Madam Speaker, I understand I am the last member to speak on this debate. I doubt, however, that I will be the last word on this. I am not. I see that I am neither the last speaker nor the last word then.
I have been kind of reluctant, frankly, to engage in this debate because I do not consider myself to be an expert. I have not participated in committee hearings, and I have not had the benefit of listening to the expert witnesses. Therefore, the only thing that I bring to this particular debate is 25 years in and around the mental health system in the eastern part of the GTA. This is due to the fact that my son, technically my stepson, has schizophrenia.
The schizophrenia started to manifest itself when he was about 15 years of age; he is now about 40. As a family, we have been able to make some observations about the current state of the mental health care system in our neighbourhood. We are a well-resourced family; we have been able to access the best that there is on offer in and around the city of Toronto.
Our son has spent some weeks at the Whitby Psychiatric Hospital east of Toronto, one of the best that Ontario has to offer. He has also spent some time at the CAMH in downtown Toronto, which is possibly the leading health care facility in this particular area of health care. He has also spent time at our local Scarborough Health Network; this is a good health network, but my observation is that it is just absolutely overwhelmed.
The previous speaker talked about access in the order of 12 to 18 months. This has been our experience as well, even though we have supported him as a family. As I said, we are well resourced, and his mother, in particular, is fierce in her protection of him.
We started to notice his erratic behaviour when he was around 15. For three or four years, we really did not know what it was, in spite of taking him to various health care experts. When he went off to university, he had his first diagnosed psychotic break. If members know anything about schizophrenia, they know that when one is recovering from that psychotic break, one never regains everything. Over the years, he had a number of psychotic breaks, and each time, he did not fully come back.
The observation is that when one is around 40 years of age, that is as good as it is going to get. One neither gets any worse nor certainly any better. He fills the definition of somebody who has an irremediable condition. It is medically diagnosed, and he has had episodes where we had the police there and things of that nature. Fortunately, as I said, his mother is a fierce advocate for him, and we have been able to stabilize his housing. He is well housed and well fed, which has not always been the case. However, at this period of his life, he is stable.
Over the course of these 25 years, we have made some observations of the system. The first observation is that it is overwhelmed. If the general health care system in Ontario is at its maximum stretching point, the health care system is always stretched beyond that point. I will not say it is broken, but it certainly is stretched.
This is not a condemnation of the people or the personnel who are in the system. They are good-hearted, overworked and exhausted. It is the patients who suffer. I do not have a great deal of faith, based on my observations, that one year from now somehow we will have a better system than we have today. My guess is that it will be closer to generations.
One of my hon. colleagues from the NDP raised the issue of poverty, homelessness and all the other issues that people face. Again, it has been our observation that we as a family have been able to shield him from a lot of things that mental health patients face on a daily basis, such as how they are going to eat, where they are going to sleep, all that sort of stuff.
Therefore, from time to time, it appears that ending one's life is an attractive alternative. I fear that, primarily for those people who are not well resourced and not well shielded from the vagaries of life, who have no job, no relationships and a limited appreciation of their own reality, it would be an attractive alternative to end their life, and that will be made available to them and, I dare say, available a little too readily at times.
These are observations we have made over 25 years. We have made them in the context of a family trying to support someone who would fall within the specific categories that are delineated in the legislation. We frankly have no real faith that this might not be an alternative for our son. That would be tragic for us all because it would not be a death in isolation.
I would also make the observation that we are long on talk in this place and short on resources. We talk about fixing the system. We talk about making resources available. One can pretty well go back through the speeches in Hansard for the last year or two years or five years or 10 years, and each incident of legislation comes with a promise of resources. I wish that were true, but it is not. In our observation, it is only getting more challenging.
In some respects, this legislation is a way out of doing what we need to do to facilitate the health care challenges of our most vulnerable citizens. While I will, with colleagues, support this legislation, I frankly do not think things will change in a year. It may be that they will change in 10 years. I think this is the kind of timeline and horizon that we would be realistically looking at in order to deal with people who would fall within the specific delineated categories as set out in this legislation.