Last night I watched the CBC documentary on Not Criminally Responsible. I hope many people watched it in its entirety to see forgiveness and the transformation of both the victim and the patient. To be caught unaware in a delusion and end up in the reality of jails or nurses is an unlucky event for all involved. No one calls out for these events. On some scale it is similar to a lightning strike. To be struck by lightning does not hold out any more promise of the same happening again. One could consider Forensic mental health care as getting off the golf course.
In a very measured and cautious way most Not Criminally Responsible individuals find themselves regular people again. The underlying perception that these individuals are susceptible if not likely to re-offend is faulty. For some it is their first exposure to intensive mental health care. One of Sean Clifton’s nurses said he saw an “amazing transformation in the gentleman”. I have seen symptoms I would have considered hopeless diminish and disappear. One of the gentlemen I was in hospital with for months had benign but unusual obsessions and references to reality. One day I saw him in the hall and spoke with him, usually it was only nonsense but on this occasion he clearly saw what I did and I could recognize his speech and he mine. There seems to be a link in some people’s minds between a psychopathic mind and one affected by an Axis 1 mental illness. Psychopathy is considered presently to be untreatable and is diverted away from the Forensic System.
The violence in our communities is seldom tied to mental illness but for many minds that is the main connection made. I heard the other evening from someone more than capable of deciphering medicine and math that roughly 3% of violence in society is attributable to mental illness. I dropped out of biology, never took chemistry, was held back in math and ran in boredom from physics but that piece of information means that roughly 97% of all violence is committed by persons with no mental illness.
I’m not sure why our concerns lay with the 3% outside of misconceptions and stigma. CBC did a nice job on one case but to call the show Not Criminally Responsible is like holding up a cup of water and calling it Lake Huron. I realize one hour would have detracted from certain important aspects but if I consider the news story from the perspective of someone who knows little about Forensic mental health I might consider I have seen Lake Huron.
When calling a story Not Criminally Responsible I would expect to find broader information. It was an interesting story but only slightly representative. One can find themselves in custody for a wide variety of charges. Many Not Criminally Responsible incidents do not make it to the paper let alone the front page. For someone who knows little about this specialized area where medicine and the law intersect, I might think Not Criminally Responsible is proximal to violence.
In fairness and clinging to the title of Not Criminally Responsible this documentary failed us all by providing nothing for contrast. An opportunity to inform fell to the need for entertainment. One of Sean Clifton`s nurses from the Brockville institution he called home for eight years highlighted this fact when she said Sean was “one of the illest (sic) we’ve had through”. The CBC ought to know that even when doing a show on Not Criminally Responsible their coverage should be responsible. Canadians deserve no less.