack mental illness is, in my opinion, discriminatory.”

Coun. Bob Masse said the wording of the motion is good. It asks that a psychiatric disorder be treated on the same terms and conditions that prevail with any other illness.

“There’s going to be some riders and restrictions, but it’s not going to be singled out for punitive conditions,” said Masse.

The Canadian Psychiatric Association has taken the position “that patients suffering from a mental disorder, or those with a past history of mental disorder, should be able to obtain insurance without prejudice based on misconceptions about the nature of mental disorder.”


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