The Andrew Lawton Show = Stigma In Stereo

Here in London, Ontario we have several radio stations one of which is AM 980. For most that are unfamiliar with this branch of CFPL AM, it is a species of FOX. Normally when I want to hear something stupid I watch the parliamentary question period but today I was informed of a program on Not Criminally Responsible. The host Andrew Lawton seems proud to boast that his is London’s most irreverent talk show.

I completely understand the meaning of irreverence but a lack of respect for individuals suffering from serious and persistent mental illness is beyond irreverence. It is shameful and worthy of listeners or any who are affected by mental illness to make a complaint to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. As compassionate and informed citizens we need to take responsibility in not perpetuating stigma and for people with a public platform that responsibility is imperative if not implied. To vilify people with mental illness cannot be excused by claiming irreverence. If Londoners were subjected to this disrespect directed at any other marginalized and disadvantaged population we would be outraged. These individuals have no voice so it falls to those of us who can stand up to take a stand.

I call for a public apology from Mr. Lawton for the one in five affected by mental illness. This would be a significant and necessary step for Mr. Lawton to take in the discontinuation of mental health stigma. As citizens any apathy is a continuation of the destructive and irresponsible attitudes that have contributed to the suffering of all individuals with mental health difficulties. To see no harm is the foul.

The best part of The Andrew Lawton Show is the 40 second lead in where Andrew is mute. It is as the opening song states “the show that never ends” but if we care about mental illness it clearly should.

The forensic system is made up of highly trained and educated individuals who specialize in this often obscure area of mental health. I could call Andrew Lawton on not including a lawyer or psychiatrist but even I know these people would have to be further specialized to be of any significance to the exchange of proper and significant information.

Andrew Lawton is a liar. In a past show he tells us that a lot of work goes into preparing stories and lining up guests. Maybe for locksmiths but for the complexities of forensic mental health we have only the breath and brain of an ignorant broadcaster.

I’m not sure if it ironic or just sad that Andrew Lawton took the time to interview a locksmith who deals with door handles but found no reason to include anyone with forensic relevance to his so called show on Not Criminally Responsible (NCR). I don’t know whether to be angry or laugh at the fact that a show that involved the intricacies of the Canadian Criminal Code, The Mental Health Act and forensic psychiatry was sewn together with only Mr. Lawton’s delusions, while the segment that followed involving locksmiths actually involved a locksmith. I can in no way shine a brighter light on this man’s arrogance, stupidity and irresponsibility.

I do not believe irreverence or any other excuse precludes responsibility to the truth in airing publicly opinions or anything near information. Mr. Lawton begins his program in a mire or misinformation. He seems to want listeners to think that individuals found Not Criminally Responsible “never have to spend time in jail.” I spent 10 months in a detention centre or jail and was exposed to all the punishment and more because of my delusions. If Mr. Lawton wants to confirm my confinement he can ask the guard who refused me a shower and toothbrush for 7 days. He can look up in the records how long I spent in solitary confinement and he can even interview the other prisoners who took advantage of my illness. Mr. Lawton seems disappointed that I was sent to a mental health facility for treatment and not for punishment. Sorry.

To assist Mr. Lawton in his ignorance I would point out that guilt is not the act but the act of knowing. When someone is found Not Criminally Responsible on account of a mental disorder it is because experts have found that they could not appreciate the nature of the act or omission. They are not sentenced according to a code of punishment but are placed under forensic mental health care. Forensic mental health facilities are secure, humane, progressive and therapeutic. Interdisciplinary teams are used to progress patients through rehabilitation and treatment. These facilities are hospitals and not jails because Not Criminally Responsible offenders are not criminals they are patients. They require not our judgement or fear but rather our assistance.

It is not a chosen path so it makes no sense to punish the traveler for being where they are. It is difficult for many to reconcile illness with atrocity. It needs to be kept in mind that without the illness there may have been no crime. We recognize the defendant but we cannot see the culprit. The culprit is mental illness.

Not Criminally Responsible in my case was not a chosen defense. If I had my way I would have been a brilliant lawyer at my own trial. It was a defense of default for me. I was incapable of any other defense. The courts and medicine intervened to protect justice and my mental health. If we are to be merciful it is imperative we do not punish illness. It is pointless and cruel.

If it is an eye for an eye, Christ`s words were wasted.

Mr. Lawton seems to think treatment is a “mentality” and rehabilitation is an “argument.” I would suggest getting off your high horse as both are in fact science and medicine. They are both carried out by people with years of experience and expertise. I suggest that Mr. Lawton is in fact deflecting his own inadequacies. He is in no way qualified so he assumes the same of others. Unlike himself, these practitioners are universally recognized as experts. Were he to give them this credit he would be forced to submit his conservative worldview to information and science which we know is like oil and water.

Mr. Lawton simply states the obvious when he says he has “very little place in my heart for people like this.” People like what? People with serious and persistent mental illness? People caught up in circumstances they never imagined? People who are marginalized and disadvantaged? I can only state the obvious and point out that people like Mr. Lawton have no heart. Theirs is a world of retribution where answers are only found in anger and indifference.

Mr Lawton seems proud of the fact that he covers stories that “you won’t hear from mainstream media.” Could it be because they have scruples, integrity and a responsibility to the public to present researched information or at least investigate a story rather than jumping from the horse with a mouthful from the one in front? Just because a thought enters your cowboy hat does not abdicate you of being responsible with your platform. I find it ironic that a whole story devoted to the distaste of people being found not responsible is carried out by an individual who is nothing more than irresponsible himself. Canadians spend millions to combat stigma and a man with a microphone sweeps much of it away with his own personal ignorance which he disguises as opinion.
Andrew Lawton seems to think it is some sort of public service to illustrate an individual case and circumstance and call into question broad and pointless arguments. Calling into question rehabilitation and treatment in general because of a mentally ill individual’s personal oversight is irresponsible and imbecilic. It is as logical as asking if police should be allowed to carry handguns after a civilian shooting. Each officer is unique as are the civilians and circumstances that bring them together. In case the analogy escapes you Mr. Lawton each person who is found to be Not Criminally Responsible is unique as is their treatment and rehabilitation.

With regard to Thomas Brailsford I can only use my own experiences to dispel Mr. Lawton’s ignorance. I was held on a medium secure unit for roughly one year before I was allowed passes on the hospital grounds and it was well over a year before I entered the community on indirectly supervised passes. Extreme caution is exercised in the issuance of passes and privileges. If Mr. Brailsford was released on a pass the public’s safety was paramount. If he was considered a danger or even a threat to himself or others he would never have been granted a pass. This news story is basically about a non-dangerous individual breaking a curfew.

I am taking Mr. Lawton to task because these individuals in most cases are disabled. We cannot see the limp but the disadvantage is obvious if we look beyond our misconceptions. Mr. Lawton can be proud of the fact that he devoted half his show to spouting stigma and disrespecting people who struggle with day to day life. Again, I call on Londoners and others to voice their disapproval of this man and his show. Would we stand silent if it was homeless people in wheelchairs? I think not and that is the slippery slope of stigma.

Mr. Lawton asks if these offenders “should even have rights.” I hate to be the one to break it to this man but as Canadians we all have rights in all instances and they are protected in the Charter and the Constitution. Even free speech which Mr. Lawton seems to have swindled someone into paying him for is a right until it becomes hate. You sir are close to that edge.

I would never call Mr. Lawton a moron so I will let him say it himself. “Just because someone is deemed in a legal sense Not Criminally Responsible, to me, does not mean we can deem them not responsible for it all.” In case this stupidity seems some typographical error I will once again type it word for word. “Just because someone is deemed in a legal sense Not Criminally Responsible, to me, does not mean we can deem them not responsible for it all.” One can only wonder which parts Mr. Lawton wishes people to be responsible for. The temperature? The day of the week?

Andrew Lawton seems to think Not Criminally Responsible is “not of the criminal code but of the justice system.” I hate to point this man to a book but in fact Not Criminally Responsible has been part of the criminal code for over a century. There are no illustrations but even Mr. Lawton could read the print if he was willing to expend the energy or had the intellect.

For Mr. Lawton the designation of Not Criminally Responsible has “gotten people treatment the community would not like to see them receive.” Only the community that is totally callous and without compassion which clearly includes Mr. Lawton.

Another lie made by Mr. Lawton is his insistence that David Carmichael who killed his son “did not know what he was doing and was then released.” In fact he was held in the Brockville Psychiatric Hospital for 3 years if memory serves. Should people in public broadcasting be allowed to promote lies to perpetuate their opinions and mental health stigma? I think we could ask the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that one.

To further Mr. Lawton’s ignorance he calls on his listeners. Adam believes, “the general public doesn’t know what is best anymore.” They never have which is why we have legal and medical experts. It might be fun to stone people on a whim but we have come to the conclusion that justice is best served otherwise. Emotions are not logic or legal and justice remains blind so that evidence precludes emotion.

Blinded by his own belligerence Mr. Lawton turns to Mark who digresses into some story about Nazi’s, the Japanese of WW2 and further peppers his ignorance with words like bonkers and crazy as though he isn’t. Mark states that he doesn’t trust psychiatrists to see the difference between a murderous mindset and mental illness as though he can.

For any who are not intimately insulted as they have not been found NCR take heart as Mr. Lawton “completely recognizes that, by the way, if you are dealing with mental illness you are not operating at full capacity, you are not operating in a sense you are completely responsible for your actions.” He must mean people like Churchill, Lincoln, or Patton. “I completely recognize that, by the way, but that doesn’t excuse you from doing whatever you want.” Like anyone would want to kill their 78 year old mother or their child? Mr. Lawton believes NCR individuals are not being called to account for their actions. Those actions are usually a result of delusions and hallucinations which are not asked for or rationalized. No one wishes to be involved in any of these sad circumstances. A tragedy is sometimes simply a tragedy.

Andrew Lawton wants to bring our attention to Thomas Brailsford who he claims ran away. Mr. Lawton believes he was handed an unsupervised pass. In fact it was first decided by a judge, a lawyer, a crown, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a member of the public and a health care team to grant this privilege and it would not have been issued outright but in incremental degrees as trust and health dictated. Mr. Lawton asks “what would have stopped him from hurting himself or others.” It is something that completely escapes Andrew Lawton; rehabilitation and treatment. Hundreds of NCR individuals are integrated back into communities without incident but thanks for shrouding one instance in stigma. It furthers your political agenda and perpetuates public misconceptions. There’s a media award for that right?

“Let them drink Scotch”

I read with fascination about the prime minister’s visit to the arctic. I have read about John Franklin’s expedition that disappeared while searching for the Northwest Passage in 1845. I’m happy the prime minister has a history hobby but as a Canadian it raises some serious questions. One headline read “Scotch tumblers were raised last month on the bridge of HMCS Kingston to the search for Erebus and Terror.” Many Canadians are interested in Franklin’s ships but outside of the prime ministers personal obsession, I fail to see the national significance.

Stephen Harper and the conservatives should be paying attention to the terror of the 21st century not the ‘Terror’ of the 19th century. Someone should point the prime minister to a newspaper and highlight a few current concerns. We have a war in Syria, the Ukraine-Russia crisis, conflict in Israel and Palestine, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Ebola, global warming and closer to home the economy, murdered and missing indigenous women, prostitution laws, marijuana laws, the tar sands, the torture of mentally ill offenders and poverty, homelessness and hunger.

It is time the prime minister pulled himself away from the pages of history to take a glance at the misery faced by many Canadians and their children. I’m not sure I could raise a tumbler of Scotch to a dead explorer being the leader of one of the few developed countries without a national meal program for children. It is not liberal or in any way political to ensure all children have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.

Fifteen percent or almost 4 million Canadians are considered “food insecure.” While the prime minister is drunk on his hobby many Canadians are unsure of where their next meal is coming from. These people can be sure that next meal will not come from this prime minister. Stephen didn’t say it out loud but his actions and attentions scream, “Let them drink Scotch.”

The conservatives are drunk on perpetuating their power. Stephen Harper is politically shrewd and has clearly calculated a balanced budget is his only key to re-election. He has also calculated that 4 million hungry people don’t stand in line to vote because they are across town in a food line. The prime minister would rather drink Scotch on the bridge of a ship with his conscienceless cronies and imagine an explorer who risked it all for the benefit of a nation. “You sir are no John Franklin. Nice mittens by the way. Take them off and roll up your sleeves. Your nation needs a builder not a bookworm.”

It is not frivolous to feed people and it is fiscally responsible. Hungry children are sick more often and struggle academically. The medical and social costs are future expenses but you were elected to look ahead not look back. Children under 18 represent over 40% of food bank clients in Canada. If the prime minster wants to look back he should travel back to 1989 when Canada made an all-party resolution to end child poverty. I am not geographically gifted but the answers are not in the arctic.

The search for Franklin is a joint public-private partnership. I’m not sure what the unemployed or hungry think but I feel this historical hunt could and should be entirely privately funded. This government can’t find food for families but they dredge dimes from Canadians to find Franklin. With respect to the dead the man and his mission are beyond saving. The voices of the past are important but meaningless in comparison to the voices of hungry children. This prime minister needs to toss the tumbler and drink in some empathy and social responsibility.

We have two Canadian Coast Guard ships propelling past the permafrost on government gas. What exactly are we giving Canadians? I usually save my swear words for when I’m through the drive thru but Canadian school children don’t give a FROSTY about Franklin when they can’t find food.

Sucking back Scotch with the prime minister were Industry Minister James Moore, Environment Minister Leona Aqlukkaq, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt and billionaire and Blackberry profiteer Jim Balsille was there to represent common Canadians. The Inuit on shore who pay $8.99 for a head of lettuce and the rest of Canadians were too ashamed to participate, or, a shameful reminder. Billionare Balsille “was very proud. It was a nation-building moment.” Anyone familiar with Jim Balsille or Blackberry might question his perception of building.

There’s nothing wrong with being a geography geek, a history hound, a billionaire or a bureaucrat but when your interests are at the expense of taxpayers and citizens without work or food, you become a “figurehead” of folly. The ass end of a ship is the best place for such individuals. Presently we can’t do much about many of these idiots but when the conservative ship capsizes we won’t have to yell “man overboard” as there weren’t any to begin with.

Canadians will no doubt sleep better when we find splinters of these historic hulls. Too bad the prime minister and his cronies will be the few who have food in their teeth to make use of the toothpicks.

I’m Not Sure How You Screw Up 140 Characters But It Seems The Best Way Is To Elect Them

I’m trying to lose weight and have tried numerous diets as I am allergic to activity. Recently, I have been having some success by viewing various Conservative Party of Canada candidate, MP and ministerial communications. I can’t keep down most of what I eat as a result if and when I even have an appetite. Stupidity is for me at least mildly nauseating.

Today I had a hankering for a double cheeseburger and a milkshake so I visited Minister for Public Safety Steve Blaney’s Twitter account. Fighting what seems like the flu I will forward a few words.

If compassion had anything to do with conservatism minister Blaney would be all over the twitterverse with photo’s of himself towering over individuals with mental illness in a healthcare setting. Instead Minister Blaney allows individuals under his charge with serious and persistent mental illness to linger in solitary confinement. It seems with this government security and healthcare is like oil and water.

As contrast we have the Conservative Party of Canada tweeting “We are the only party who will protect gun owners. Retweet if you’re with us.” I was ignorant of the fact that gun owners were a marginalized and vulnerable population. Minister Blaney’s twisted tweet includes an image of a semi-automatic rifle and his own quote: “Owners of the CZ-858 and Swiss Arms rifles that were ‘impacted’ can now use their private property once again, as should have always been the case.” I don’t know about my readers but I feel safer knowing this government is protecting gun owners. Guns don’t kill, governments do. If gun ownership is proximal to safety or security we are a nation of idiots.

When the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) issued the prohibition of these semi-automatic firearms, gun rights advocates were up in ‘arms.’ According to them 10 000 Canadians became criminals overnight because they now possessed prohibited firearms. Apparently they had difficulty looking up amnesty in the dictionary. Considering ammunition is the word preceding it I can see the problem. They may not even have come that close as they fixated on Americanize.

Firearms lawyer Ed Burlew filed class action suits against the federal government and RCMP. Burlew’s lawsuit was seeking $10 million in punitive damages and $20 000 for each owner of the firearms in question for mental distress and anxiety. While ignoring the mental distress and anxiety of people with serious and persistent mental illness the conservatives capitulated. The only time this government is capable with mathematics is in measuring votes. Gun owners are organized and vote, people with serious and persistent mental illness don’t. Polls trump human decency and social justice every time. I was aware of the fact that this government doesn’t give a damn about mental illness but when their compassion is placed on pistol possessors the double cheeseburger becomes a distant thought.

I know what you’re thinking. “Brett, you have no empathy or compassion for people who wield weapons. What about their distress and anxiety?”

In fact I may be the only citizen in this country who has experienced serious and persistent mental illness in solitary confinement and was once a gun owner. Following one of my hospitalizations I was advised to surrender my shotguns. Possibly it was too traumatic and I have blocked it out but I have no recollection of mental distress or anxiety from the experience. Burlew’s lawsuit was both superfluous and humourous. This government takes on legal battles which they should submit to but capitulate for 10 000 votes.

I wanted a sense of who these gun owners are. Google guided me to the Alberta Magazine Outdoorsmen, Alberta’s only hunting, fishing and trapping magazine. The forum I found was full of indignation. None of these outdoorsmen seemed to have names but are clearly nincompoops.

‘recce43’ said “do not turn anything in. laws only work if the public complies.” These words seem to fly in the oft repeated mantra that gun owners are law abiding citizens. ‘recce43’ did in fact know how to use capital letters as he explained at the bottom of the post “LIFE IS TOUGH…TOUGHER IF YOU’RE STUPID” He should know as he followed with “women have the right to work whenever they want, as long as they have the dinner ready when you get home” Minister Blaney and the prime minister must be proud to be able to accommodate and cooperate with such citizens.

‘Mistagin’ explains the reason the prohibition was repealed while solitary confinement remains a solution for mental illness. “I just sent off a letter to MP Blaney and PM Harper.” I can’t be the only one to get a chill thinking these individuals actually influence conservative policy. You are who votes for you.

I understand that a minister responsible for public safety would be involved in firearm policy but how is it that Canadians are kept safe by allowing more semi-automatic firearms? Children who don’t own BB guns are proportionately less likely to have their eye penetrated by a pellet. It’s not science, it’s sensibility and common sense but that revolution has died.

According to Canada’s National Firearms Association (NFA) prohibiting firearms has nothing to do with preventing bad behaviour. Possibly not but it minimizes the damage done in many of those instances. You can’t control the criminal but it’s tough to pull a trigger when the gun is with the government. The NFA is lobbying the government to eliminate prohibited categories of firearms, rescind clauses on barrel length and caliber that classify firearms and regulations affecting magazine capacity. They also want to eliminate ‘punitive’ safe storage and transport requirements, the Chief Firearms Officers and remove the administration of the Firearms Act from control of the RCMP.

Basically the NFA would like to see shotguns next to six-packs at convenience stores. We need to ask ourselves if we want ‘recce43’ running around with rifles without rules.

I complied with the recommendation to relinquish my rifles because as crazy as I was I was also insightful, responsible and conscientious.

It is criminals who carry out offences using firearms but many of these illegal weapons were and are obtained legally initially. Minister Blaney and Prime Minister Harper need to pull themselves from the polls and decide if the freedoms of gun owners should trump true public safety.

Just because you can lobby, write letters and make phone calls doesn’t make your influence or interests just. In this case it just makes for poor policy. I don’t believe I am the only Canadian who finds comfort in being different from America. Two important differences worth protecting are healthcare and gun control. This government is too busy aiming for votes to adjudicate ethically to either.

London Homeless Coalition

“King’s College Reaches Out to City’s Homeless.”
This is the headline provided by Londoner, a weekly newspaper that makes its way to my front door. I am interested in homelessness and read it.
“A few students from Kings University College are collecting donations to help with a memorial addressing issues of homelessness and the need for affordable housing in the city.”In conjunction with the London Homeless Coalition, students are raising funds for a memorial that aims to provide a space to remember those who passed away due to homelessness.“The memorial – a large uncut rock – will be located in Campbell Memorial Park.” The memorial will cost $ 15 000. So far, the London Homeless Coalition has raised $9 500.”
It is my belief that we do need to raise awareness regarding homelessness.
It is my belief that students can be the heart of community action.
It is my belief that there are many fine people who work hard fighting homelessness on its many fronts.
What I can’t believe is that a $15000 rock is what anyone (either dead or alive) who experiences homelessness would want you to do with $15 000 dollars. I think they might say buy us some candles so we can walk down the street in their memory and feed us with the rest.
The poor souls who lose their lives each year because of homelessness need to be recognized. Maybe that is the key to action but why don’t we have a little march and feed someone while we can.
I don’t even know where Campbell Park is but I would think a bronze umbrella would make a better memorial. At least the homeless could huddle beneath it to keep dry.
If homeless people need rocks, they can find them in their shoes!
I’m sure I have insulted more than a few people. My aim was to make us think before we insult the homeless. This government is as uncreative as any other. Let the only real hope of the homeless be a hand that feeds them. Londoner`s have been able to dig in their pockets for a fair chunk of change. Let it be a chunk of “change. “

Necessity

Is it human to seek despite what you have found? Even at the grocery store we don’t stop when we have what we need, we continue until we have everything on the list and then some. There is always one more record for the vinyl collection, one more place to visit or another gigabyte or pixel to be had.

Is it something in our ancestry; times of scarcity or are we being played? If compact disks weren’t marketed would we have any need to abandon cassettes? I won’t argue with the improvement but as necessity is the mother of invention I simply question the necessity. With all the “progress” in music formats why do audiophiles swear by vinyl? If vinyl is the pinnacle has the last 25 years of “progress” been for naught?

Without doubt some advances are clearly so (at present). I am satisfied that health care professionals wash their hands but how many people have been saved by Prozac and how many have died because of it?

Mental illness used to be locked in the attic or asylum; now it resides on the street or in prison. I fear we cannot see the forest for the trees. As we shake our heads at the past, so will the future at the present.

When mental illness is given the degree of respect we hold for physical ailments, change will be inevitable. Mental illness may not be locked in the attic but the window has only been cracked and the breeze of stigma still fills the room with its stench.

If I have cells in my brain that form a tumor I am one thing. If I have cells in my brain that chemically affect me I am another. We split much less than hairs and walk on the opposite side of the street.

We pride ourselves on our technological advancements but fail to see our compassionate stagnation. If only we valued new ideas, new thoughts and new attitudes as much as new products. If only we rushed out an obtained a new point of view as quickly as a Blu-ray. If only we could package and promote understanding and put ignorance to the curb with the garbage where it belongs we might see true progress.

The next time you reach for change in your pocket; ask yourself if it is the change you need to make.

Living In A Cave

I always marvel at people who have done something for decades. It could be an occupation, hobby or even a relationship. I can proudly boast to have breathed for such lengths of time but little else.

Is it some character flaw or am I inherently dynamic? Is it natural to be somewhat static or are we meant to be instruments and products of change?

If you look at technology and products, change seems to be an aim as much as a need to fulfill a present need. If you look at nature change seems to be part of the design. Mountains become hills, rapids brooks and trees soil. Death may seem to be static but a life lived carries forward in the hearts and minds of many. We ripple through the ages through family, friend and foe. A word spoken or a fist raised may weaken but does it die? If a poet inspires one person or a generation is it not somehow felt by the next?

Possibly, our notion that there is an end to something leads to carelessness. If you believe the gesture is simply that, it may be easier to be casual about it. If you believe it is a current that touches more than one shore, it may be prudent to be more tactful.

Have you ever scolded a child or pet? They are forgiving and resilient but what is said remains lurking somewhere in their minds. They may not cower at the next consonant but what do they carry into their futures beside your words and actions?

Some argue that the past is simply the past but I see my past as essentially what I am made of…it can’t be anything yet to happen. What I have seen, what I have heard and what I have experienced and felt have a huge impact on today. It may be something like coming out of a cave. The present experience of the outside is directly impacted by the former experience of being in the cave. Is it the brilliance of the light or lack thereof in the cave that causes you to squint and blink? Is the view actually unimaginable or has the sterility of the stone walls made it so?

We all live in caves of habit and routine. It could be the aforementioned occupation or hobby or something less productive. What we continue to do we continue to experience. How we react and act towards one another is a result of these experiences. Can we change anyone or anything without changing ourselves? The past will always reside in the cave but do you want the future to reflect those stone walls or the brilliance of what lays beyond?