I would rather not have Stephen Harper and Peter Mackay making maps on thought until they are themselves good at it.

I don’t usually pay too much attention to the news but last week like many Canadians I was near my radio.

I felt a wave of something when I learned of a soldier’s death. I don’t see regiments and uniforms when I think of a soldier who has fallen. I see families and communities and now a nation. May mercy reign on those nearest to Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and may resilience rule the rest of us. We are all in some sense left to take over Cpl. Cirillo’s duties; we must stand at attention to the unknown.

Those who we trust to know and those who tell us they do are scrambling like rats on a listing ship. My biggest fear is not that any will drown but that the course they steer will be political more than sensible. Will we purchase police and forms of recognizable security for an invisible foe? How do we wage war on beliefs? Soil itself has been turned red by battles of beliefs.

If we want a sense of what goes through a jihadist’s mind we might consider having bombs falling on our own church of thought. It is dangerous to police thought and affiliation. It is a slippery slope we may never find our way back from. The changes we have induced following 9/11 are with us forever and we must consider the same of future reactions to these events. If changes are war measures we may take comfort but Stephen Harper’s conservatives never really mentioned we were going to war. I heard some trifle about a half dozen aged planes but I missed the address to the nation about a declaration of war.

The threat is presently ISIS but any measures taken will be excuse for any threat, real or imagined. Are we prepared for that? The brush we use for ISIS may wander from the conservative paint by numbers and we need to guard against Muslims and mosques being suspect. We will have precedence and momentum to enact measures against any group. What happens if Jewish people are targeted? Will we monitor and mute any who are anti-Semitic? What will be the threshold of anti-Semitism; pro-Palestinian? Who will decide and who will watch those who watch the rest of us? I would rather not have Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay making maps on thought until they are themselves good at it.

I am saddened and angered by these events. These military deaths almost can’t be compared to those who died in the midst of battle at Vimy, Dieppe or Afghanistan but they must. If we recoil with a reworking of fundamental freedoms, two soldiers killed on home soil will make the very ideals and institutions that thousands have died for mute.

Conservative Logic and the Demise of Democracy

My member of parliament (MP) Ed Holder sent me a 16 page booklet in the mail. According to Ed Holder his “office gets a lot of questions about” how the parliamentary system works. Could it be because it currently doesn’t? Now everyone on my street knows about the Queen, the Governor General, and the Senate, the Cabinet, the Secretary of State and even the Parliamentary Secretary. “Frankly, my dear Ed, I don’t give a damn,” it’s you not doing your job that interests me. Pointing to parliamentary procedure serves seventh graders and costs their parents.

Could Mr. Holder provide us with the number of phone calls, emails and letters that led him to purchase this booklet and mail it out? I find “a lot” a little vague when it comes to thousands of dollars pumping through printers. Members of parliament must keep records; let’s see them. Possibly, it is some final favour to the postal system that is being dismantled. Ed is the Minister for Science and Technology so facts and figures should be a familiar concept. If Ed Holder can’t give us specific numbers to “a lot” maybe he can make up an excuse as to why “a lot” of people can’t type three words into Google and find dozens of documents saying the same or more? While we’re at it why did he send this information to each and every constituent in the riding? Am I “a lot”? If a hundred people have a question do you mail the answers to anyone? No wonder not much has been accomplished on Ed Holder’s watch. He’s too busy being illogical.

There are bombs falling on the Conservatives and their degradation of democracy and failed financial finesse so they fill the constituencies with flyer flack. Only in Canada do we put so much brilliance into Blue Boxes. Don’t get me wrong. I like to see several photographs of my member of parliament so I can know he is well fed. I’m with the Conservatives; we should feed children following the flyers. It sets me at ease to see my member of parliament happy and healthy so he and the prime minster can dabble in democracy.

Recently, we have the Conservatives trying to change Canada’s copyright laws so they can exploit any news piece to make themselves look good or another look bad. The only thing that looks bad is the Conservative government. I would like whoever is heading this charge to change course, to fill me in on how many constituents called for it. Which constituency or constituencies are voicing a concern in this area? How many Canadians have questioned or found fault in the way the laws have been protecting and serving us to date? Is it “a lot?” The Conservatives owe Canadians some numbers. If the political impetus is from politicians mainly, my suspicion is “a lot” of elected Conservatives are trying to stack the deck so they can get elected again. Without facts, numbers and evidence it doesn’t have to serve “a lot” if any common Canadians.

The Conservatives ignore the premise of democracy which is “by the people.” Democracy is for the benefit of all and in the interest of the common people not the House of Commons. An MP’s job is not to keep it. Rest in peace sense, science and statistics. Conservatism is basically asexual reproduction in that an individual can reproduce without involvement with another individual. Hopefully that makes sense to Ed Holder our illustrious Minister for Science.

For Immediate Release: Documentarian John Kastner To Issue Public Apology

http://www.cbc.ca/q/popupaudio.html?clipIds=2547280251

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/forensic-psychiatric-patients-are-ill-not-evil%E2%80%94and-we-should-stop-hiding-them/article18205568/?utm_source=Shared+Article+Sent+to+User&utm_medium=E-mail:+Newsletters+/+E-Blasts+/+etc.&utm_campaign=Shared+Web+Article+Links

I am calling on one of Canada’s most respected and accomplished documentary filmmakers to issue a public apology to those he seems to advocate for. The four-time Emmy Award winning John Kastner should have no issue with saying sorry to the forensic patients he claims to care about.

I am not calling him out as someone who has been found Not Criminally Responsible On Account of a Mental Disorder (NCR); I am calling John Kastner out as the 2014 Canadian Alliance On Mental Illness And Mental Health Champion of Mental Health.

Please read and listen to Mr. Kastner. If his own syllables do not solicit indignation to everyone involved in mental health I can only assume you don’t mind using stigma for a serviette.

Mr. Kastner has not lived up to the standards of respect and empathy for those affected by the issues. His words are not only offensive but in their context they are thoughtless and a serious error in judgment. Using his own words they are “grotesque stereotypes.”

Many seem to be shouting about how great Mr. Kastner’s productions have been but we’re so busy patting each other on the back that we have failed to realize we are seeing John Kastner’s reality. Has anyone stopped to consider the cognitive bias, confirmation bias and facilitated communication that went into these films? I suspect the presence of all three when even one would undermine a documentary’s validity.

Thank the heavens for ratings and awards or the voice of John Kastner may never have been heard. The public would be bankrupt of his beneficial benevolence or is it barely bull? It brings a tear to my eye to have someone so informed and sensitive to my situation and experiences refer to me as a glassy eyed lunatic who spouts gibberish. Such a saint deserves recognition and awards from other incestuously informed liberals and cultural trendsetters. “Look what we did for the monsters and freaks.” I can hear the martini glasses clinking among the society that at least Sean Clifton is included in.

I don’t know about other individuals who are marginalized and disadvantaged in some form but I find it incredibly insulting to be considered not eloquent enough to defend myself. It isn’t exactly empowering to have someone who sees the world through an eyepiece speak for me. Further, even if I was tongue tied I don’t think I could do a worse job.

I can think of no other disability or minority whose self proclaimed spokesperson in fact has no personal experience or stake in the issue outside of wanting to be placed on a pedestal for personal promotion. Having Mr. Kastner speak for me is like having someone with two legs explaining the meaning of amputation and the problems of a prosthetic. It would be profoundly presumptuous for me to sit in a wheelchair and walk away singing the sorrows of being dependent on one for mobility. Further, to take that self-righteous responsibility on myself would denigrate that disadvantaged person and vanquish their voice which may be where they excel; where they dream and dance.

John Kastner is not a patient nor a psychiatrist, therapist or clinician. He has no relevant experience or education related to forensic mental health. It is obvious to me that while he was looking through his lens of presumptions he missed the entire reality of possibilities. When John Kastner speaks it is like asking the horse what it’s like to be a fish. John Kastner felt a raindrop and now he thinks he has gills.

John Kastner could make a dozen movies about NCR and never understand patients. He clearly doesn’t comprehend their feelings and is without any argument not even clinically trained to appreciate what is actually happening to these individuals. Awarding this author of stigma is an affront to my efforts and the abilities of all Not Criminally Responsible individuals. Thanks for the help but it is in fact harm.

I believe white people can advocate for African Americans but when they use any and all derogatory descriptors they become little more than a man on horseback with eye holes cut in a sheet. You may not be the one to lynch but you are doing little more than fueling the flames that allow the rest to fasten the fibers that tear my flesh.

I don’t need to speak to each of John Kastner’s stigmatizing statements. I could easily refute “glassy eyed“(should be in medical journals as a symptom) “monster” (meaningless and obtuse), “scary as hell” (like he’s even been to the border of it), “raving lunatics” (what constitutes raving and lunatic is an 1800’s misnomer) “spouting gibberish” (read my blog and letters from solitary confinement) but I will speak to his preoccupation with the “Jekyll and Hyde transformation.” This seemingly real transformation he shouts about from Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Q” radio and the Globe and Mail should be easy for any documentarian to prove. I challenge Mr. Kastner to show me the factual footage of this apparently very real phenomenon. John Kastner spent 3.5 years in a forensic facility so it should be simply a matter of reviewing a few reels.

John Kastner doesn’t seem to poke his head from polishing his awards and promoting his victimizing views so in the meantime any of us should be able to find this transformation on Google if not in a dictionary. If it is a recurring phrase in ‘John jargon’ it is obviously a recurring event that anyone with an interest in psychiatry could uncover. It must be in every psychiatric and psychology textbook in the nation. Even pharmaceutical companies should have images of this remarkable transformation to promote their anti-psychotic pills or in John Kastner’s world, injections. I have mainly experience to fall on so I will eagerly wait to eat my words which is becoming easy when John Kastner thinks he’s the one who should be using them.

A fantabulous film should not excuse the damage John Kastner has done with his mouth. Mr. Kastner calls on forensic patients to “stop the apologizing.” And he should start.

Gratitude in the Gravy

I am beginning to take Thanksgiving and similar holidays for granted but I still consider them granted. I have had dozens of such days denied in the past. I was a turkey in a cage wishing and wondering about the real ones steaming on family tables. I had occasions of special meals delivered on plastic trays and the flavour was not lost on me but it is family and friends that provide the true seasoning and season.

We had our turkey and cranberry on Sunday. My digestive system seemed to defy probabilities and several pounds of gravy and goodness all but vanished. By 9:00 PM I was hungry again. I popped a pair of Eggo waffles in the toaster which seemed like putting whipped cream on a Frisbee but I like Eggo’s. I hadn’t had an Eggo in about a year and as I waited for it to toast I started to reminisce. The butter on my knife and bottle of real maple syrup reminded me of the days of substitution.

Grocery shopping used to be calculations and unfulfilled cravings. After I met my wife, her wage bulged the budget and foods I longed for made it past the checkout. Grocery shopping became an exciting excursion and a measure of happiness. It was more entertainment than expense and added to creativity in the kitchen. These days grocery shopping is still a pleasant experience but as I bag perogies and produce I walk away wondering which is infused with precious metal. I am grateful we can afford avocados but I wonder about others for whom a healthy diet is unaffordable.

I ate my Eggo’s and thought about days without but I smiled because I have in fact been given a gift. Had I not done without family gatherings and grocery luxuries I would have not licked the maple syrup off my plate.

Dear God, Thanks for Thanksgiving and please consider my syrupy smile gratitude for groceries. Amen

Catherine Zeta Jones

An anti-stigma campaign I follow on Twitter sent me a message that “Actress Catherine Zeta Jones has been living with bipolar for several years and rejects any stigma attached to it.” Easy for her to say. It was further Tweeted that Catherine Zeta Jones says there is “no shame in seeking help.” For someone with fame and finances this might even be true.

For Catherine Zeta Jones, mental health stigma and treatment are vastly different from the experiences of many who also suffer from mental illness. For her being open about her diagnosis and experiences is at least unintentional personal publicity. As they say: There is no such thing as bad press. In the case of celebrities a personal persona and public appetite is created and nourished by being a news story. It would appear that Catherine Zeta Jones has thrown herself in front of an oncoming car for the benefit of many but I would argue that the car has already driven by. The lack of blood and guts, spell evidence.

Catherine Zeta Jones is portrayed as some patron saint of bipolar but what has she really risked? Stigma is at a point that it is rarely rolled out for the famous. I am not inferring that there is no such thing as stigma but little if any cuts through fame and favour. Call me cynical but these revelations don’t seem to affect these individuals beyond increasing their brand, public persona and popularity.

If I’m depressed in bed or manic at the mall, am I apt to seek help or find relief in Catherine’s revelations? The rubberneckers look but the rest of us are too busy trying to survive. These celebrities don’t give interviews in their underwear next to dust bunnies; they follow a loose script in their personal libraries in Bermuda. Speaking of which, what meds do I take to find myself in Bermuda with a maid?

I think “Catherine The Great” has been a source of conversation around mental illness but I would argue that her battle with stigma is similar to Don Quixote who mistakes windmills for giants and charges at full speed. My suspicion is that stigma is a word, for Catherine Zeta Jones. For many stigma is no windmill but a true giant. It affects self image, personal and family relationships, employment and status.

When I think about bipolar I don’t envision a person like Catherine Zeta Jones who uses overpriced shoes for bookends because they’re too cute for closets. In my world people with bipolar have their shoes taken away so they can’t asphyxiate themselves with the laces.

I imagine Catherine’s experience with mental illness has been challenging and difficult but in the scheme of things we are talking about First World problems in comparison to Third World problems. Did she have to wait six months to see a psychiatrist? Were the chairs in the waiting room plastic or leather? Did she have to wonder if she could afford her medication? Was she worried about missing work? Did she have to resort to disability assistance to feed herself?

I’m waiting for one of these famous sacrificial lambs to tell us about their hemorrhoids. That experience is the same for us all and if I knew Catherine Zeta Jones used “Preparation H” I could actually hold my head higher at the pharmacy. There’s little fame in swelling so I shall suffer in silence.

“It is a kind of cold and uncaring environment”

A 30 year old father has died at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre. On the surface it seems no correctional officer or administrator can be faulted because it was a suicide and because this particular inmate did not voice an intention or thoughts about suicide. Corrections sidestep the corpse and deny responsibility because protocol was followed. What if protocol in fact hastens or facilitates the death? Following the rules in this case could be considered the smoking gun.

According to London Lawyer Kevin Egan, who represents hundreds of London inmates “It is a kind of cold and uncaring environment.” I hope Kevin Egan didn’t have to research too many legal documents to come up with the understatement of the century.

Inmates are screened at admission about their mental health and suicidality. “Do you feel suicidal?” if answered in the affirmative will bring about a second strip search and the inmate is placed in solitary confinement or for those who like to justify its use, segregation. The inmate is given a tear proof gown and blanket to go with their toilet and 24 hour light.

For any inmate who is familiar with this system of sadism there is only one answer to the question. “No.” Inmates in solitary confinement because of suicidal ideation or behavior are checked on every 10 minutes. Interestingly, it takes about 5 minutes to die. In the case of this young man because he was segregated but not on suicide watch he would have only been checked every 20 minutes in comparison to the usual 30 minutes in the general population. This deviation points to the admission that solitary confinement creates a dangerous situation that needs increased supervision.

I realize Elgin-Middlesex Detention Center is understaffed and poorly designed but is it not possible for “cold and uncaring” correctional staff to ask an inmate if they are suicidal after intake? Surely, while under the arguably tortuous conditions of solitary confinement an inmate could be spoken to and asked if they are suicidal. Would any institution grind to a hault if such a protocol was implemented? It would require conscience and a degree of compassion but it may save a life.

To be placed in solitary confinement deteriorates mental wellness and exacerbates mental illness. This is where it becomes difficult for guards, administrators and healthcare staff to sidestep culpability. This particular inmate was taking prescribed psychiatric medication and was placed in an environment where whatever mental wellness he possessed was compromised. His mental health was compromised by the correctional system which did little proactive to prevent his eventual death.

There have been 16 coroner inquests into jail suicides since 2007 and the recommendations of better screening and monitoring of inmates has been ignored. This is not only a dereliction of duty but it is outwardly reckless and a foundation for legal culpability.

Slightly Medieval Misconceptions

There seems to be a public misconception perpetuated by the media that when an individual is brought before the courts anyone can make an attempt to use the “mental illness card” and seek a designation of Not Criminally Responsible On Account of a Mental Disorder (NCR). Firstly, when a lawyer seeks the designation of NCR it may be the prosecution or the defense and it is rarely at the direction of the accused. Secondly, it is not pursued for any individual with a mental disorder but only in those cases where there is a possibility that the mental disorder rendered the accused incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act or of knowing that it was wrong. There needs to be a causal relationship between psychiatric symptoms and the offence. To have a mental disorder itself does not automatically lead to a loss of reality.

A finding of NCR does not simply mean that the accused has a diagnosis but that the disorder removed a crucial element of a crime. In order to be convicted of a crime the prosecuting crown must prove that there was criminal conduct or a guilty act but also that there was a criminal state of mind or a guilty mind beyond a reasonable doubt.

In certain instances a mental disorder can render an individual incapable of appreciating that an act was wrong which can subsequently prove that their mind was not guilty. It is not a matter of being ignorant about a law it is a matter of being incapable.

Individuals who are found to be NCR are not innocent or guilty and are thereafter referred to as the accused. They are usually confined to a forensic hospital for treatment and rehabilitation for an indefinite period. Their progress or lack thereof is reviewed yearly by a Review Board and a disposition is decided by a panel after hearing evidence from the hospital, the crown, the accused and the victims. Restrictions may be removed or added depending on the evidence. Public safety is paramount and it follows that the least restrictive and least onerous conditions for the accused are put in place. Treatment and rehabilitation are important but they do not overshadow public safety.

There are instances where a finding of NCR could be pursued but some lawyers do not pursue it as it places their client in a position of indefinite custody. To act in the best interests of their client a finding of guilt is preferred as the freedom of their client is determinant. This is logical but serves no one as the underlying illness is sometimes ignored. From the perspective of public safety this is the less desirable option as treatment and rehabilitation reduce recidivism.

There is a misconception that to be found NCR is some form of getting off. In some instances NCR individuals gain community access sooner than if they were sentenced but the opposite is just as probable.

My interest in the Luka Magnotta case is that it provides me an opportunity to inform and educate. These high profile cases highlight the stigma and misconceptions that permeate our society. The attitudes that spring forth are of little consequence to me personally but I am alarmed because they affect all individuals who experience mental illness. NCR is not a club or union that seeks members. Like anyone I would prefer to see no NCR cases as I am acutely aware that there are victims on both sides.

The NCR provisions in the Canadian Criminal Code protect us all on many levels. They insure humane and progressive treatment of the accused and for anyone with insight who realizes they are not immune to mental illness it is a relief to know you would not be punished for an illness that rendered you incapable of appreciating the nature of a wrong. No one should be punished for events that are beyond their control. This is civilized and this is humane.

I personally believe that the defense in the Luka Magnotta case has a difficult task but my mind remains open to all possibilities and I will wait for more evidence. There appears to be evidence of knowledge of wrongfulness but even this could be explained in the light of a mental disorder. There can still exist an impaired ability to reason or appreciate. It has to be proven that Luka Magnotta had the ability to apply the knowledge that his actions were wrong. To form an opinion and tie the knot of the noose in the first week of a trial is unfair, dangerous, irresponsible, unjust and slightly medieval.