The Folly and Fault of the London Free Press

Yesterdays headline in the London Free Press was: “Luka Magnotta lawyer to seek insanity defence”

Only the London Free Press could screw up simple terminology.

The term insanity is still used in the United States but I expect a Canadian newspaper about a Canadian citizen in a Canadian courtroom to be referenced using current and Canadian terminology. To do otherwise is irreverent and irresponsible. The London Free Press wouldn’t have the audacity to refer to races in a historical context. This example is stigma incorporated.

“Insanity” is not considered a medical diagnosis and has not even been considered a legal term for over two decades so I find it difficult to pull anything informative out of this sensational use of words. In short it is a journalistic joke as it lacks factual flavour. The use of pejorative and offensive terms has no place in public periodicals. It is unnecessary and damaging. We only arm attitudes when we revert to old terminology in any way but most especially in a public way.

“On September 16, 1991 Bill C-30, “Proposals to Amend the Criminal Law Concerning Mental Disorder”, was tabled. Bill C-30 brought about numerous changes and created a whole new system for managing mentally disordered accused under part XX.1 of the Canadian Criminal Code. Bill C-30 was responsible for:
Creating new terminology: “a mental disorder” replaced “natural imbecility” or “disease of the mind”, and “not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder” replaced not guilty on account of insanity.”

The London Free Press says: “Lawyers for Luka Rocco Magnotta will ask a jury to declare the defendant not criminally responsible by reason of insanity.” Wrong. Lawyers are using provisions in the criminal code to determine if Luka Magnotta can be found Not Criminally Responsible on account of a mental disorder.

As further evidence of the incompetence of the London Free Press they insist that Luka Magnotta “is the latest high-profile Canadian murder defendant to seek a not-criminally responsible verdict.” Unless the London Free Press has some way around lawyer-client confidentiality this statement is less than hearsay and likely a fabrication. It is also a contradiction with the headline itself. We are told his lawyer is seeking this defence but also that Luka Magnotta is seeking the defence. Which is it? My guess is Luka Magnotta is unfamiliar with this specialized area of the law and is allowing his lawyer to act in his best interests as is usually the case. The Free Press insinuates that Luka Magnotta has conspired with his lawyer to form this defence. His lawyer is acting on his behalf not likely at his direction. Not Criminally Responsible defendants are a very small group of offenders who in no way exploit the legal system but are in fact prone to abuse by it. Luka Magnotta is presumed to be sane and to have been sane at the time of his offences and it is up to the defence to prove otherwise on a balance of probabilities.

Many individuals involved with this aspect of the law are unable to inform their legal counsel of anything, let alone a possible defence. Not Criminally Responsible in my case was not a chosen defence, it was a defence of default for me. I was incapable of any defence. The courts and medicine intervened to protect justice and my mental health. People who are unable to appreciate the nature of their crime, specifically the fact that it was criminally wrong and probably morally wrong are usually unable to appreciate the complexities of the law.

Today we have a comprehension of the power of words and the disrespect and attitudes they entrench. This terminology was once used to describe people with mental illness and mental disabilities and is therefore historically accurate but it is not socially acceptable presently or currently accurate. It is sensational and label driven. The term insane branded all patients including those with learning disabilities. In the past insane was not intended to be derogatory but can only be considered so today.

It should be noted that we take care about the language used to describe race or intellectual disability but we are less careful in describing individuals with mental illness. I can hear the cries about political correctness and language police but if that is your argument you haven’t taken the time to consider the lives of those affected by such language. The argument against political correctness held no water for minorities and it shouldn’t for any disability.

This headline is as offensive as reminding readers of how we used to refer to African-Americans. To further the insult it is not even correct. This insult is truly ignorant. Would the London Free Press call attention to individuals of different ethnicity who have over the past century been called many things? We no longer call these individuals anything we like.

You can call me oversensitive, off the wall or anything you like but don’t even come close to associating the individuals I have shared my life with as insane. They are not. They are ill; they are mental health patients and consumers. Insanity or insane is derogatory and insulting when used by others, it is also dehumanizing and entrenches unhealthy attitudes. I find it telling that such a reference is embraced when it comes to mental health.

We risk reawakening and highlighting misconceptions in individuals who feed on headlines. I believe many find the brunt of their information and knowledge from such sources. We don’t have to worry about those who are knowledgeable, for they do little to feed stigma. The people who perpetuate stigma have as a foundation of knowledge the very things the London Free Press is holding a candle to.

We combat racism by not tolerating any of it, in any form, on any occasion. References to mental health that are stigmatizing are no different. The corpse of old terms will never smell good and in fact spreads its putrid perfume on us all when it is waltzed with.

I have used the word insane to describe myself and it is my prerogative to do so, just as African-Americans refer to themselves with words they would be offended by others using. It is a way to remove the power from such hurtful speech. Insanity is not only draped in the derogatory but it also has a hopeless flavour to it; some incurable nature.

I am in no way inferring that Luka Magnotta is Not Criminally Responsible any more than I would say he is guilty or innocent. I leave those determinations up to the people appointed to ensure justice prevails despite my personal perceptions and opinions. The London Free Press seems to have other motivations. If Luka Magnotta is in fact Not Criminally Responsible he is not insane. He would be suffering from a mental disorder at the time of his offence. Further, there would be as much promise of recovery and rehabilitation as in any other case. It is not a hopeless or permanent state.

I realize it is not the mandate of the London Free Press to combat stigma but is the responsibility of every journalist to refrain from perpetuating stigma. If this article was a historical reference to “African Americans” we would be appalled and someone would be delivering papers instead of writing in them. The fact that our sensitivities do not extend to those affected by mental illness is stigma itself.

Stigma is a major barrier for individuals in need of mental health services. Casual language used to describe mental illness is often negative and I believe the London Free Press owes the one in five Londoners affected by mental illness an explanation if not an apology.

I have no short term expectation that people will stop using stigmatizing terms but if we are to start, a community newspaper is a good place. I would recommend a more honest and frank dialogue regarding mental illness so we can move beyond the stigma.

People will call me over sensitive but this is not some attempt at political correctness. It is a legitimate attempt to ease the debilitating stigma attached to mental illness. Language evolves and I see no better place to start than in a newspaper. Is it sad or sadistic that the London Free Press clings to terminology found in musty manuscripts? The use of the word insanity implies that all individuals found Not Criminally Responsible are dangerous. This myth serves no one and migrates to all individuals with mental health difficulties.

The London Free Press is using this terminology to be sensational rather than accurate. I take exception to being mislead and though it makes for good press it is a disservice and an insult to all who are affected by mental illness.

It is a euphemism treadmill where the language that is acceptable today may eventually be perceived as an insult but it is still necessary to continue on the path as a form of respect for those affected. Just because “African-American” may eventually fall as an insult does not give license to cling to and promote the terminology of the past. I see this progression for what it is…progress.

Boston Pizza

Fall is here which means hockey. I’m not a huge fan but I do love the game. It’s not about the puck, lines on the ice or even the net; it’s the several times a year my brother and our friend partake in a live game. It could be basketball, tennis or fencing but for me it is an excursion in friendship.

The first London Knights game they took me to was on a weekend pass from the forensic hospital I lived in. I don’t think that memory will ever leave me. For 3 hours I was not unique, I was one of 10 000 fans. Priceless!

On the topic of value and as a direct result of a home team loss I have some observations to share. My first question is who does a colour blind person cheer for in these instances? None of the players are truly local so a person could cheer for either side with as much intimacy. It is basically a matter of a jersey colour that defines allegiance and affection. It would make more sense to cheer for the fans themselves who actually live in the city. I’m not sure why people choose teams to root for and I don’t know if I’m weird but I often cheer for the other team at first just to make things interesting. If it has to do with proximity I’m no more mad than anyone else.

My next question is why does a beer in the arena cost 5 times as much as the ones I drag home myself and up two flights of stairs? With a tip it cost more for three beers than it would for a case of 24.

My main question is why a business that is clearly gouging me and my friends has to have a cup for the poor bartender to receive tips? Should I have to pay for your Mercedes and the help you hire? Tipping confuses me. Being gluttons for punishment or simply gluttons we walked across the road from the arena to see how far our dollars stretched there for a beer. It wasn’t much better. We paid with a stack of 5 dollar bills and were returned with over seven dollars in coins. Hint, hint. If the waitress had a degree of honesty she would have returned one of the 5 dollar bills and mentioned that we had overpaid. Instead she trolled for as much of the remnants as she could expecting coins to be easier to part with than a bank bill.

I realize it is my choice to stay home from these occasions and that I should be thankful I am able to partake in such luxuries but why should going out on the town mean I have to have a psychological wrestling match with my server? Employers could and should pay a proper wage. For me a tip is an excuse to overcharge, make useless calculations and rationalize the more or less of an evening or moment I simply want to enjoy. Often I am left with a full belly and some sense of indignation or guilt for not leaving some defined or acceptable amount of tip.

Shouldn’t I just be able to enjoy my meal or drink and not have to analyze a person’s performance or the timing of their service which may be more in the control of the employer than the employee? Why should every dining experience be an employee performance review? Shouldn’t the employer be doing that before, after and during? If it is my responsibility I should to be compensated for it; give me the tip; no? It all becomes indigestion and a silly pastime employers themselves could and should solve.

Why should it be my responsibility to reward or punish your employees? I’m only there to enjoy the experience but instead I’m backed into a corner of calculations, judgement and mental maneuvering where I am forced to decide if your pimped out, overworked and underpaid employee is worthy of whatever spare change I have or they decide to divide my bills into. Maybe it would be simpler to have a donation box at the entrance of each establishment so I can subsidize the greed of the restaurant industry without thought. That at least would be unbiased.

McDonald’s and Tim Horton’s employees are run off their feet for minimum wage but I am not expected to subsidize their incomplete remuneration. If someone can’t make a profit from selling 10 000 beverages at ten dollars with an investment of two, they can only be an idiot or a capitalist pig.

There are hundreds of occupations where people are paid minimum wage but the food and beverage industry wants public subsidies. This habit leads me to believe people like Jim Treliving who owns Boston Pizza is just scraping by. The truth is Jim Treliving is scraping you and me and his employees. Would you like an appetizer with that?

Sorry Minnesota

It is with great sadness that I issue the following apology to Minnesota. Flushing in my case could be considered a felony.

The issue of medications in drinking water has been with us for a decade though some would say “poo, we knew it in the 60’s.” Like every other ignoramus I never thought what I swallowed made it further than the local sewage treatment facility. Apparently, they have pipes leading out of these places as well.

According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) I am responsible for “widespread neuro-active compounds including antidepressants, anti-seizure compounds (used as mood stabilizers), and mood stabilizers in 24 Minnesota rivers.” My anti-psychotics must be stuck on a rock somewhere.

More than 165 individual pharmaceuticals and personal care products have been identified in water samples. I know I am deflecting but who asked anyone to drink my pee? Note to self, it’s called the hydrologic cycle.

There may come a day when we have to ask our doctors and pharmacists if our prescriptions will interact with water. I can see the little stickers on my containers of pills, “Do Not Take With Water.”

Possibly this news will shine a light on our other activities that we assume have no earthly relevance. Contrary to popular belief the earth is not a toilet that God will flush after we do our thing. It is more so a bubble that we need to consider finite, cyclic and closed. We can keep moving the outhouse but eventually someone is going to step in one of the holes. It will probably be N.I.M.B.Y himself.

The pharmaceutical soup we drink and let fish swim in is creating “intersex” fish, with males developing eggs in their testes. This is not a good thing and may eventually lead to the long term extinction of the “Fillet O Fish” at Mickey D’s which in my short term intestinal opinion might be a good thing.

I know it is selfless but let’s for a moment consider two or three generations down the road of ruin. I long ago suppressed the question of what these pharmaceuticals do to me personally at full strength but as much as I like science experiments I’m not sure I want to find out what they do to fish and infants of any generation in any concentration.

Doctors might be the most alarmed as it won’t be long before prescription pads are obsolete. “Take two glasses of water and call me in the morning.” I too will stick my head in the sand and hope this cocktail will be a cure for cancer rather than a cause.

The CBC tells me that the risk is minimal but also that no one studies it. That sounds like an answer from the Prime Minister himself. We are told the trace amounts found in water are so low compared to a therapeutic dose that there is no cause for worry. So, as long as an unborn fetus is absorbing just a little acetaminophen, codeine, anti-biotics, hormones, steroids, antidepressants, anti-epileptic compounds and dozens of other chemicals we can ignore fish who have eggs instead of sperm. I don’t want to dwell on the past but such idiocy was surely on the lips of scientists before we had a hole in the ozone layer and glaciers became sea levels.

Like all humans I prefer to proactively ignore an issue until it becomes presently problematic but we might want to think about the billions of people who urinate. Researchers have asked whether this cocktail can cause cancer but they have yet to ask about behavioural changes, hormonal changes, reproductive toxicities and immune system compromises.

I consider myself mentally fit but I might be further ahead to filter my own urine so I don’t have to ingest whatever swims in the bladders on my block for which I have never been prescribed. It may also be the socially responsible thing so I don’t deform fish or my neighbour’s cat.

Again, sorry Minnesota.

The Andrew Lawton Show = Stigma In Stereo

Here in London, Ontario we have several radio stations one of which is AM 980. For most that are unfamiliar with this branch of CFPL AM, it is a species of FOX. Normally when I want to hear something stupid I watch the parliamentary question period but today I was informed of a program on Not Criminally Responsible. The host Andrew Lawton seems proud to boast that his is London’s most irreverent talk show.
I completely understand the meaning of irreverence but a lack of respect for individuals suffering from serious and persistent mental illness is beyond irreverence. It is shameful and worthy of listeners or any who are affected by mental illness to make a complaint to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. As compassionate and informed citizens we need to take responsibility in not perpetuating stigma and for people with a public platform that responsibility is imperative if not implied. To vilify people with mental illness cannot be excused by claiming irreverence. If Londoners were subjected to this disrespect directed at any other marginalized and disadvantaged population we would be outraged. These individuals have no voice so it falls to those of us who can stand up to take a stand.
I call for a public apology from Mr. Lawton for the one in five affected by mental illness. This would be a significant and necessary step for Mr. Lawton to take in the discontinuation of mental health stigma. As citizens any apathy is a continuation of the destructive and irresponsible attitudes that have contributed to the suffering of all individuals with mental health difficulties. To see no harm is the foul.
The best part of The Andrew Lawton Show is the 40 second lead in where Andrew is mute. It is as the opening song states “the show that never ends” but if we care about mental illness it clearly should.
The forensic system is made up of highly trained and educated individuals who specialize in this often obscure area of mental health. I could call Andrew Lawton on not including a lawyer or psychiatrist but even I know these people would have to be further specialized to be of any significance to the exchange of proper and significant information.
Andrew Lawton is a liar. In a past show he tells us that a lot of work goes into preparing stories and lining up guests. Maybe for locksmiths but for the complexities of forensic mental health we have only the breath and brain of an ignorant broadcaster.
I’m not sure if it ironic or just sad that Andrew Lawton took the time to interview a locksmith who deals with door handles but found no reason to include anyone with forensic relevance to his so called show on Not Criminally Responsible (NCR). I don’t know whether to be angry or laugh at the fact that a show that involved the intricacies of the Canadian Criminal Code, The Mental Health Act and forensic psychiatry was sewn together with only Mr. Lawton’s delusions, while the segment that followed involving locksmiths actually involved a locksmith. I can in no way shine a brighter light on this man’s arrogance, stupidity and irresponsibility.

I do not believe irreverence or any other excuse precludes responsibility to the truth in airing publicly opinions or anything near information. Mr. Lawton begins his program in a mire or misinformation. He seems to want listeners to think that individuals found Not Criminally Responsible “never have to spend time in jail.” I spent 10 months in a detention centre or jail and was exposed to all the punishment and more because of my delusions. If Mr. Lawton wants to confirm my confinement he can ask the guard who refused me a shower and toothbrush for 7 days. He can look up in the records how long I spent in solitary confinement and he can even interview the other prisoners who took advantage of my illness. Mr. Lawton seems disappointed that I was sent to a mental health facility for treatment and not for punishment. Sorry.
To assist Mr. Lawton in his ignorance I would point out that guilt is not the act but the act of knowing. When someone is found Not Criminally Responsible on account of a mental disorder it is because experts have found that they could not appreciate the nature of the act or omission. They are not sentenced according to a code of punishment but are placed under forensic mental health care. Forensic mental health facilities are secure, humane, progressive and therapeutic. Interdisciplinary teams are used to progress patients through rehabilitation and treatment. These facilities are hospitals and not jails because Not Criminally Responsible offenders are not criminals they are patients. They require not our judgement or fear but rather our assistance.
It is not a chosen path so it makes no sense to punish the traveler for being where they are.
It is difficult for many to reconcile illness with atrocity. It needs to be kept in mind that without the illness there may have been no crime. We recognize the defendant but we cannot see the culprit. The culprit is mental illness.
Not Criminally Responsible in my case was not a chosen defense. If I had my way I would have been a brilliant lawyer at my own trial. It was a defense of default for me. I was incapable of any other defense. The courts and medicine intervened to protect justice and my mental health. If we are to be merciful it is imperative we do not punish illness. It is pointless and cruel.
If it is an eye for an eye, Christ`s words were wasted.
Mr. Lawton seems to think treatment is a “mentality” and rehabilitation is an “argument.” I would suggest getting off your high horse as both are in fact science and medicine. They are both carried out by people with years of experience and expertise. I suggest that Mr. Lawton is in fact deflecting his own inadequacies. He is in no way qualified so he assumes the same of others. Unlike himself, these practitioners are universally recognized as experts. Were he to give them this credit he would be forced to submit his conservative worldview to information and science which we know is like oil and water.
Mr. Lawton simply states the obvious when he says he has “very little place in my heart for people like this.” People like what? People with serious and persistent mental illness? People caught up in circumstances they never imagined? People who are marginalized and disadvantaged? I can only state the obvious and point out that people like Mr. Lawton have no heart. Theirs is a world of retribution where answers are only found in anger and indifference.
Mr Lawton seems proud of the fact that he covers stories that “you won’t hear from mainstream media.” Could it be because they have scruples, integrity and a responsibility to the public to present researched information or at least investigate a story rather than jumping from the horse with a mouthful from the one in front? Just because a thought enters your cowboy hat does not abdicate you of being responsible with your platform. I find it ironic that a whole story devoted to the distaste of people being found not responsible is carried out by an individual who is nothing more than irresponsible himself. Canadians spend millions to combat stigma and a man with a microphone sweeps much of it away with his own personal ignorance which he disguises as opinion.
Andrew Lawton seems to think it is some sort of public service to illustrate an individual case and circumstance and call into question broad and pointless arguments. Calling into question rehabilitation and treatment in general because of a mentally ill individual’s personal oversight is irresponsible and imbecilic. It is as logical as asking if police should be allowed to carry handguns after a civilian shooting. Each officer is unique as are the civilians and circumstances that bring them together. In case the analogy escapes you Mr. Lawton each person who is found to be Not Criminally Responsible is unique as is their treatment and rehabilitation.
With regard to Thomas Brailsford I can only use my own experiences to dispel Mr. Lawton’s ignorance. I was held on a medium secure unit for roughly one year before I was allowed passes on the hospital grounds and it was well over a year before I entered the community on indirectly supervised passes. Extreme caution is exercised in the issuance of passes and privileges. If Mr. Brailsford was released on a pass the public’s safety was paramount. If he was considered a danger or even a threat to himself or others he would never have been granted a pass. This news story is basically about a non-dangerous individual breaking a curfew.
I am taking Mr. Lawton to task because these individuals in most cases are disabled. We cannot see the limp but the disadvantage is obvious if we look beyond our misconceptions. Mr. Lawton can be proud of the fact that he devoted half his show to spouting stigma and disrespecting people who struggle with day to day life. Again, I call on Londoners and others to voice their disapproval of this man and his show. Would we stand silent if it was homeless people in wheelchairs? I think not and that is the slippery slope of stigma.
Mr. Lawton asks if these offenders “should even have rights.” I hate to be the one to break it to this man but as Canadians we all have rights in all instances and they are protected in the Charter and the Constitution. Even free speech which Mr. Lawton seems to have swindled someone into paying him for is a right until it becomes hate. You sir are close to that edge.
I would never call Mr. Lawton a moron so I will let him say it himself. “Just because someone is deemed in a legal sense Not Criminally Responsible, to me, does not mean we can deem them not responsible for it all.” In case this stupidity seems some typographical error I will once again type it word for word. “Just because someone is deemed in a legal sense Not Criminally Responsible, to me, does not mean we can deem them not responsible for it all.” One can only wonder which parts Mr. Lawton wishes people to be responsible for. The temperature? The day of the week?
Andrew Lawton seems to think Not Criminally Responsible is “not of the criminal code but of the justice system.” I hate to point this man to a book but in fact Not Criminally Responsible has been part of the criminal code for over a century. There are no illustrations but even Mr. Lawton could read the print if he was willing to expend the energy or had the intellect.
For Mr. Lawton the designation of Not Criminally Responsible has “gotten people treatment the community would not like to see them receive.” Only the community that is totally callous and without compassion which clearly includes Mr. Lawton.
Another lie made by Mr. Lawton is his insistence that David Carmichael who killed his son “did not know what he was doing and was then released.” In fact he was held in the Brockville Psychiatric Hospital for 3 years if memory serves. Should people in public broadcasting be allowed to promote lies to perpetuate their opinions and mental health stigma? I think we could ask the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that one.
To further Mr. Lawton’s ignorance he calls on his listeners. Adam believes, “the general public doesn’t know what is best anymore.” They never have which is why we have legal and medical experts. It might be fun to stone people on a whim but we have come to the conclusion that justice is best served otherwise. Emotions are not logic or legal and justice remains blind so that evidence precludes emotion.
Blinded by his own belligerence Mr. Lawton turns to Mark who digresses into some story about Nazi’s, the Japanese of WW2 and further peppers his ignorance with words like bonkers and crazy as though he isn’t. Mark states that he doesn’t trust psychiatrists to see the difference between a murderous mindset and mental illness as though he can.
For any who are not intimately insulted as they have not been found NCR take heart as Mr. Lawton “completely recognizes that, by the way, if you are dealing with mental illness you are not operating at full capacity, you are not operating in a sense you are completely responsible for your actions.” He must mean people like Churchill, Lincoln, or Patton. “I completely recognize that, by the way, but that doesn’t excuse you from doing whatever you want.” Like anyone would want to kill their 78 year old mother or their child? Mr. Lawton believes NCR individuals are not being called to account for their actions. Those actions are usually a result of delusions and hallucinations which are not asked for or rationalized. No one wishes to be involved in any of these sad circumstances. A tragedy is sometimes simply a tragedy.

Andrew Lawton wants to bring our attention to Thomas Brailsford who he claims ran away. Mr. Lawton believes he was handed an unsupervised pass. In fact it was first decided by a judge, a lawyer, a crown, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a member of the public and a health care team to grant this privilege and it would not have been issued outright but in incremental degrees as trust and health dictated. Mr. Lawton asks “what would have stopped him from hurting himself or others.” It is something that completely escapes Andrew Lawton; rehabilitation and treatment. Hundreds of NCR individuals are integrated back into communities without incident but thanks for shrouding one instance in stigma. It furthers your political agenda and perpetuates public misconceptions. There’s a media award for that right?

Dear John Kastner: Medicine Is Not Media and Therapy Is Not Theater

(http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/forensic-psychiatric-patients-are-ill-not-evil—and-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)

Re: Forensic psychiatric patients are ill, not evil – and we should stop hiding them.

According to the great documentarian John Kastner, “it’s time for forensic psychiatric patients to stop hiding; stop the apologizing; stop begging for understanding and start demanding that people recognize they are called patients…”

I’m not sure whether to weep or wail at John Kastner’s ignorance. As a past forensic patient I have had a well followed blog for near three years. I have been nominated and chosen as a Champion of Mental Health at a regional and national level. I speak publicly at universities, hospitals and conferences. I have been on TV and radio as a past forensic patient. I’m not exactly famous but for a documentarian I’m basically hiding behind a toothpick. I can only guess Mr. Kastner’s blindness is a direct result of his myopic movies.

It seems incongruent that a national note to empower forensic patients included not a word from one. Thanks for the disrespect and disempowerment.

Even the title of Mr. Kastner’s “new documentary about “THEM”: Out of Mind, Out of Sight: inside the Brockville Psych.” Is an affront to forensic psychiatry and mental health care in general. Anyone with the internet can discover that it is not “Brockville Psych” but it is in fact called and known as The Brockville Mental Health Centre. I know nothing about documentary films but shouldn’t the title be the actual name of the facility? Leave the name out if you have no constructive way of wording it. Further, a truthful title would add to Mr. Kastner’s insistence that his craft is other than sensational like the media he accuses of the same.

As an individual who has lived as a forensic psychiatric patient and was found to be Not Criminally Responsible on Account of a Mental Disorder I take great offence at Mr. Kastner’s so called defence of individuals similar to me. Mr. Kastner’s article doesn’t even make it out of the first sentence without draping readers with the derogatory. Mr. Kastner mentions that these individuals were once referred to as “criminally insane” which is as offensive as reminding readers of how we used to refer to African-Americans.To further the insult it is not even correct. Criminally insane connotates psychopathy which is excluded from forensic interventions as these individuals are presently incurable. The insult is truly ignorant when we consider that in the past these individuals were in fact referred to as Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity.

The second sentence of Mr. Kastner’s so called salve to stigma is not offensive but revealing of the underlying ambition of self promotion which he reiterates twice more in an article of eleven paragraphs. Do Canadians a favour and take out an advertisement which can’t be confused with information or objectivity.

Mr. Kastner faults mental health professionals in Canada for keeping forensic patients hidden from public view as though cancer patients can be found in the flyers on my doorstep. It must be inconceivable for someone who puts anything on film to consider that privacy and peace are integral to healing. Privacy and peace are therapeutic, progressive and necessary. My physician does not have a projectAtron in the waiting room but apparently my psychiatrist should. The public needs to better understand the instances and individuals affected but Mr. Kastner’s tone would have me next to the bearded lady in a carnival. Most forensic patients, me included would rather return to the regular and have jobs, friends and families. I forgo the camouflage of the ordinary so people like Mr. Kastner can become informed and leave those I know and understand to the lives they choose. Medicine is not media and therapy is not theater. Filmmakers should focus on their own art and leave the art of healing to clinicians.

Upon first reading Mr. Kastner’s words I figured he had only fouled his first two sentences but he followed with a third. “Here’s how the hiding works: a person suffering from mental illness commits a horrific act of violence.” There are instances of horrific acts of violence but many are involved in forensic mental health care for less serious situations. If Mr. Kastner wove a story about prison we would only be familiar with murderers. There are no headlines or horrors in many instances so Kastner does not cast them. They do not fit into his worldview or preconceived notions. Whether it is a documentary or a newscast we see only bloodshed because it is about blockbusters. Even a documentarian wants to have people watch his film. We would be barely curious to the reality, so it is formed and fashioned into film and footnotes for consumption. The myriad of avenues for coming into conflict with the law are overlooked in the name of ratings and reviews.

Mr. Kastner in his one man battle against stigma refers to me and all other forensic patients as “glassy-eyed people in jail jump suits. Scary as hell.” Less than a paragraph later he describes himself as “a filmmaker who has helped de-stigmatize many of his subjects…” I would add, at the expense of all others. It all becomes documentarian doublespeak. Mr. Kastner is doing no more for forensic patients than Sun Media themselves.

Mr. Kastner thinks “the secrecy is a terrible idea. You cannot de-stigmatize people by hiding them away.” It makes for easy filmmaking and spectacular shots but few who struggle with mental illness are helped by promotion and publicity. Do you want to see anyone when you have a headache? As a filmmaker I can forgive Mr. Kastner for being ignorant to mental health but he obviously needs reminding of that ignorance.

Many of the advances that were made with me took place behind closed doors. I went to the mall, I went to the library and I went to the park. I sat in a psychiatrist’s office, I sat with a psychologist, I sat with a social worker, I sat with a nurse and I sat with an occupational therapist. I worked through my mental health challenges in privacy, not secrecy. If I took Mr. Kastner’s recommendation I would be on the front steps of the hospital with well wishers honking as they drove past my pain and struggle.

Mr. Kastner’s logic seems to be that practitioners are unhelpful and hide patients. The message they are sending is that “these people are such freaks we dare not show them to you.” I have been around enough mental health practitioners that I have diagnoses for Mr. Kastner. He suffers from projection. As a filmmaker he will be familiar with one of its meanings but it has nothing to do with documentaries. Mr. Kastner concisely and conclusively attributes his own ideas, feelings and attitudes to other people. Here follow his own words; “criminally insane, glassy-eyed, scary as hell, Vincent Li’s, literally raving lunatics, spouting gibberish, often potentially violent, and the Jekyll and Hyde transformation.” I may be spouting gibberish but I can only wonder how Mr. Kastner’s words can be extrapolated from stigma itself into any semblance of a “filmmaker who has helped de-stigmatize many of his subjects.” Mr. Kastner is stigma in action and voice.

I can’t imagine someone so completely blind to the workings of forensic psychiatry or the feelings of those who live and work in it. According to Mr. Kastner he spent 3 and half years in the forensic psychiatric system. Showing up on Tuesday with a TV clearly doesn’t make you informed. I am reminded several times in Mr. Kastner’s article that he has made two documentaries on forensic psychiatry. Mr. Kastner will likely never know what it means to be confined for father’s day without a card or call, family day without family or Christmas without either. I suggest Mr. Kastner has little to no insight into the patient experience which enables him to cast his wounding words. He similarly has no insight into clinician care, knowledge or expertise. Mr. Kastner is a filmmaker. If Canadians need to know about cartoons or colour filters we can call him but when it comes to being a voice for forensic psychiatry or forensic patients he should do us the favour of keeping his mouth shut.

Mr. Kastner believes that hospital staff, who he admits desire to protect their patients are in a “large part responsible for the stigmatization of their patients.” Please Sir, take some credit yourself. Have any of those hospital staff used a national newspaper to call their patients Hyde or lunatics? Save us the sanctimony.

Mr. Kastner has become familiar with some extreme cases and rolled them up into a story he considers complete and most ashamedly now the public considers the same. His focus, language and footage have in no way illuminated anything but a figment of his imagination and a projection of his paltry and pathetic brush with the forensic system and sadder yet forensic patients.

Mr. Kastner calls forensic patients out to “start demanding that people recognize they are called patients…” In approximately 10 paragraphs he did not call me or my friends a patient. I was “criminally insane, hidden, a resident of a psych, someone who has committed a horrific act of violence, glassy eyed, scary as hell, Vincent Li’s, monsters, freaks, raving lunatics often potentially violent and someone who spouts gibberish. If ever he reads this, gibberish may not be the first descriptor he uses.

Mr. Kastner offers me and my friends hope and allays the public’s fears by explaining how “after just two or three injections of anti-psychotic ‘drugs’…many literally returned to their senses.” What he calls the Jekyll and Hyde transformation. I have been a consumer of mental health services for over 35 years and not once have I been injected with a “medication.” I was found Not Criminally Responsible but before, during or after I have been no more Jekyll than Hyde.

I can only hope Mr. Kastner’s documentaries and words do something for himself for they are of little use to those he claims to champion. If a person wants to find fame by filming the forensic please leave your delusions at the door.

I am and we are so much more than Mr. Kastner has ever stopped to imagine.

“Let them drink Scotch”

I read with fascination about the prime minister’s visit to the arctic. I have read about John Franklin’s expedition that disappeared while searching for the Northwest Passage in 1845. I’m happy the prime minister has a history hobby but as a Canadian it raises some serious questions. One headline read “Scotch tumblers were raised last month on the bridge of HMCS Kingston to the search for Erebus and Terror.” Many Canadians are interested in Franklin’s ships but outside of the prime ministers personal obsession, I fail to see the national significance.

Stephen Harper and the conservatives should be paying attention to the terror of the 21st century not the ‘Terror’ of the 19th century. Someone should point the prime minister to a newspaper and highlight a few current concerns. We have a war in Syria, the Ukraine-Russia crisis, conflict in Israel and Palestine, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Ebola, global warming and closer to home the economy, murdered and missing indigenous women, prostitution laws, marijuana laws, the tar sands, the torture of mentally ill offenders and poverty, homelessness and hunger.

It is time the prime minister pulled himself away from the pages of history to take a glance at the misery faced by many Canadians and their children. I’m not sure I could raise a tumbler of Scotch to a dead explorer being the leader of one of the few developed countries without a national meal program for children. It is not liberal or in any way political to ensure all children have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.

Fifteen percent or almost 4 million Canadians are considered “food insecure.” While the prime minister is drunk on his hobby many Canadians are unsure of where their next meal is coming from. These people can be sure that next meal will not come from this prime minister. Stephen didn’t say it out loud but his actions and attentions scream, “Let them drink Scotch.”

The conservatives are drunk on perpetuating their power. Stephen Harper is politically shrewd and has clearly calculated a balanced budget is his only key to re-election. He has also calculated that 4 million hungry people don’t stand in line to vote because they are across town in a food line. The prime minister would rather drink Scotch on the bridge of a ship with his conscienceless cronies and imagine an explorer who risked it all for the benefit of a nation. “You sir are no John Franklin. Nice mittens by the way. Take them off and roll up your sleeves. Your nation needs a builder not a bookworm.”

It is not frivolous to feed people and it is fiscally responsible. Hungry children are sick more often and struggle academically. The medical and social costs are future expenses but you were elected to look ahead not look back. Children under 18 represent over 40% of food bank clients in Canada. If the prime minster wants to look back he should travel back to 1989 when Canada made an all-party resolution to end child poverty. I am not geographically gifted but the answers are not in the arctic.

The search for Franklin is a joint public-private partnership. I’m not sure what the unemployed or hungry think but I feel this historical hunt could and should be entirely privately funded. This government can’t find food for families but they dredge dimes from Canadians to find Franklin. With respect to the dead the man and his mission are beyond saving. The voices of the past are important but meaningless in comparison to the voices of hungry children. This prime minister needs to toss the tumbler and drink in some empathy and social responsibility.

We have two Canadian Coast Guard ships propelling past the permafrost on government gas. What exactly are we giving Canadians? I usually save my swear words for when I’m through the drive thru but Canadian school children don’t give a FROSTY about Franklin when they can’t find food.

Sucking back Scotch with the prime minister were Industry Minister James Moore, Environment Minister Leona Aqlukkaq, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt and billionaire and Blackberry profiteer Jim Balsille was there to represent common Canadians. The Inuit on shore who pay $8.99 for a head of lettuce and the rest of Canadians were too ashamed to participate, or, a shameful reminder. Billionare Balsille “was very proud. It was a nation-building moment.” Anyone familiar with Jim Balsille or Blackberry might question his perception of building.

There’s nothing wrong with being a geography geek, a history hound, a billionaire or a bureaucrat but when your interests are at the expense of taxpayers and citizens without work or food, you become a “figurehead” of folly. The ass end of a ship is the best place for such individuals. Presently we can’t do much about many of these idiots but when the conservative ship capsizes we won’t have to yell “man overboard” as there weren’t any to begin with.

Canadians will no doubt sleep better when we find splinters of these historic hulls. Too bad the prime minister and his cronies will be the few who have food in their teeth to make use of the toothpicks.