People in the forensic mental health system deal with a double stigma. We are found by the courts to be Not Criminally Responsible yet our communities hold us responsible. We face the social consequences of being involved in a crime and being mentally ill. Neither will get you the key to the city.
Some have difficulty understanding our illnesses and some are unwilling to see past our crimes. We are the accused but by law we are not found guilty. We remain the accused indefinitely.
Many have little experience with severe mental illness and base their attitudes on what little they see and understand. They can see the crime and be convinced of our involvement but may not comprehend that it is beyond our control.
Mental illness is invisible. Imagine yourself being pulled by an invisible tow truck. The truck is mental illness pulling you beyond the posted speed limit. We see the individual and the act and so we prosecute. Someone must pay the ticket.
Mental health stigma is a reality. The double stigma facing those within the forensic system is due to the crime and some are persecuted. We need to separate the illness and the crime from the individual and accept their humanity.