“Auld Lang Syne”

I finished a granite sink. I made it multidimensional because I have never worked with granite and I don’t have the tools. I used a skillsaw with a 4 inch diamond blade to cut the sink out and a hacksaw blade to square the corners. It probably took me longer than people who have laser saws with sliding tables.

As is often the case with Forensic patients there are not many people to witness your struggles. Only a few family members and some therapists can confirm the fact that there were many months that I would disappear from a conversation and stare at the floor. It made fellow patients uneasy and those familiar with me questioned why. I have been told that it was a Dissociative state and or symptomatic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Maybe you can appreciate that I now finish too many sentences and thoughts but they are conversations and ideas I left in hallways and Treatment Rooms.

I spent more than a few sleepless nights imagining living on my own in an apartment with a private bathroom, light switch and lock. Granite is good. It is significant that I speak publicly but only as far as having episodes of being non-verbal and non-responsive.

I remember my first speaking engagement at the University of Western Ontario School of Occupational Therapy Welcome to the Profession Ceremony. I was back in my seat before I finished my last paragraph. Speaking was the last thing I wanted to do but I kept doing it. I can see now the my Advocacy has been a form of Occupational Therapy but as I spoke at the Grand Opening for the Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care I was wide aware of the fact that the fathers and daughters who would reside there lived with me at the old facility to the south.

To make a long story longer the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) recently awarded a documentary film maker as one of 150 Leading Canadians for Mental Health. John Kastner made a series of films about Forensic Mental Health and Not Criminally Responsible individuals. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) John Kastner “has courageously and expertly told the stories of people who have committed crimes while mentally ill. Through his films, he is educating Canadians about the complex issues surrounding the Forensic system and giving voice to the people involved in it.”

I admonished John Kastner about speaking for Forensic clients and assuming being there is the same as being there. I assumed he figured that since he filmed the accident that he was a survivor. I’ve witnessed worse and realize Mr. Kastner was focused on similar outcomes.

I had forgiven and forgotten John Kastner but the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH); an organization that has Forensic facilities, has gone out of their way to perpetuate, promote and praise the paternalization of Not Criminally Responsible (NCRMD) individuals. Not Criminally Responsible individuals are a marginalized population but the secret is that most NCRMD individuals tell their stories every day.

We pass you in the grocery aisle. We applaud our children at the same school plays. We sit next to you at the hockey rink

Maybe making a movie about Forensic Mental Health and Not Criminally Responsible individuals living successfully in the community would be too much. Maybe that footage would humanize too much. Maybe that footage would de-stigmatize too much.

I was having a tougher winter than usual in 2014 and I was practicing a presentation I gave at Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario. I was reading and re-reading to myself out loud for days. The stories I presented included some traumatic and painful scenes from my life. I was as close to suicidal as many are able to mention. I spent my monthly income on travel, lodging and food to speak to the students and faculty. Why?

So I can use my voice.

So I can demonstrate my autonomy.

So I can tell the story of a person who has “committed a crime while mentally ill.”

So I can educate “Canadians about the complex issues surrounding the Forensic system.”

“For the sake of old times.”

2 thoughts on ““Auld Lang Syne”

  1. Enjoyed the piece Brett…I need to check out Kastners’ stuff. and as someone who has used the services at CAMH…it is easy to see many people employed there are just going through motions to get their weekly wages…it is just like a goverment operation.
    BILL

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