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.
I just need to read the news at the moment to realise that what you say is completely true. I’m not sure if a lot of people, or at least the media want to understand forensic mental health. The attitudes put across just make me angry at the disregard for people’s humanity.
Forensics are such a small segment of mental health that most know nothing about it. Even though I was involved in psychiatry I had never hear of Not Criminally Responsible or anything forensic. Even people who work in mental health are somewhat in the dark. Unfortunately, the media gives a great deal of air time to this small percentage. They report on the sensational details mainly. People read a news story and assume they are informed but most maintain many misconceptions. Even serious crimes involve a human. We would rather create a monster than have to acknowledge that the same could happen to us or to someone we know.
This has always bothered me. i’m glad you wrote this post!
I wasn’t sure about the analogy, so thanks.
I have always been concerned about this very thing. I cannot imagine what it must be like to suffer from mental illness AND that lead to criminal activity where you are once again made to suffer for something you cannot be held responsible for. There surely must be consequences where treatment with loving understanding is the consequence of the crime and the only consequence; so the aim is to get the clent well, to nurture their soul with love and kindness and appropriate treatment protocols, rather than shaming with punishment meant for lucid, evil people who choose freely to do harm.My regards
Without a doubt there were moments that could only be viewed as punishment. There were also moments where I was nurtured and I did receive treatment. I have struggled with mental illness for many years. I perceived some of my involvement with the forensic system as extremely negative but I do recognize that I finally received the treatment I needed. I am at a point I may not have arrived at were it not for my journey through jail and the forensic system.
Your perspective is phenomenal and more solid to me than ‘the norm’. I have been bothered all my life about how so many people, and therefore so many parts of our ‘justice’ systems, fail to see crime as separate from the person who commits the crime. There are always so many individual circumstances, and our system paints with a wide brush. I understand that many are only capable of outrage for the victim, but their perspective is so limited, and their compassion needs to recognize and respect the humanity of all involved. It’s the only way there can ever be improved treatment and a culture of justice for all. I’m so glad that one way or another the treatment reached you, and I really respect the dedication I can see in sharing your experience to educate and bring change.
Thank you for your empowering comments. Unfortunately our justice systems seem to be centered on retribution. My post called “Not Criminally Responsible, the burden of accusation and popular misconceptions” speaks to the efficacy of retribution. We seem to forget the innocent people connected to the criminal. As such we perpetuate suffering. I’m not sure retribution lessens the suffering of the victims or those connected to the crime. To derive satisfaction from retribution dissolves hope of forgiveness and possibly healing. Thanks for sharing. Brett
Yes, I have seen the damage that retribution does, from my perspective, most noteably to the victims. Those who forgive, heal, and those who seek to punish seem to live on in punishment themselves.
The innocent people who are connected to the criminal are lost in the whole process, and have only the hope of their own maturity and/or prior support circle to help them through. Unfortunately since the system doesn’t buoy them, many lose their prior support circle too. That’s a place of deep loneliness that no one deserves. In the experience I speak of connecting to, it was a mighty thing of beauty to see that support circle rise in strength, forgiveness, and love despite the flaws in the system. Healing indeed. Thanks again for sharing too.
I was fortunate as well that despite some casualties in the circle of support, others were strengthened. Difficulties that could have easily torn my family wove instead relationships that I would have never have expected or been blessed enough to experience. I did have some very lonely moments in the confusion but I compare it to waiting in line for something needed and special; always worth the wait. It is unfortunate that those who seek or gain retribution feel alive and justified; it is much better to feel peace. Peace sometimes requires letting go, sacrificing our drives and becoming vulnerable.
Wow, so true. I love your perspective of waiting in line for something that’s worth it. You’re a remarkable person, Brett. So glad you visited my blog, and I appreciate the conversation we’ve had. To me, peace is not life without conflict, it’s the blessed calm that reaches the soul when things are accepted and given thanks for.
Thanks so much for the compliment. I also am enjoying the conversation. I agree that peace is not living without conflict. It brings to mind Gandhi who although I don’t know much about seems to illustrate your point. Gratitude is a blessing all can enjoy and is like salt; a sprinkle can flavour any dish. It is a universal spice as gratitude is as well. It can be added to any life and compliment what ever we are dished out.
Excellent quote! Sorry I missed this reply until now. So glad I came across it. The theme of gratitude has been repeating for the last couple days in so many things I’ve seen and said….interesting, and at the heart of contentment, it seems.
Thanks for visiting my blog, glad you did. Although this subject is not the topic of my blog, I’ve talked about it in a couple of my posts due to a family member with a mental illness who is presently in jail. I look forward to your posts.
I hope my experiences might be helpful to someone under similar circumstances. When the criminal system is involved many back away. I am grateful you can speak out.