The electricity is out on my street this morning. Without realizing it, my routine revolves around volts and amps. Whether it is the coffee I drink or the furnace I depend on, many of my needs and most of my desires are dependent on things I cannot see.

I am guilty of not being grateful for the small things. “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” It has also been my experience that only when something ends or dies am I able to recognize the joy that saturated it. Whether it is the end of a friendship, love or a neighbour that moves away, in the midst of our days we sometimes fail to recognize or acknowledge the gift. When someone we love dies we can look back and see exactly what we had and what we will miss. It may be that we idealize the relationship or it could be we finally realize its value.

I remember being allowed my first drink in jail following the dreadful experience of being directed to go without food or water. I was in the semi-private toilet area and I wept. I was thankful but part of my emotion rose from the fact that in my thirty odd years I had never been grateful for a glass of water.

Following this episode I would pray and offer thanks to everyone who made my meal possible. I quietly thanked the farmer and even the steelworker who made the plow. My food tray was spotless minus the packet of salt on which I wrote my thanks to the inmates who worked in the kitchen.

It can be argued that I was psychotic but I do not believe one needs to lose touch with reality to be thankful. One needs only to look further into it.


Dear Don Cherry,

The nation values your informed opinion on hockey but please don’t confuse your expertise of the ice with having any basis for the plays that are far beyond the boards.

You take your less than informed opinion and cast your Tweets among people who may confuse you as someone who is informed. They might actually think you picked up a book on the subject.

“I know the verdict won’t bring back Sgt. Russell but it’s got to hurt to see the guy go scott free. It really is amazing in Canada; it seems if you kill someone and act mentally disturbed your changes of freedom are assured. As if somebody who kills somebody is not mentally disturbed. Like the guy who did the number on the poor kid on the bus out west and the father who did in his kids in Montreal. They’re walking around free. It’s so sad. It seems like this is how it works. First you start with an unelected left wing judge, get a lawyer to whittle the jury down to the left wing thinking “poor me” etc and throw in the left wing media and bingo you are free.”

Sorry Don but you kind of missed the five hole on that one.

I find it fascinating that you actually watch the play and at times the replay before you share your opinions but when it comes to legal and psychiatric matters you see fit to share your ignorance without being in possession of much outside of emotion.

We are grateful for your take on the game of hockey but you do us all a disservice when you spread misconceptions about mental illness, forensic psychiatry and the medical and legal processes that govern those found Not Criminally Responsible.

Since you know how to use Twitter it shouldn’t be too much to ask you to use Google before you share your words with the nation.

Underlying Perceptions

Mr. Kachkar was determined by several psychiatrists to have been suffering from a mental disorder to the extent that he could not appreciate the nature of what he was doing at the time he murdered Sgt. Ryan Russell. It appears some form of mental illness is the culprit. I would ask you to consider a scenario where someone like Mr. Kachkar acted in the same way but because of a brain tumor. Sometimes mental symptoms have a clear biological component.

Would you still want to see him hang if it was a tumor? Would that make him less responsible?

Consider your underlying perception of mental illness. If it is some personal failing or self inflicted to some degree, how can you view these circumstances with anything less than disgust? If you believe the depressed person is their own worst enemy drinking from some contaminated cup, how can you look on someone who was so consumed by their illness that they murdered with any understanding or compassion?

We can all choose a side but as you dig your trench from which to do battle it might be prudent to take a look at the other side to see if in fact they are an enemy. In the rush to take aim consider what it is you wish to strike; is it the man or is it the illness?

If we looked to our government to deal with mental illness with half the passion we do to punish the man we might get somewhere.