I Often Find Myself Where I Was Never Expected

I’m not sure I have ever been afflicted with writers block but I do suffer from long silences. I may not put pen to paper but I am usually thinking and as a writer it is always in sentences. Even in my thoughts I manipulate language in my mind. I am often shy about posting and am minus the motivation to speak my truths. Who am I to think another would care what I conjure?
I have a scapegoat for my most recent drought. I have been without paid work in over a decade but of late I am a member of the workforce. I was employed this past decade with speaking, writing and blogging but I am closer to conventional employment these days. I’m not sure milking 1600 goats is conventional but money for manual labour is.
The majority of my work history involves sweat and most recently stiffness. I was going to write sooner of my endeavor into employment but I wasn’t confident of my commitment. For me a disability pension has been a disgrace; I always felt less or worse, lazy. These past few weeks have convinced me again that I am neither. I challenge any twenty something to outperform me in a milking parlour. I’m not bragging, I’m crying.
Writing is a sedentary lifestyle or at least mine was. I sat and smoked organizing my passion into phrases. I have been a month without tobacco and officially a goat milker. I am also officially stupid as I have found a farm where it is my responsibility alone to feed and milk over 1600 goats. That’s two barns full of frustration. Goats are fairly friendly and docile but definitely devious. A goat can see an unfastened gate from a quarter mile and any and all will squeeze through a four millimeter gap.
I’m still trying to figure out if they like to be milked. Feeding is part of the process and though it is a distraction each and every goat knows how to kick off the milking mechanism with a mouthful of food. You might ask “how do you milk 1600 goats in less than five hours?” and some day when I have five seconds or more I will figure it out. The word exhaustion will have to be a clue for now.
When I found the help wanted advertisement I thought, “That might be interesting. I like goats or the three I have met.” I now realize intense is closer than interesting when you’re talking about 1600. I want to quit for the first half of my shift which morphs into I want to finish which is followed by a 35 minute commute where I can say I just milked 1600 goats. I revel in the fact that no other driver on highway 401 is saying anything similar.
It is an agricultural assembly line of sorts but no two goats are the same. Each goat looks different from behind. I don’t have much time to compare but I am recognizing the odd rear end. One goat is freakishly bowlegged and unequivocally the only cooperative goat in the whole flock.
I bought a quart of goat’s milk as a form of job security and I encourage all my readers to do the same. I am giving a one year free subscription to my already free blog for any who mail in proof of purchase. I as yet don’t know how goat’s milk gets distributed in the area but I wouldn’t be surprised if any litre had a spoonful from “my” goats. I can’t say these goats are sweet but a lot of love goes into a gallon.
I use a staff to herd the goats from pen to parlour. I bang it on the gates and walls to speed them from place to place. One goat calmly ignores me. Number 208 waddles along and scratches herself on any and all surfaces. She reminds me not to rush in my fever of frenzy.
Another goat inspires me. It is a young buck who has a triangular wooden yoke fastened around its head to prevent it from escaping from its pen. I find myself confused about six times each night as it defies its constriction and enters and mingles with each pen of goats. I too dislike being told where to be and though not as adept as this bugger I often find myself where I was never expected.

Ignoring inflation it cost $550 000 dollars to deal with my mental illness institutionally.

I read an article in the London Free Press regarding policing and mental health. In a survey Londoners were asked :

“What do you think is the most important crime-related or policing problem facing the community and London police?”

Mental illness replaced downtown safety/bar issues in the top five. Why do Londoners believe that mental health is a police concern? If physical health is not a police concern why is mental health? If diabetics deserve doctors from start to finish why wouldn’t people with mental illness? If we are ever going to view mental illness differently we need to insist on medical interventions rather than law enforcement interventions. Part of the problem is the widespread perception that mental illness is synonymous with dangerousness.

Less than 3% of violence is attributable to mental illness in the absence of substance abuse. If ever we notice someone we suspect as hearing voices or disoriented in their thoughts or actions or somewhat delusional we might cross the street. The truth is that on both sides of the street 97% of our vulnerability to violence comes from the people who have no mental illness. People with mental illness are more often the victims of crime than the perpetrator.

When we allow law enforcement to administer to a health concern it is little wonder that the health concern becomes stigmatized, related to crime and associated with violence. If the police escorted diabetics to the hospital we would all have similar impressions about diabetes. Consider what we visualize, assume, think, feel and understand about mental illness. Now imagine having similar perceptions for a cancer patient. It would be unfair to the diabetic person or the individual with cancer but for the mentally ill it is as it would be for others with other illnesses; a barrier to treatment and a difficulty of rehabilitation.

Five years of my life have been spent under 24 hour care 7 days a week in an institution. Ignoring inflation it cost $550 000 dollars to deal with my mental illness institutionally. If a tenth of that money was used for comprehensive treatment in my youth, I might not be writing this.

A mental health clinician paid $60 000 dollars per year could have treated me for one hour a day for 70 years.
If we continue to fund and access policing and correctional measures to deal with mental illness we will forever feed the wrong end of the cow.

We do not fight cancer by building more cemeteries.(King)

When I first started living in the community after the forensic hospital I saw a psychologist once a week, a specialized therapist once a week and my psychiatrist at least once a month. Those supports were needed initially and they would have been expensive but it was nowhere near the near $350 dollars a day it cost to keep me in an institution. People can be monitored and treated in their own homes.

I could simply say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure but people might miss the point.

We leave mental illness unanswered and instead we deliver services mainly in times of crisis. Figure out the cost of an ambulance, two police officers and a truck or two of firefighters to respond to a suicide call and with any luck deliver that person to an emergency room and possibly a psychiatric unit for an indefinite period.

Now figure out how much it would cost for a therapist to prevent it in the first place.

If the financial realization is not enough for you consider letting heart disease progress to the point where invasive measures were necessary. With every other illness we prescribe the greatest amount of medicine at the beginning because to let any illness worsen is more devastating, difficult and expensive to treat. The social costs are immeasurable.

If you were ask a child how she feels about her father finding the best treatment for his heart she would likely answer the same for helping her father with schizophrenia. The best medicine at the beginning is not rocket science.

We are stupid to continue as we do but we are wrong and inhumane to do nothing.

RE: Vincent Li and Tim McLean. Compassion isn’t a dart we throw it is a net we cast.

I spent the weekend battling on Twitter. I don’t often Tweet but there was much ignorance I felt compelled to refute. Vincent Li who was found Not Criminally Responsible for a very disturbing and tragic incident is in the process of being granted a progression of freedoms in his treatment and rehabilitation. It needs to be clarified that these measures will themselves be measured and monitored. It is also important to understand that Mr. Li has been assessed by several psychiatrists who are in agreement as to the status of his mental health. Most importantly the individuals who contribute information and make decisions on that information have and always will ensure that public safety is paramount. Paramount.

I am not an expert in law or medicine. I have some information about each but my specialty is what it means and feels like to be caught between the two. If you want the definition of psychosis you can ask a doctor. If you want to know what the experience is like, you can ask me. If you want to know the intricacies of Not Criminally Responsible ask a lawyer who specializes in such. If you want to know how those processes affect an individual, you can ask me. I don’t consider myself an expert by any stretch but few know what I know. My journey is far removed from what most experience and I believe that is where my use is found.

Unfortunately, people with opinions often have no desire to hear from someone who actually knows something, as it interferes with their ignorance. Opinions have value but when their basis is ignorance they become water balloons without water; completely ineffective and they go nowhere.

I heard the voices that are incensed and incredulous over the appearance of the case. In my estimation most of these individuals are using headlines for a measure and as a basis of knowledge from which to form and progress their opinions. If a person looks only at the atrocity they can only make basic conclusions.

The severity of the offence is not the indicator of recidivism. If a person stabs another twice they are not twice as likely to re-offend as the person who stabs once. It is an asinine assumption and a distortion of logic. The brutality of the offence for which an individual is found Not Criminally Responsible has no bearing on their prognosis or recovery. The absence of blood in no way determines the effectiveness of medications and the presence of blood in no way determines the efficacy of treatment and rehabilitation.

Tim McLean who is the deceased in this case is clearly a victim. He was simply a passenger on a bus. However, there is more than one victim. We have to consider the families and friends connected to all involved. We have to consider witnesses and first responders. We have to consider communities. We also need to consider Vincent Li himself. Mr. Li is a victim of a mental disorder and a victim of public backlash, stigma and hatred. He no more asked for this event than anyone involved. To be a monster to a nation as a result of an illness is a weight that must also be measured. Mr. Li did not choose his illness and he is quite likely near the front of the line of individuals who would wish the event never occurred.

People confuse psychosis with psychopathy. They are two vastly different states and it is unfortunate they are phonetically similar. It is the same as confusing dentistry with dysentery. Psychosis and hallucinations are Axis 1 disorders while psychopathy is Axis 2. Twitter was awash with words like psycho and I would direct those people to the internet to actually find out the meanings and intricacies of mental disorders. Knowledge is power and slang is pathetic and painful.

I was disappointed to uncover the extent of hatred and intolerance that exists in Canada. People seem to embrace the biblical “eye for an eye” mentality all the while ignoring the New Testament and specifically the red letters attributed to Christ. I guess it is easier to cast stones. Possibly people gain a sense of self righteousness and can forget their own faults. An “eye for an eye” does not bring peace or restore the order of the universe. The universe is unfair and unjust. Just ask a child with a distended belly in a third world nation. People seem to believe the world is just and they become quite worked up trying to make it so through mental manoeuvrings. An “eye for an eye” leaves two people blind and it only expands suffering. It is rather imbecilic to think that suffering can relieve suffering. It is also a little sadistic to find peace in anyone’s pain.

Many individuals seem to think that Vincent Li may be better but Tim McLean is still dead. My sympathies go out to all involved but Tim McLean will be dead no matter what happens to Vincent Li. There is no logic in that argument or revelation and nothing that is done will alter what happened to those involved.

People were flying off the handle saying maybe Mr. Li’s psychiatrist who assessed him should have him as a neighbour. The fact is Mr. Li was assessed by several psychiatrists who came to the same conclusions. The general public and even Members of Parliament like Shelly Glover think they should be the ones assessing and that their opinions which originate from newspapers or less are the only assessment tool needed. We need to allow those who are trained and knowledgeable care for the community and Mr. Li. Despite the brutality of the offence Mr. Li is considered low risk and has been assessed and is being monitored. Few of us could say the same thing about our neighbours. No one is immune to mental illness and it does not discriminate. To an extent we are all capable of atrocity if we become ill to the point Mr. Li was. If you disagree please point me in the direction of the magic water you swallow to prevent mental illness.

I was called a douche, a jerk, a scumbag, a murderer advocate and was told to go hang myself. All were desperate and illogical attempts to overcome the disparity of being confronted by someone found Not Criminally Responsible and who is intelligent, logical and able to disseminate information, form relatively sound opinions and coherently craft them into Tweets. I got a little saucy myself but being the Not Criminally Responsible individual in these arguments I tempered my responses. I came to the somewhat biased opinion that I would rather have me as a neighbour than these scary and somewhat unstable twits. I have been tested and proven not to be a psychopath or sociopath but these individuals cannot claim the same. I don’t much care what they Tweet from their parent’s basement but I am concerned that they interact with others in person and that they are probably allowed to obtain firearms and most terrifying; can vote.

I came to the edge of being insulting and was uneasy with where I found myself. I am one of only a few who to a degree represent individuals who have been found Not Criminally Responsible. I do so not always out of desire but more so out of duty. There are many days I wish to be more ordinary and forget what is past. I realize though that my abilities, experiences and gifts are meant to be shared. I have near total recall of most of my psychosis and as much as it is a curse to remember all of that, it is somewhat rare and it would be a loss not to explain and share with others in an attempt for us all to understand each other. I don’t have fame or popularity to promote my causes. I am involved in the unsavory aspects of mental health: Not Criminally Responsible, the Canadian Criminal Code, Board of Review hearings, courts, police and corrections. Possibly I could let some of this slide if Clara Hughes jumped in but she’s busy on her bike.

I told one individual to “say Hi to everyone on his paper route.” I felt bad that I might be misinterpreted. I have every regard for individuals who support or supplement their income from delivering periodicals. Unfortunately, the 140 characters allocated by Twitter did not allow me to explain my meaning. When I was growing up teenagers delivered newspapers and I was implying that this individual was a child in his thoughts and arguments.

I think it is fair and acceptable that I get a little saucy. I don’t believe that since I was found Not Criminally Responsible that I need to portray something meek and gentle. I am and we all are many things. Part of my point is that I am no different from anyone and I posses characteristics that many and most humans posses. In a way being sarcastic and cheeky is an exercise in illustrating my ordinariness. I grew up with three brothers so I was born and bred to stand up for myself. For years I was unable to do this as I was in jail or hospital. If I had no voice I would be skinnier than I am. I traded barbs with my brothers as an exercise of intellect and debate and it was an ingrained and somewhat socially conditioned form of love. We did not hug each other though we do now. Instead we insulted each other as a form of attention and we found affection, comradery and even respect in its often humourous arms.

The one individual who seemed quite engaged in trying to enrage me gave up when I asked him his real name. He was calling me “champ” in some attempt to belittle me and I told him “my name is Brett and I do not hide.” My full name is attached to my Twitter account. This child was Tweeting from behind his mother’s skirt and when I said to “step up or shut up” he implied that I was threatening him. I reassured him and told him he couldn’t “hide and speak” and that I simply wanted to know if he “was a mouthpiece or a man.” He did not give his name which confirmed he was in fact just a mouthpiece. He was a noise originating from the area of the head but not the brain necessarily.

People were arguing that if Mr. Li misses a dose of his medications he will buy a bus ticket and repeat his actions in some form. Medications are important but only a fraction of the treatment and rehabilitation Not Criminally Responsible individuals receive. Further, these individuals are monitored and know themselves the importance of their medications and the other aspects of their treatment and recovery. In the case of Mr. Li there are a series of supports in place and extended that were not present at the time of the offence.

People think Mr. Li should be locked up forever and worse. Punitive measures do not alter the cause of the offence when the cause is mental illness. Treatment and rehabilitation of the individual with the illness is not only humane and progressive, it is the only successful and logical approach. Mr. Anonymity was trying to argue that all criminals should be medicated and why was Mr. Li so special? Firstly, Mr. Li is not a criminal and secondly they have not discovered medications for greed, stupidity and evil. As you might conclude it was draining attempting to inform such moronity. If I had to do it again I might just walk away as many of these individuals used their opinions as a shield to information. However, some of what I was saying was getting out there and their deflection did not mean I did not reach anyone. I am also pleased that there is a lasting public record of their stupidity. Maybe eventual embarrassment will guide them towards a book.

People were using the grief of those involved as a basis and argument for their hatred, ingrained ignorance and intolerance of people and circumstances they have little basis of knowledge in. People think they are being sensitive to victims and compassionate but compassion isn’t a dart we throw it is a net we cast.

We Can Find A Limp In Anyone But Especially When We Use Our Own Gait As A Measure

I was checking out Twitter and clicked on a link to:

“6 Things That I Have Noticed About People Who Change and Recover From Mental Illness.”

I was excited by the prospect of change and recovery. After I battled with the Pop-Up screens where Barry Pearman was flogging his free book, the wind was knocked out of me. Barry’s first life changing “great stride” was:

1) They make their bed every morning.

Just before I was about to flush my anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers and anti-depressants down the toilet I thought about it for a minute. I started to wonder how many individuals Barry Pearman has seen change and recover. My next question was what the hell is Barry doing in all these bedrooms? Is he a sleuth or a slut?

According to Barry I shouldn’t “drift into the day” but like the Navy Seals who are renowned therapists in his world, I should start my day with “a drilled in positive habit.” I have had suicidal months and been immobilized by depression. It was not a matter of preferring to stay in bed; I in fact could barely get out. Had I owned a bedpan I would have used it. I have also been psychotic and my bed was as likely to have been a magic carpet as anything I would tidy and tuck.

Dear Barry,

If you are going to speak about mental illness please consider the vast array of degrees and diagnoses. What you consider positive may be worlds away from what I value or consider positive. I don’t make my bed for the same reason I do not do the zippers up on my pants when I fold and put them in the drawer. It is to me slightly illogical, a waste of my time and a pointless make work project. When I do not pull my sheets up and tuck them in each morning it enables me to refrain from pulling them back out each evening. You say illness I say efficiency.

I’m sure you’re sure I am destined to a state of illness but I personally look back at my life and see that I have “changed” my mental illness and I have enjoyed prolonged periods of recovery. Obviously this has nothing to do with making my bed.

I am as illiterate as you but in my estimation recovery is not always a destination. Further, it is my belief that recovery is a highly personalized process that can be different for each of us. I can look at another person with mental illness and “should” on them but their habits and efficacies can still qualify them as recovering or recovered. Some individuals with or without mental illness are comfortable to leave mustard on their shirts. We can find a limp in anyone but especially when we use our own gait as a measure. If any measure is to be used it must originate mainly in the individual. If an individual with or without mental illness is able to find meaning and arrive at whatever points of personal satisfaction they set out for themselves they are in no small way thriving. Is it “change” or recovery? I cannot answer that and neither “should” you.

Kind regards,
Brett

Ontario Hospitals Need to Give Their Head a Shake

I wonder what goes through the minds of patients who are pushed off hospital property to smoke in the cold with the public driving by.

Am I to believe I am valued as a person when certain aspects of myself are banished? It is quite like making a child stand in a corner to contemplate their unacceptable behaviour. It becomes difficult to see the love and respect for patients when they are relegated to the road and rain coping as they know how and finding pleasure and escape in a cigarette. These individuals have serious and persistent mental illness and we are worried about them smoking? Privileged individuals are instituting their values on marginalized individuals. Some will never quit so I suggest we stop shaming them.

When I was a forensic patient I really didn’t want people knowing I was such. I found it humiliating having to ride in the “big white vans” because most people in St. Thomas knew where the “big white vans” were from. They were part of the community consciousness and on more than one occasion I heard the “big white vans” used as amusing putdowns.

Privacy is a premise of dignity. When I am placed beside the road like a pathetic pylon I eventually become recognizable to repetitive travelers and commuters. This scenario makes community integration difficult and it compromises patient safety. What if a prospective employer, landlord or lover recognizes me from standing beside the road five times a day? It makes what is already difficult more so. Will I find employment or a date if I am publicly exposed as belonging in a forensic hospital? Nobody deserves a scarlet letter let alone for an unhealthy habit. Are we compromising patient confidentiality by placing these individuals beside a public thoroughfare?

At the old forensic hospital a friend and I ordered a pizza on a summer’s evening. We decided to eat it at a picnic table in front of the hospital. We were well back from the highway but a car full of fools drove by yelling obscenities at us. Not all motorists are mature or well meaning. Some motorists barely know the meaning of a STOP sign but we expect they will comprehend and be sensitive to STIGMA? Forensic patients are prone to abuse and discrimination and placing them beside a road is nothing more than facilitation. Having these individuals within distance of garbage being hurled at them is dangerous and unfair. St. Thomas is fairly accepting of Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care but it only takes one.

When I become a fixture standing at the end of the lane leading to a forensic facility I become recognizable. If and when I am allowed to wander other avenues I am still recognizable. We might as well dip these smokers in orange dye to further accommodate their prospective discrimination. These individuals are already compromised and marginalized and I find it shameful that an organization with a mandate to assist them is in fact harming them.

Her hands were huge and I often marveled at the contrast between red painted nails and a bale of hay being hurled about.

I’m not one to gossip for I know its sting. My step-mother was a sheep rancher or shepherd depending on your latitude. She was a remarkably physically hard working woman even into senior years. She had the misfortune of hands larger than most men. She wore gloves to my father’s funeral and I found nothing but comfort and strength there.

I was doing a flooring job in a stranger’s home and two people were talking about her and finding disgust in her thick fingers. I listened to her being belittled on not much more than her hands. Those hands helped deliver lambs, those hands bottle fed orphans. Those hands nourished and comforted my father, brothers and self. Her hands were huge and I often marveled at the contrast between red painted nails and a bale of hay being hurled about. It was a childhood paradigm shift. Femininity could be included with the strengths I was then aware of.

To be thick of finger is a badge of honour in my world. I was and I know many people who toil with their hands. Many layers of my flesh are a slowly built temple to tasks I have accomplished. I used to even have calluses on my knees. Today one of the few to remain is on my finger. It sits next to my pen as I think in ink and clarify among the bits and bytes that connect and confuse.

In case you’re wondering if I stood up and defended my step-mother, I did not. I knew the individuals would know my father’s name if they knew her. I left them my business card.

Johnathan Sher”lock” of the London Free Press calls himself an “investigative bulldog” all the while missing even simple hospital signage.

“Health Care: Ministry wants more done to protect nurses, patients in psych ward” was the headline on the front page of the London Free Press yesterday.

I have been a mental health consumer for over 30 years and I have never been on a “psych ward”. Apparently writing at a grade six level isn’t enough for the London Free Press and they have reverted to making up their own words. Unfortunately, these words carry meaning for many.

I would like to ask Johnathan Sher”lock” or his exaggerating editor which hospital they have observed signage directing the public to the “psych ward”? If a hospital has enough sense to be sensitive and current the same should fall to any reporter. I would not fault a reader for such references but an award winning health reporter should be ashamed and admonished. Sher”lock’s” misconceptions and sensationalism unfortunately have an effect on the general public. There must be a scarcity of space in the London Free Press and words like psychiatric need to be pruned. We all know it is on purpose. Sher”lock” and his editors have made a cheap attempt at an attention grabbing headline and the casualty is everyone who has, will have or is on a mental health journey. The social impact and perpetuation of stigma are incalculable.

Do we refer to the ICU as the Intensive Care Ward? Is there such a thing as a Neonatal Ward? Governments, organizations and individuals spend an inordinate amount of time and money to combat stigma and we have Sher”lock” and the London Free Press printing phrases that all but dismantle those efforts. There’s an award for that right Sher”lock”?

Sher”lock” calls himself an “investigative bulldog” all the while missing even simple hospital signage. I have a dog and all I know is it is full of feces twice a day. Thankfully the London Free Press does not have an evening edition. Often people’s misconceptions are solidified by headlines. A headline is a means to grab attention but it should be factual and current. Sher”lock” the “investigative bulldog” has stopped at the hydrant of hype and drenched the psychiatric community in stigma.

Johnathan Sher”lock” of the London Free Press reports that “Ontario’s Labour Ministry has ordered London’s biggest hospital to do more to combat violence and overcrowding…”

When I was being admitted to a jail I was placed in solitary confinement because the jail was at capacity. One of the female guards said “a full jail is a happy jail.” This is, was and always will be an oxymoron. I have been in lock-down situations and stacked three men to a cell and if my experience counts for anything the Labour Ministry, London Health Sciences Centre, Johnathan Sher”lock” and the London Free Press only need to understand one thing. If you address overcrowding you have little need to address violence. They are near being mutually exclusive.

Unfortunately, I can speak to the issue of overcrowding, segregation and the suspension of privileges and personal privacy and freedoms. Each and all have an effect on any individual but they are amplified by symptoms and serious mental illness. If individuals with physical symptoms were exposed to a similar environment we would see similar behaviors. The violence occurring at London Health Sciences Centre is environmental more than mental. Psychiatric units under normal conditions are not a breeding ground for beatings.

If Johnathan Sher”lock” was truly an “investigative bulldog” he would have sniffed out reality. Possibly Sher”lock” could have sniffed out statistics surrounding violence in Alzheimer’s patients and individuals experiencing dementia. The psychiatric community holds no ownership on violence. Head trauma can also result in personality changes and problematic behaviour but we paint psychiatric patients with a brush we would not use on other individuals in society who are also vulnerable and compromised for fear that they might be tarnished.

Sher”lock” reports that the “Ontario Nurses’ Association this week accused the hospital and the Labour Ministry of sitting idle while attacks on nurses last year surged 20-fold..”

Firstly, I am saddened by this as my mother was a psychiatric nurse and during my journey I have met dozens of nurses who deserve safe working conditions for themselves and to accommodate the great work they do. My issue again falls to language. Sher”lock” has a legal background and the word attack does not appear in quotations so I can only assume legal relevancy flew out the door when they brought in sensationalism. People are not charged with “attack”, they are charged with assault. Call a spade a spade. Surely not all of these incidents were “attacks.” Any logical person would assume some of these incidents are a harmful or offensive contact with a person. I understand there have been severe incidents but to call them all attacks is stigmatizing and sensational. To use this language to invite change is one thing but to use it to sell a newspaper is prostituting language. Only an overzealous crown attorney or a defunct defence lawyer would refer to an assault as an attack. In a court of law inflammatory inferences are often objected to and sustained. A lawyer writing for a newspaper should also be reminded of their contempt.

For Immediate Release: Documentarian John Kastner To Issue Public Apology

http://www.cbc.ca/q/popupaudio.html?clipIds=2547280251
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/forensic-psychiatric-patients-are-ill-not-evil%E2%80%94and-we-should-stop-hiding-them/article18205568/?utm_source=Shared+Article+Sent+to+User&utm_medium=E-mail:+Newsletters+/+E-Blasts+/+etc.&utm_campaign=Shared+Web+Article+Links

I am calling on one of Canada’s most respected and accomplished documentary filmmakers to issue a public apology to those he seems to advocate for. The four-time Emmy Award winning John Kastner should have no issue with saying sorry to the forensic patients he claims to care about.

I am not calling him out as someone who has been found Not Criminally Responsible On Account of a Mental Disorder (NCR); I am calling John Kastner out as the 2014 Canadian Alliance On Mental Illness And Mental Health Champion of Mental Health.

Please read and listen to Mr. Kastner. If his own syllables do not solicit indignation to everyone involved in mental health I can only assume you don’t mind using stigma for a serviette.

Mr. Kastner has not lived up to the standards of respect and empathy for those affected by the issues. His words are not only offensive but in their context they are thoughtless and a serious error in judgment. Using his own words they are “grotesque stereotypes.”

Many seem to be shouting about how great Mr. Kastner’s productions have been but we’re so busy patting each other on the back that we have failed to realize we are seeing John Kastner’s reality. Has anyone stopped to consider the cognitive bias, confirmation bias and facilitated communication that went into these films? I suspect the presence of all three when even one would undermine a documentary’s validity.

Thank the heavens for ratings and awards or the voice of John Kastner may never have been heard. The public would be bankrupt of his beneficial benevolence or is it barely bull? It brings a tear to my eye to have someone so informed and sensitive to my situation and experiences refer to me as a glassy eyed lunatic who spouts gibberish. Such a saint deserves recognition and awards from other incestuously informed liberals and cultural trendsetters. “Look what we did for the monsters and freaks.” I can hear the martini glasses clinking among the society that at least Sean Clifton is included in.

I don’t know about other individuals who are marginalized and disadvantaged in some form but I find it incredibly insulting to be considered not eloquent enough to defend myself. It isn’t exactly empowering to have someone who sees the world through an eyepiece speak for me. Further, even if I was tongue tied I don’t think I could do a worse job.

I can think of no other disability or minority whose self proclaimed spokesperson in fact has no personal experience or stake in the issue outside of wanting to be placed on a pedestal for personal promotion. Having Mr. Kastner speak for me is like having someone with two legs explaining the meaning of amputation and the problems of a prosthetic. It would be profoundly presumptuous for me to sit in a wheelchair and walk away singing the sorrows of being dependent on one for mobility. Further, to take that self-righteous responsibility on myself would denigrate that disadvantaged person and vanquish their voice which may be where they excel; where they dream and dance.

John Kastner is not a patient nor a psychiatrist, therapist or clinician. He has no relevant experience or education related to forensic mental health. It is obvious to me that while he was looking through his lens of presumptions he missed the entire reality of possibilities. When John Kastner speaks it is like asking the horse what it’s like to be a fish. John Kastner felt a raindrop and now he thinks he has gills.

John Kastner could make a dozen movies about NCR and never understand patients. He clearly doesn’t comprehend their feelings and is without any argument not even clinically trained to appreciate what is actually happening to these individuals. Awarding this author of stigma is an affront to my efforts and the abilities of all Not Criminally Responsible individuals. Thanks for the help but it is in fact harm.

I believe white people can advocate for African Americans but when they use any and all derogatory descriptors they become little more than a man on horseback with eye holes cut in a sheet. You may not be the one to lynch but you are doing little more than fueling the flames that allow the rest to fasten the fibers that tear my flesh.

I don’t need to speak to each of John Kastner’s stigmatizing statements. I could easily refute “glassy eyed“(should be in medical journals as a symptom) “monster” (meaningless and obtuse), “scary as hell” (like he’s even been to the border of it), “raving lunatics” (what constitutes raving and lunatic is an 1800’s misnomer) “spouting gibberish” (read my blog and letters from solitary confinement) but I will speak to his preoccupation with the “Jekyll and Hyde transformation.” This seemingly real transformation he shouts about from Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Q” radio and the Globe and Mail should be easy for any documentarian to prove. I challenge Mr. Kastner to show me the factual footage of this apparently very real phenomenon. John Kastner spent 3.5 years in a forensic facility so it should be simply a matter of reviewing a few reels.

John Kastner doesn’t seem to poke his head from polishing his awards and promoting his victimizing views so in the meantime any of us should be able to find this transformation on Google if not in a dictionary. If it is a recurring phrase in ‘John jargon’ it is obviously a recurring event that anyone with an interest in psychiatry could uncover. It must be in every psychiatric and psychology textbook in the nation. Even pharmaceutical companies should have images of this remarkable transformation to promote their anti-psychotic pills or in John Kastner’s world, injections. I have mainly experience to fall on so I will eagerly wait to eat my words which is becoming easy when John Kastner thinks he’s the one who should be using them.

A fantabulous film should not excuse the damage John Kastner has done with his mouth. Mr. Kastner calls on forensic patients to “stop the apologizing.” And he should start.

Catherine Zeta Jones

An anti-stigma campaign I follow on Twitter sent me a message that “Actress Catherine Zeta Jones has been living with bipolar for several years and rejects any stigma attached to it.” Easy for her to say. It was further Tweeted that Catherine Zeta Jones says there is “no shame in seeking help.” For someone with fame and finances this might even be true.

For Catherine Zeta Jones, mental health stigma and treatment are vastly different from the experiences of many who also suffer from mental illness. For her being open about her diagnosis and experiences is at least unintentional personal publicity. As they say: There is no such thing as bad press. In the case of celebrities a personal persona and public appetite is created and nourished by being a news story. It would appear that Catherine Zeta Jones has thrown herself in front of an oncoming car for the benefit of many but I would argue that the car has already driven by. The lack of blood and guts, spell evidence.

Catherine Zeta Jones is portrayed as some patron saint of bipolar but what has she really risked? Stigma is at a point that it is rarely rolled out for the famous. I am not inferring that there is no such thing as stigma but little if any cuts through fame and favour. Call me cynical but these revelations don’t seem to affect these individuals beyond increasing their brand, public persona and popularity.

If I’m depressed in bed or manic at the mall, am I apt to seek help or find relief in Catherine’s revelations? The rubberneckers look but the rest of us are too busy trying to survive. These celebrities don’t give interviews in their underwear next to dust bunnies; they follow a loose script in their personal libraries in Bermuda. Speaking of which, what meds do I take to find myself in Bermuda with a maid?

I think “Catherine The Great” has been a source of conversation around mental illness but I would argue that her battle with stigma is similar to Don Quixote who mistakes windmills for giants and charges at full speed. My suspicion is that stigma is a word, for Catherine Zeta Jones. For many stigma is no windmill but a true giant. It affects self image, personal and family relationships, employment and status.

When I think about bipolar I don’t envision a person like Catherine Zeta Jones who uses overpriced shoes for bookends because they’re too cute for closets. In my world people with bipolar have their shoes taken away so they can’t asphyxiate themselves with the laces.

I imagine Catherine’s experience with mental illness has been challenging and difficult but in the scheme of things we are talking about First World problems in comparison to Third World problems. Did she have to wait six months to see a psychiatrist? Were the chairs in the waiting room plastic or leather? Did she have to wonder if she could afford her medication? Was she worried about missing work? Did she have to resort to disability assistance to feed herself?

I’m waiting for one of these famous sacrificial lambs to tell us about their hemorrhoids. That experience is the same for us all and if I knew Catherine Zeta Jones used “Preparation H” I could actually hold my head higher at the pharmacy. There’s little fame in swelling so I shall suffer in silence.

“It is a kind of cold and uncaring environment”

A 30 year old father has died at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre. On the surface it seems no correctional officer or administrator can be faulted because it was a suicide and because this particular inmate did not voice an intention or thoughts about suicide. Corrections sidestep the corpse and deny responsibility because protocol was followed. What if protocol in fact hastens or facilitates the death? Following the rules in this case could be considered the smoking gun.

According to London Lawyer Kevin Egan, who represents hundreds of London inmates “It is a kind of cold and uncaring environment.” I hope Kevin Egan didn’t have to research too many legal documents to come up with the understatement of the century.

Inmates are screened at admission about their mental health and suicidality. “Do you feel suicidal?” if answered in the affirmative will bring about a second strip search and the inmate is placed in solitary confinement or for those who like to justify its use, segregation. The inmate is given a tear proof gown and blanket to go with their toilet and 24 hour light.

For any inmate who is familiar with this system of sadism there is only one answer to the question. “No.” Inmates in solitary confinement because of suicidal ideation or behavior are checked on every 10 minutes. Interestingly, it takes about 5 minutes to die. In the case of this young man because he was segregated but not on suicide watch he would have only been checked every 20 minutes in comparison to the usual 30 minutes in the general population. This deviation points to the admission that solitary confinement creates a dangerous situation that needs increased supervision.

I realize Elgin-Middlesex Detention Center is understaffed and poorly designed but is it not possible for “cold and uncaring” correctional staff to ask an inmate if they are suicidal after intake? Surely, while under the arguably tortuous conditions of solitary confinement an inmate could be spoken to and asked if they are suicidal. Would any institution grind to a hault if such a protocol was implemented? It would require conscience and a degree of compassion but it may save a life.

To be placed in solitary confinement deteriorates mental wellness and exacerbates mental illness. This is where it becomes difficult for guards, administrators and healthcare staff to sidestep culpability. This particular inmate was taking prescribed psychiatric medication and was placed in an environment where whatever mental wellness he possessed was compromised. His mental health was compromised by the correctional system which did little proactive to prevent his eventual death.

There have been 16 coroner inquests into jail suicides since 2007 and the recommendations of better screening and monitoring of inmates has been ignored. This is not only a dereliction of duty but it is outwardly reckless and a foundation for legal culpability.

Slightly Medieval Misconceptions

There seems to be a public misconception perpetuated by the media that when an individual is brought before the courts anyone can make an attempt to use the “mental illness card” and seek a designation of Not Criminally Responsible On Account of a Mental Disorder (NCR). Firstly, when a lawyer seeks the designation of NCR it may be the prosecution or the defense and it is rarely at the direction of the accused. Secondly, it is not pursued for any individual with a mental disorder but only in those cases where there is a possibility that the mental disorder rendered the accused incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act or of knowing that it was wrong. There needs to be a causal relationship between psychiatric symptoms and the offence. To have a mental disorder itself does not automatically lead to a loss of reality.

A finding of NCR does not simply mean that the accused has a diagnosis but that the disorder removed a crucial element of a crime. In order to be convicted of a crime the prosecuting crown must prove that there was criminal conduct or a guilty act but also that there was a criminal state of mind or a guilty mind beyond a reasonable doubt.

In certain instances a mental disorder can render an individual incapable of appreciating that an act was wrong which can subsequently prove that their mind was not guilty. It is not a matter of being ignorant about a law it is a matter of being incapable.

Individuals who are found to be NCR are not innocent or guilty and are thereafter referred to as the accused. They are usually confined to a forensic hospital for treatment and rehabilitation for an indefinite period. Their progress or lack thereof is reviewed yearly by a Review Board and a disposition is decided by a panel after hearing evidence from the hospital, the crown, the accused and the victims. Restrictions may be removed or added depending on the evidence. Public safety is paramount and it follows that the least restrictive and least onerous conditions for the accused are put in place. Treatment and rehabilitation are important but they do not overshadow public safety.

There are instances where a finding of NCR could be pursued but some lawyers do not pursue it as it places their client in a position of indefinite custody. To act in the best interests of their client a finding of guilt is preferred as the freedom of their client is determinant. This is logical but serves no one as the underlying illness is sometimes ignored. From the perspective of public safety this is the less desirable option as treatment and rehabilitation reduce recidivism.

There is a misconception that to be found NCR is some form of getting off. In some instances NCR individuals gain community access sooner than if they were sentenced but the opposite is just as probable.

My interest in the Luka Magnotta case is that it provides me an opportunity to inform and educate. These high profile cases highlight the stigma and misconceptions that permeate our society. The attitudes that spring forth are of little consequence to me personally but I am alarmed because they affect all individuals who experience mental illness. NCR is not a club or union that seeks members. Like anyone I would prefer to see no NCR cases as I am acutely aware that there are victims on both sides.

The NCR provisions in the Canadian Criminal Code protect us all on many levels. They insure humane and progressive treatment of the accused and for anyone with insight who realizes they are not immune to mental illness it is a relief to know you would not be punished for an illness that rendered you incapable of appreciating the nature of a wrong. No one should be punished for events that are beyond their control. This is civilized and this is humane.

I personally believe that the defense in the Luka Magnotta case has a difficult task but my mind remains open to all possibilities and I will wait for more evidence. There appears to be evidence of knowledge of wrongfulness but even this could be explained in the light of a mental disorder. There can still exist an impaired ability to reason or appreciate. It has to be proven that Luka Magnotta had the ability to apply the knowledge that his actions were wrong. To form an opinion and tie the knot of the noose in the first week of a trial is unfair, dangerous, irresponsible, unjust and slightly medieval.

The Toronto Sun’s Failed Attempt at Facts Using Michele Mandel As A Moronic Media Mistress

It seems the London Free Press is not satisfied with their own ignorance and stupidity so they are borrowing from the Toronto Sun. It all reminds me of a group of children trying to find answers about the big world without leaving the playground. The result is a group of bedwetter’s who are confused as to what Santa Claus actually looks like.

Information mixed with ignorance and opinions are the things we find in schoolyards or typed up as an article in Sun Media. It is not journalism and it has to be dissected to be considered news. It all reminds me of some Conservative Action Plan sign where we have to discern what is real and what is simply political propaganda.

Michele Mandel seems to have fallen from the teeter totter and bruised her cranium. When your head is up your derriere these things happen. My condolences go out to her proctologist in having to figure out what is what.

According to Michele Mandel, jurors in the Luka Magnotta case “have the unenviable task of determining the murky line between evil and madness.” Evil and madness seem like simple words but beyond sensationalism they could mean anything. Evil could even be the person in the drive thru who gives me the tomatoes I decline but it seems Michele Mandel is the only one among us with a handle on it. We haven’t been able to figure out evil for eons but in this case it’s whatever Sun Media wants it to be.

Madness seems the more manageable moniker but it is not discerned in any fashion by Michele Mandel. Is she referring to mental illness in general or is madness a specific disorder? Is bipolar disorder madness? Is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder madness? Is Depression madness? Or is, as it is being argued in the case of Luka Magnotta schizophrenia madness?

What exactly is madness? I have perused my medical library, Google and Wikipedia and I can’t find an answer but it seems some journalist with a phoney degree in jurisprudence knows what it is exactly. Do share Michele Mandel. The world needs your expertise.

Let’s assume Michele Mandel knows a lick about schizophrenia and because we are speaking about Luka Magnotta that she is referring to abnormal social behavior and failure to recognize what is real. That being said Nobel Prize winner John Nash and author Jack Kerouac must also be considered mad. As a side note and prediction I doubt Michele Mandel will ever be as accomplished or recognized. We will assume Michele Mandel’s mental health is directly linked to her mediocrity.

According to Michele Mandel’s schoolyard logic there was a murky line with regards to John Nash and he somehow narrowly missed being named evil person of the year or he was at least accidentally awarded with a Nobel Prize. I realize Luka Magnotta is not in the running for any award but if he is found to have been incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act or of knowing that it was wrong he is neither evil nor mad, he has a mental disorder. Michele Mandel should be able to appreciate incapable as would most journalists recruited to spew for Sun Media.

I don’t mean to infer that Michele Mandel has a language deficiency as her article has an array of words for mental illness; it’s almost poetic. She gets quite technical and medically irrelevant with words like “crazy”, “insanity”, “ravings” and “diabolical.” For those with an IQ it is journalistic junk recorded in a rag.

If nothing else Michele Mandel is honest as she admits it is impossible to discern between madness and evil. Thankfully the courts do not depend on a journalistic joke and literary lightweight. Canadians don’t need to depend on people who are barely capable with a keyboard. We have forensic psychiatrists who use science to make their way through what to her is a murky line. For them it is not a political penchant but a matter of training, knowledge and experience.

Michele Mandel’s rambling recount of selective facts is thankfully not what the jury will use to determine a verdict and to utter such nonsense is a disservice to impartial journalism, justice and mental health in general. My advice to Michele Mandel is to keep your childish notions out of print so Canadians with integrity can better determine the line between guilt and Not Criminally Responsible On Account of a Mental Disorder. Your agenda and that of your employer should never find its way into print.

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?

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.

Dumb and Dumber

With the conservative government dragging their heels on anything proactive regarding the recommendations put forward by the inquest into the Ashley Smith homicide I must speak.

Sometimes surfing the internet is a vice but I have been fortuitous in stumbling on the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) Commissioner’s Directive. The Commissioner’s Policy Objective Regarding Health Services is:

1. To ensure that inmates have access to essential medical, dental and mental health services in keeping with generally accepted community practices.

From personal experience and more radically from the circumstances of Ashley Smith’s death I feel obliged to point out to the commissioner or anyone else who doesn’t care, that community practices do not include solitary confinement as a default. It seems individuals in corrections feel solitary confinement is a panacea. We leave medicine up to people who are trained to turn keys and push food carts. I can’t believe we pay correctional officers $50 000 a year to call surnames, inspect anuses, turn a key and distribute diets. In Canada we need at least two guards and a lieutenant to orchestrate the ordinary.

Please don’t assume I am a disgruntled delinquent. The same stupidity can be found in many public services. Last month the London Fire Department was experiencing some form of inefficient insomnia or doing some sort of safety blitz. On three separate evenings a full size fire truck pulled in front of my house. I tend to self-isolate and have a degree of agoraphobia so I ignored them the first two times when they knocked on my door. I finally relented and decided my discomfort was less important than the tax dollars that were blowing down the street.

It took two “blueshirts” or regular firemen and one “whiteshirt” or supervisor to canvas me about having fire detectors on each floor and a carbon monoxide detector. It was costing Londoners about $153.00 per hour to have these bored but brave men go door to door and that doesn’t count whatever the hell it cost to fuel a fire truck at $1.39 a litre. Get a Smart car dumbass! I may be an idiot but wouldn’t it make more sense to have a 15 year old who needs volunteer hours to pull a Radio Flyer wagon full of batteries and smoke detectors through the same neighbourhoods to hand out to citizens without? We could save money as taxpayers and probably save more lives. I understand the dilemma. What would fire services have to bargain with if they did less than less?

I digress but it is an honest diversion. While I was in jail I also had “blueshirts” or guards come to my door with the odd “whiteshirt” in the background making sure my captors didn’t screw up simplicity.

According to the Correctional Service of Canada Commissioner and their Response to Medical Emergencies: the primary goal is the preservation of life.

• Non-health services staff arriving on the scene of a possible medical emergency (like a ligature around the neck) must immediately call for assistance, secure the area and initiate CPR/first aid without delay.
• Non-health services staff must continue to perform CPR/first aid until relieved by health services staff or the ambulance service.
• The decision to discontinue CPR/first aid can be made only by authorized health services staff or the ambulance service.

Here I can only wonder why “whiteshirts” were making decisions they were not authorized to make. “Blueshirts” overrode the commissioner’s directive as well. Insubordination and insanity.

Any poor “blueshirt” or guard who can read or remember must have been pacing frantically at watching Ashley choke when we consider the following directives.

• Initiation of CPR by non-health services staff is not required in the following situations:
• Decapitation (i.e. the complete severing of the head from the remainder of the body)

Correctional officers must be known to be overzealous in administering life saving measures if they have to be formally called off when a head is not attached to a body. The correctional officers outside Ashley’s cell must have been convulsing with compassion when they could see she was not dismembered. “But Boss, her head is still on.”

Another instance that does not necessitate CPR is:

• Decomposition (i.e. condition of decay, deterioration, disintegration of the body)

This directive has a place in a correctional setting considering the care many inmates receive. One would assume that an ordinary citizen wouldn’t require i.e. and an explanation of decapitation or decomposition but apparently correctional officers are so thorough in their first aid they need “too far gone” spelled out.
Only in a correctional setting where charges are checked every 20 minutes could one find a corpse in a state of decomposition. “But Boss, I counted him for the past three weeks.”

Considering these directives it seems incomprehensible that Ashley Smith was watched by corrections officers as she choked to death. How is it that when she fell unconscious with her head attached and in no way decomposing no one intervened? It seems ironic that inmates are in these facilities for not following written rules but those who are charged with assisting and encouraging offenders to become law-abiding citizens can pick and choose or even fabricate their own. In Ashley’s case the result was both sadistic and sad.

http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/text/plcy/cdshtm/800-cde-eng.shtml

Commercials Don’t Cure

Times have been tough for many Canadians but thankfully we have Prime Minister Harper to keep us afloat or is it aloof? All I see is a scripted tight lipped dance of deception. The Prime Minister keeps his ministers on leash with such consistency they can only foul where they walk. Parliament is becoming putrid.

Minister of Veteran Affairs Julian Fantino according to Wikipedia was a security guard, serves with Criminal Intelligence and is currently preoccupied with ministerial moronity.

With one in six full-time members of the Canadian Forces experiencing symptoms of mental health or alcohol related disorders, propaganda has become a prescription. Veterans and their calls to Fantino are often not returned and even individuals who show up in person are sidestepped. Accountability In Action; all we need is a sign on the road. Fantino closed 8 regional Veteran Affairs offices and pumped it into propaganda. The conservatives have increased their advertising to veterans by about $4 million. TV therapy.

One would assume a minister responsible for veteran affairs would be slightly familiar with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but what is the political gain in that? PTSD includes a disturbance of day-to-day activities and avoidance yet we have the conservatives dishing out information during the most expensive periods of Stanley Cup playoff hockey. Individuals with PTSD are unlikely to be dialed in to Don Cherry.

Many who are experiencing PTSD and other symptoms are uninterested in hockey let alone the commercials. It makes about as much sense as printing this propaganda on Cheerios cereal boxes. Not everyone eats Cheerios and fewer still read the box.

Canadians are not stupid. It is not difficult to see that this government is more interested in promoting itself than assisting veterans. Who benefits from increasing advertising by $4 million while cutting veterans programs themselves? It’s basically a going out of business advertisement without the bargains.

Fantino defended the spending increase in advertisements as an attempt to communicate directly with veterans. I’m not one to sidestep stupidity but that one seems best left as it was uttered.

I don’t know much about the military but from what I can glean from this government’s actions, veterans are issued TV’s for communication and are without telephones or mail service. I’m a simple man but when I want someone to know something I often use our precarious postal service or pick up the phone. But then Canadians wouldn’t see what a great job the conservatives are actually not doing. If this government was doing a fair job they wouldn’t have to figure out ways of confusing Canadians.

Spending $ 103,649.00 on promoting Tweets does little good to veterans who haven’t a Twitter account. This government is more interested in reaching out to those who haven’t yet been betrayed. You’re an idiot if you need 144 characters to message a hero. It is unfortunate for all Canadians that we are lead to believe by this government more than we are led.

We just passed a huge tribute to World War 1. The same heart that took Vimy, stormed Dieppe and battled Afghanistan. We mustn’t pay tribute only to one conflict or simply the fallen. It is a slap in the face to others who withstood and endured. The conservative answer to selflessness is self promotion and pitiful politics. We must support these brave men and women whenever and wherever they need a hand. We do not leave these men and women injured in the field of battle but we are doing just that at home. It is the epitome of disrespect and I am ashamed that the conservative government thinks more of self promotion than the sacrifices these individuals have made. The blind can see and they can also vote.

For further reading search my blog for “A Disservice To Common Sense.”

Postcard’s To My Peers

The total number of 12-19 year olds in Canada at risk for developing depression is 3.2 million. When I was that age there were only a few.
Why is that? I’m not smart enough to know but I can talk about mental illness thirty years ago. Mental illness was not talked about as it is these days. I don’t recall a word spoken about it until it was I.
I was the only overtly mentally ill person in my high school. No one appeared to be anorexic and the only medication names on tongues were mine. None of my friends had a diagnosis or prescription for anti-depressants. Ritalin wasn’t in every classroom; it wasn’t even in the school. No one had Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in any of my classes from 2 to 12.
Stigma was mostly my imagining I’m sure. I don’t recall any specific disrespect but there were no anti-stigma campaigns, no celebrities with experiences. I felt fairly singular and didn’t have a lot of fun being me. I was a cutter before it was fashion and to place a tattoo over my scars then would have been as unusual. My symptoms were postcard’s to my peers from places they had not named yet. I would not be properly diagnosed for more than a decade. It’s difficult to find the right dose when you don’t know what you’re aiming at.
There were six or eight of us when I was 15 on the psychiatric adolescent unit at the children’s hospital in London. One of my roommates was a young boy who broke my Walk-man. At another time my roommate had bi-polar or manic-depressive illness as they called it then. There was a young girl with anorexia and a few other patients with varying symptoms.
Why is it that were I a student at any high school today I would find others with symptoms, diagnosis, hospitalizations etc? Why is my adolescent uniqueness now a journey for many more?
Today, 8 out of every 100 teens have serious depression. My high school of 400 would today contain 31 others similar to me.
Is mental illness in fact more prevalent and if so why?

Leash On The Larynx

I read an article about student organizations at Duke University and their “Think Before You Talk” campaign. The aim is to re-evaluate and spread awareness about commonly used phrases and their impact.
Language is important and a behaviour that springs from thoughts, perceptions, beliefs and attitudes. Certain words become taboo and or even disgraceful but despite their banishment the sentiments remain in the dictionaries of our hearts.
It is important to be careful about some phrases and expressions, they can become habit. We seldom consider what a word or phrase means to the person or group singled out. We can remove words from our lexicon but the meanings carry into new ones. You don’t hear the word Nutter much but you can catch the flavour even in song lyrics which reference bi-polar. If a person refers to something as Gay we can socially reject its use but from where it stems may never be altered. For some it becomes a mental maneuver to ensure social acceptance.
Making it unacceptable to speak with certain phrases will have an effect on prejudice and stigma but a thought will still be a thought. If I think in a derogatory fashion watching my tongue will not change the attitude which wags it. If I keep a derogatory remark to myself it is unlikely to change the values or judgements I place on people who are different from me.
In some small way when someone can be devalued and thus held with less regard it can be a boost to self esteem. If a group or individual become a putdown it is made by someone who wishes to be more. Possibly that individual is threatened and or confused as to their own status. We need to change the thoughts behind the use of offensive slang. These thoughts have become ghettos for people different from some imaginary homogeneous ideal.
It is more helpful to change the attitudes which give rise to offensive remarks. If we censor the tongue, what rattles in the mind continues. Not using certain phrases changes what is passed and where but a bigot can stand next to those he hates with a leash on his larynx.

Goof’s

Criminal charges have been laid against two correctional officers and one supervisor at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre in London, Ontario, Canada, in connection with the October beating death of 29-year-old inmate Adam Kargus. All three staff members were charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life. They are 47-year-old Leslie Lonsbary, 55-year-old Gregory Langford, and 52-year-old Stephen Jurkus.

It surely must have been a strange day for the three to spend some hours in jail. I suspect unlike Mr. Kargus, they were not placed with a historically violent offender. They probably weren’t bullied for their meals and I would be surprised if they even had to show their rectums like the rest of us.

I’m not sure who to swing at first. The provincial Liberals even after inquests have ignored systemic and specific problems at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC). There is blood on their hands. The Liberals and ministers have a societal if not legal duty not to endanger lives. The Liberals have not performed their duty and are negligent. They should be held responsible but will receive pensions rather than prison. They have shown complete disregard for officer and inmate safety. It may not be criminal negligence but it is clearly political negligence. They won’t find themselves in court but come election time they may not find themselves in office. Being in the provincial legislature should be an honour, not a defence. In court it is not necessary to show intent regarding negligence, it is enough to show indifference. This story involves an incident but the situation and conditions have been presented to this government for over a year and a half and it has been mishandled as long.

Don Ford who is a spokesperson for the Ontario Public Services Employee Union (OPSEU) is quoted as saying “The ministry hasn’t fixed the problems in there and now we do have a tragedy, the death of this inmate (his name was Adam)(sic)and officers being charged.” If officers being charged is a tragedy it must also be a tragedy that the murderer was charged as well. “That is just heartbreaking to be honest.” said Mr. Ford. Funny, I don’t recall OPSEU or Don Ford being heartbroken until officers were charged. That’s the problem right there. Respect and concern can be found in spades amongst guards but it is extinct in many instances between inmates and officers. It is probably a good thing that Corrections doesn’t have their own Special Investigations Unit made up of correctional officers like we have for police forces. We know that track record or is it a broken record – “found no wrongdoing.” Don Ford is also quoted as saying the murder “did not happen in isolation of conditions.” Isn’t that like saying the driver wasn’t responsible for going 100 miles per hour but rather rain slick roads were the cause of the crash?

Adam Kargus was beaten and died on October 31st and discovered at 10 a.m. on November 1st. So much for checking on your charges every 30 minutes. It will be argued that only two officers were working in a situation that required three. I would be curious to know if union breaks and meals were taken. I was a business owner and often duties fell to me that required two people. It was a flooring business but I was conscientious enough to ensure the job was done. People had kitchens and bathrooms they needed back and now a family has a son they need back.

We are talking about a minimum level of care. Can we not expect that at least from our government, its ministers and civil servants? The necessities of life are a societal standard, unfortunately correctional officers sometimes use personal standards. Hopefully Adam’s death will raise both.

Since I am calling out people I will also call out the inmates themselves. One inmate who was on the unit at the time of the murder said in court that “he was screaming for help.” The prisoner code is animalistic, immoral and perverted. Anyone who heard those screams for hours should be haunted. Your silence was the fatal blow. Your code and infantile rules such as never to call someone a “Goof” has become a nail in a coffin. A Goof is as a Goof does.

Will The Pharmacist Wag His Finger?

“A new study out of Ohio State University shows there is a cyclical relationship between casual sex and mental health – poor mental health contributes to more casual sex, which leads to more mental health problems.” This springs from The Christian Post dot com, Last Generation Network News Christian Edition, Baptist Ministries dot org. and Brazo Valley Ministries dot org.

If casual sex is linked to poor mental health what a sinner am I. Judging from my psychiatric history it would be a wonder I found time to eat being busy with the other. If we must extrapolate from a study it is worth looking at the findings with some common sense. If there is a link, please explain childhood mental illnesses. My first contact with the mental health system was at the age of ten. This I can now clearly link to me playing doctor with that girl from kindergarten. There is a long list of disorders which afflict children who are most unlikely to be sinners. To use one study to perpetuate perceptions of morality is irresponsible and possibly manipulative. What do you tell the virginal anorexic? What about the biblically sound schizophrenic?

I was under the impression that sin was no longer considered the cause of mental illness. We have long since ceased trying to cast out evil spirits and in fact the chastity belts that were used on psychiatric patients have proven ineffective. I guess it does offer some hope; if I can keep my knees together quite likely this cloud of depression will disappear.

I was seven years celibate while dancing with justice. I would like any of my readers who can relate to being thirty something to imagine a drought such as this. Maybe we should extrapolate that the worst years of my mental health were a result of not getting enough. If anecdotal evidence is worth anything I longed for touch when I was in jail and hospital. I’m not condoning casual sex but to link it to mental health only adds to the shame many experience as a result of their illnesses. When I walk into the school following my hospitalization what are the assumptions and attitudes of my classmates? When I walk into the pharmacy for my medication will the pharmacist wag his finger?

Mental Illness Is Next Semester

It was brought to my attention from a learned friend that the University here in London has run into some publicity. The University of Western Ontario newspaper, the gazette, published a cartoon with words to the effect “Why are you so happy?” “My brother was really depressed, but he finally hung himself.”

My neighbour hung himself as did his sister. I had a relative commit suicide. Two good friends from my hospital years killed themselves. There were more but I was less familiar with them. Therein lays the problem, familiarity.

I can recall coming out of my 30 hour coma and my brother saying quite the opposite.

One of my first thoughts to this was why this was not considered as offensive as the chants condoning non-consensual sex with a minor that we have come to know through other places of higher learning. Are there actually people on talk shows defending this cartoon and its publication?

The defense of or minimization of this cartoon is in fact stigma. We don’t condone sex with minors but we condone making fun of minors who commits suicide and therefore infer those who have similar thoughts are laughable at best.

I read a comment in response to the cartoon from someone claiming to have suffered from depression. They saw humour in it. It can be a blessing to have depression that does not involve suicidal ideation. It is also a blessing to be on the side of mental health that has you on a message board making opinions. We need to consider the student in her room. The one who although beautiful and bright is unable to see her place, success or happiness in this thing called university. To her friends seem to belong to others and her isolation is found in crowded hallways. This young woman needs our help not our laughter. When she sees a publication representing her peers and the university community in general making light of the very thoughts in her head, she can only hang it in shame. She keeps quite, she masks, she isolates and her wounds become infected by our very words.

Crazy, out of it, best let be, she internalizes our attitudes and they become fuel for an ever unfavourable opinion of self. She becomes slang, she becomes a put down, she becomes a joke.

For those who see no error; no foul, it may be constructive to self reflect. It is possible your attitude of indifference or acceptance is stigma itself. To not be offended about this cartoon raises more questions about the self than about any larger argument. A joke is not funny because someone calls it a joke. If it was a race, a sex or even a sexual orientation, students would have signs about the campus. Mental illness is next semester or an elective at best.

You can call me thin skinned but as likely we have grown thick in apathy. It was only a cartoon, there must be larger fights; maybe so but you have to stop the dog from digging before you can fill in the hole.

There was humour in the underage sex chants, no one meant any harm. A nation said no. An institution said no. If we are to combat one of the worst side effects of mental illness we must again say no.

We can be forgiving of all this. We are all learning, students more so. We need to impress on our students that the pages they write on are empty if not saturated by their humanity and the fine things they already know. To make grades is a worthy aim but if respect, love and compassion are left in lockers they are only ink on a page. We all make mistakes but if compassion, love and respect are woven into them, they can never be called failures.

I drive by the University of Western Ontario most days. Hope walks past my car when I wait at the light. The young men and women I see carry the cures, the solutions and they are being carved to make the decisions that will shape a future that I may reside in and surely my blood. We can be disappointed in what is instilled in a generation but the responsibility belongs to us all. How can we expect our children to have the discretion to not make light of the suffering of an illness when we laugh at the same jokes?

I suspect this news will not hit the funny bone of the roughly 4000 Canadian families who are affected by suicide each year. We can only hope they are too busy running fingers over old photographs to see this story.

It is not my place but it seems to me if resignations were in order at universities where chanting was heard, the same might be in order at a broader distribution of offensive utterances. As a solution to the very stigma they spread, those responsible should step aside. Your peers can only have respect at your active acknowledgement that mental health stigma is wrong; unacceptable.

Lend Me Your Ear

I was thinking about idioms. Fair game for an idiot. I thought maybe mental health stigma is a series of idioms. We all have little messages floating about in our heads. It could be “a dime a dozen” or “a picture paints a thousand words” but it is as likely to be “schizophrenia equals dangerousness” or “depression is anger turned inwards.”

It’s all nonsense if you shift your perspective. A dime a dozen means easy to get but scarcity can be just as costly. Ten cents for a dozen seeds would seem precious to a man feeding his family. Why do we cling to only the one meaning?

A picture paints a thousand words insinuates the visual is more descriptive than words. As a writer I am biased but I put forward the challenge for any artist to paint what I say with these 600 words. Take your time.

“Schizophrenia equals dangerousness” is statistically false.

And “depression is anger tuned inward” only makes: “happiness is anger turned outward” as true.

We assume the world is full of absolutes as our very bodies swim in flux upon a spinning object.

Impressions and ideas are filtered through knowledge, experience and emotion but we assume it drops cleanly in our laps. Many of our ideas are fouled by knowledge, experience and emotion. It is often only a version. I share my life with a Doberman Pincer. It is usually with me 24 hours a day. If anyone knows her, I do. My favourable opinion of her is clouded by my emotions such as love…I literally kiss the mess. Others see her differently. People sometimes cross the street and I had one couple following us stop in their tracks as she did her business. They could have passed but that would have lessened the distance. Their ideas of a Doberman were filtered through what? A photograph, a movie, TV show or headline? We can stand back and see who is more informed as to what a Doberman is. I have lived with her, taken food from her mouth and had her obey only a motion or noise I make. She is More Bark Than Bite.

Watch a film with a character suffering from schizophrenia next to a real person also afflicted and it all seems like a cartoon. I wonder what is worse, to live with the illness or have a world blind to your humanity and very feelings. You wonder about the idiom and why it is not called a contradiction.

There is a large difference between an idiom and mental health stigma. Only one hurts. Only one bestows suffering upon those who suffer, only one demeans and only one pushes people away. When we see someone with a limp, we notice. When we see someone with mental health symptoms we form opinions and ideas. Pity is replaced with prejudice. We rarely gossip about, point at, laugh at or discount the person with the limp. What slows us from learning that it is offensive to do so with a mental symptom? We must see more than consonants to make sense of a word as we need more than a word to make sense of an idiom. Schizophrenia, depression, bi-polar, OCD or ADHD are not idioms. We are not meant to take meaning from only these single words. They must be linked with descriptors such as son, daughter, aunt, father or sister. These illnesses are deserving of a shift in perspective, they are worthy of more consideration and expanding respect.

I apologize as this was written Against The Clock. It is probably All Greek and like Beating A Dead Horse but we’re All In The Same Boat and are equally vulnerable to having the same Axe To Grind. If I have offended, keep in mind there is a Method To My Madness.

“Shotgun”

I remember when I was finally transferred from jail to the forensic hospital. As I exited the jail handcuffed and shackled I was at first struck by the open space. Being transferred is usually pleasant and a little like watching a movie. You see and hear things you are unaccustomed to. Green grass or the sound of tires on pavement. There were several jail nurses sitting at a table outside on break. I bowed my head and thanked them. They did what they could.

I climbed into the kennel of the transfer van. It was basically like being a bean stuck to the inside of an empty tin can. I didn’t have much of a view and can recall no landmarks. I knew I was heading to St. Thomas but did not recognize the fact until we parked.

After I left college and my lifelong dream of being a Conservation Officer, I applied to several police forces. At that time there were many more interested in police work than were ever hired. I did have one interview. It was with the St. Thomas Police Force.

I should have been more specific when I prayed to ride in a police vehicle in St. Thomas. I should have specified it was the front seat I was interested in. I’m pretty good at reading people and I sensed that the two officers who transferred me would be unappreciative of me yelling “Shotgun.”

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

Richard Kachkar did kill Toronto police Sgt. Ryan Russell. Which of us from either side of the issue should question the verdict a jury is reaching or has reached? They have ingested all the evidence. Their knowledge of the facts goes far beyond what most of us ascertain from the news.

When a Toronto Mayor speaks to the media about a case before the courts and essentially does his best to influence anyone, we must begin to ask for whom else will he cry in the streets? If my son is murdered within his walls of jurisdiction will he tell us all what to think?

Consider the number of actual facts in your head Mr. Ford. What is your knowledge of mental illness? What is your knowledge of forensic psychiatry, were you present in court to hear all the testimony? I’m making assumptions but given the odds I suspect Mayor Rob Ford may not be in possession of many facts. We all know Sgt. Ryan Russell, one of Toronto’s finest, was murdered. We are all saddened by it. To use your good name to further some personal view is at least inappropriate. Will the Mayor be waddling up to the media for all our court cases? I would think not. Possibly he can stand back as he should and agree with the daily process of law.

Why wouldn’t he assume the truth would prevail?

Why wouldn’t he first assume the court system is working?

Why wouldn’t he assume the whole process of legal representation, medical testimony and judicial direction was followed to the point of fairness we all agree on?

I must trust in the jurors finding. I may not agree with the finding but protest has no influence on the process. I must also be comfortable with the fact that any error in testimony either professional or otherwise was brought to light. If being a juror and your contributions are held in contempt by society they will start making decisions that are closer to public sentiment and further from the truth.

We have to ask ourselves if someone acts out in some tragic incident only because of being influenced by delusional thinking we want to punish or enact some form of revenge on them. Any of us could be one of the numbers of people who get into struggles with the health of their brain. The monsters we see reflected in certain news circles are in fact men and women who have a mental illness. Were it not for this illness you would not know them. It is doubtful if any would crash with the law if they were healthy.

It is fortunate we are talking about a very small percentage of people because there is no immunity.

We can turn to the government to create some law more “just” but in your rush to do so I would not recommend running to the government with knowledge of only one case. If your disagreement comes from little information or biased information you might hope your fellow citizens don’t go running to the government to change something they don’t completely understand.

It’s time to turn and heal.

How Many?

How many people from one group do you have to meet to form a truthful opinion of “them”?

If I know one Italian would it be enough?

If I knew 10 Catholics would it be enough?

If I knew 100 people with schizophrenia would it be enough?

Surely if my sample size was 1000 I would be able to form a clear picture of a group; or would I? Those thousand souls will always be comprised of individuals. Is it my duty to look past their idiosyncrasies and pull out commonalities? If I want to disparage them I must. I must look past the fact that they come from different neighbourhoods and communities. I must look past the fact that they are from different families. I must not be influenced by the fact that they have been exposed to a myriad of individual experiences. They may be shaped but it is in the form I wish to exploit for my prejudice.

We all have these little beliefs about groups. The Irish are ?, women are ? Homosexuals are ? For many the individuals who make up a group can only possess common traits. To look at individuals separately is too time consuming and not conducive to prejudice. To walk about with my head held high should not mean I look down on you.

I know of an individual who considers women to be worse drivers than men. Two minutes on Google or a phone call to his insurance agent would tell him otherwise but that would undermine the value of his stereotypical view. It is based more on his need to place his “type” above another. Knowledge sometimes means you must recognize your own shortcomings. This person may argue that he has interacted with well over a thousand women drivers but when we begin with a stereotype it clouds our perceptions. It’s like owning a new Toyota. Once you have one that’s mainly what you notice. You see what you know. A stereotype is similar in that the prejudice we “possess” illuminates our view of others. If the slow driver is female we shore up our attitude. If the slow driver is male we cast aside the anomaly. The male driver is misinformation which doesn’t fit with our worldview so we discard it.

The most interesting of stereotypes are those we hold when we don’t even know a single person from that group. This misinformation is passed between generations even. I am not pointing fingers as I have some of these stereotypes myself. How do we combat it? Some say we need education or exposure but do we see and learn something different or do we shore up old attitudes? How many people do you know who have been through the Forensic mental health system? Many of you can only point to me but I suspect you have ideas that fall far from me.

It seems as though stereotypes are a form of communication. When we say Homosexuals are effeminate we can share a common perception. If we were without prejudice and stereotypes how would we know what the other describes? If you mentioned something about the Irish and I didn’t own the stereotype that they are heavy drinkers I would know nothing about them. They would simply be a group of humans who happen to reside at a certain latitude. Heaven forbid that I should see and treat them as such.

More On Bill C-54

I do not understand the apathy I am witnessing regarding Bill C-54. Anyone with an interest in mental health should be up in arms. I was once simply depressed, I was once simply bi-polar, I was once simply suicidal. If you think your illness will never carry you to places that seem extreme and unpalatable you are blessed with some static form of mental illness. You are also naïve. My path was not chosen, it wasn’t imagined or predicted…neither is yours!

This government is implementing a law based on extreme cases and public outcry. Where was the Photo Op with Not Criminally Responsible individuals who have been rehabilitated and lead productive and peaceful lives? Possibly Stephen can’t smile twice in a day. Such a scenario would diminish the fear which the Conservatives are using to catapult this Bill into law. The math of the situation is such that there are more individuals who do less and do well. If the Conservatives abandoned their misinformation they might have to alter a law that they assume will garner votes. There is no sensationalism in a life that returns to normal.

What does this government propose to do about the backlog that will only be exasperated by incarcerating individuals with “sentences”? We will have the mentally ill housed in jails for longer periods putting not only their safety in jeopardy but also their health. I am not the only one who spent extended periods isolated in the Hole.

It is commendable that this government is giving voice to half of those affected by severe mental illness. It is deplorable they do not consider victims of mental illness. One in five is affected by mental illness. It seems this government is more interested in a popular decision rather than a proper decision. It would be unfortunate if the one in five stood up and said “no thanks”. If a law can save one life it needs to be considered. When others have to lay theirs down it should be scrutinized.

If I suffer from a delusion and commit an act that offends society and subsequently myself I am diseased; I am not the devil. I felt no fear while on Forensic units. People were not evil, they were simply ill. Being in jail was quite different. Evil cannot be medicated.

When a delusional father murders his children we cannot understand. Severe mental illness is foreign to most of us and such acts fly in the face of the love we can all identify with parenthood. Only if you remove the robes and step down from the judge’s perch can you consider the fact that mental illness is the true culprit. It is part of the accused but it is not the accused. It can be controlled but mental illness is immune to your thirst for retribution. You can punish the offender but that person is only a vessel. It is like throwing out the pitcher that housed the spilled milk. It is the agent and not the vessel that is responsible.

This government is punishing the severely mentally ill. I have lived without the “privilege” of walking outside. It withers the soul and denies the spirit the breath of life. The next time you take your medication replace your juice with absolute incarceration. Imagine for a moment how therapeutic your existence would be locked on a ward with bars on the windows. Imagine for a moment the value of sunshine; imagine for a moment the value of a breeze. Be thankful you do not stand in line for those medications and please be indignant over the fact that your government considers this access to treatment.

Life is not fair. Tragedy strikes. Regardless of our actions after the fact, regardless of our treatment of the accused we must live with the loss. Enacting revenge may provide a sense of justice but at times justice does not exist. Should we decapitate Vincent Lee; who among you will eat his heart? An eye for an eye leaves two people blind. We can never forget but forgiveness is the only avenue to peace. As Canadians we have agreed that an eye for an eye is not what we wish to emulate yet it still occupies many hearts. It is an ill fated attempt at exacting control of uncontrollable events.

Outside of votes I can see no reason for a government to pander to misconceptions and perpetuate stigma. We throw our support behind anti-stigma campaigns and anti-bullying programs while the government throws dirt on mental illness and steps on the necks of its most vulnerable citizens.

If you believe Bill C-54 will prevent atrocities like those that found expression through Vincent Lee you have been duped by your government. Only improved mental health services on the street could have prevented this sadness.

Hair and a Long Snout

When you see the words forensic, criminal or bipolar near my name or face what does it make you think? Would you welcome me into your home? Would you let me watch your children? Would you stop and talk to me on the street?

Unfortunately we carry attitudes and assumptions based not on the specific situation but anything that resembles it. It is a shortcut to feeling secure. When someone is afraid of dogs it is unusual that it involves a specific breed. Anything with hair and a long snout will keep you at a distance.

Stigma is similar. It is an attitude held for everyone without making an informed decision regarding the specifics. We see the long snout and draw from our minds a series of barks. We do not trust or expose ourselves to the new information because it is safer to be mistaken and impoverished of the individual than it is to be exposed to the negatives the group has been identified with.

I was blonde when it wasn’t fashion and Dumb Blonde Jokes were plentiful. When we assume someone’s intelligence is co-related to hair colour we can chuckle at the absurdity. When we assume the mentally ill are dangerous or violent and that they should be institutionalized it has a direct impact on their treatment. Blondes weren’t being put back in school because people thought they were stupid. The mentally ill are affected by attitudes. If you cross the street what does an employer do? If you laugh at us what does the world do but laugh with you? If you close yourself off to the specifics of someone with a mental illness you may remain safe but you will be immersed in your own ignorance.

If you keep your distance from dogs you may never be bitten but you can be guaranteed you will never be licked.

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.

Dear Mom,

This letter was written from a place that haunts me still. I think it is illustrative of the importance of “presence” at Christmas. Love is the punishment; it is what ties you to the outside world and pulls you in directions you are forbidden from going.

Dear Mom:

I hope this letter finds you sometime during the holidays. Consider this your Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year as well.

We haven’t had hot water for three days now. I was lucky and had my shower during the few moments when there was some. The kitchen is really messed up because they can’t do dishes. We have been served on Styrofoam plates with disposable spoons. Our cups are the same as we were issued on day one. I wonder how sanitary a cup is after several months without being washed in soap and water. Mine is brown inside, stained from hundreds of coffees and teas. At least it’s easy to keep separate from the new arrivals clean green cups.

We also haven’t had yard for four days at least. The new mesh fell to the yard floor along with support cables with its first exposure to snowfall.

One of the guys is getting out in the morning. I feel a little sad to see him go. We’ve shared this same small space for three and a half months. There were things I didn’t like about him, times I wished he wasn’t here, but when it’s all said and done we got along. That’s the most you can ask of your fellow inmates, to get along.

I received a Christmas Card today. It is a northern scene of White Birch with a blanket of snow on the forest floor. Standing out from all the white is a bright green Spruce tree. I showed it to my cellmate and we decided we would use that little Spruce as our Christmas tree. So tonight December 18th we put up our tree. It was the first tree I put up that I didn’t curse at. It was nice to receive and let some spirit into our cell and some laughter into our hearts. I wish the same for all of you. I will miss you this Christmas but I will probably think of you all more than if I was there. I know I will never forget the Christmas I spent in jail but I wonder what will make it memorable; the spirit that will creep into our day or the spirit that is absent. No doubt some of each.

 Say ‘Hi to the dogs and use my name.

I still have the card…thanks Candace, wherever life finds you.

21 Years !!!

The Conservative government in my country is participating in a misguided exercise to get “tough on crime.” It’s easy to fashion votes on such a platform but morally wrong to do so at the expense of your most vulnerable citizens. The only people “tough on crime” policies don’t appeal to are usually behind bars or a step away. I can forgive a government that makes easy political points but I am offended that they think I care not for those affected. The individuals affected are not criminals; they are the severely mentally ill and the families connected to them. They are referred to as the “accused” because they are not found guilty despite public desire.

This government proposes to enhance public safety by prolonging the incarceration and detainment of those found and proven to be Not Criminally Responsible. At present these individuals come before a panel of legal, medical and public members to determine a course of action suitable to both the public and the accused on an annual basis. The Conservatives by a sure stroke of political gain would have us believe that every three years is better suited to all involved. The government is interested in victim rights or so they say. I am of the opinion that in casting a net for political votes they will in fact create more victims than they will serve.

Don’t ever assume the laws you find attractive and sensible for “others” will never land in your lap. Hopefully, you won’t find yourself the accused at a Review Board hearing but you will know what prayer is if you happen to be that persons mother. The Review Board process is an excruciating and slow process as it stands now. I understand and am sympathetic to the prayer involved in being a victim of a crime but are you a victim of someone who is or was part of the Forensic System or are you a victim of someone who was outside of the system? Retribution can taint treatment. This law will do little to protect us from anyone on the street; it will only prolong the process that we subject the accused to. It is like taking a double dose of Viagra. It only succeeds in screwing you indefinitely. Will you thank Stephen Harper when you leave the building knowing your child will remain for three more years?

I had 7 annual hearings for a crime that probably wouldn’t have fetched 6 months from someone found guilty. Would you sleep better at night if it was 21 years instead of seven? I have conscience enough to find that fact alarming even outside of personal reasons.

It is easy to be indignant of another’s sins!

I know of a case where the accused stole a bag of chips. It is a fallacy perpetrated and perpetuated by the media that Not Criminally Responsible individuals are all murderers. It is also a fallacy that these individuals receive shorter sentences than those faced by the criminally sane. (Please read “Not Criminally Responsible: The Burden of Accusation and Popular Misconceptions” in my blog) I stand far outside of these fallacies and I am not an anomaly.

We need to listen to victims and their families but we need to remember the same brush with fate that delivered them to their suffering could have easily delivered them or a loved one to the confines of a Forensic Psychiatric facility. If you disagree please point me to the clinic that inoculates me against mental illness. This government agenda shows clearly that they care not about those afflicted with mental illness but more telling is the insinuation that the laws they impose will have no effect on themselves or those they care about. We are no more immune to being a victim than we are of being the accused. Those found Not Criminally Responsible received the same lessons in school. Their parents transferred the same morality and sense of right and wrong. For an array of reasons many of which are outside anyone’s control they became mentally ill. It is alarming to think we can improve society by increasing the segregation of the mentally ill.

We have a senator whose daughter was murdered. I am saddened by this but it is unfortunate the politicians whose lives are touched by mental illness are not as vocal. Let’s not forget the many moans of anguish amongst the shrieks of atrocity.

Any two bit politician can make a law that affects hundreds to appease millions but it takes a man to make a just decision.

Nothing Remarkable

I know someone who equates being a Liberal with being a “homo”. I find it fascinating that politics of any sort have any association with sexuality but they do. One needs to be cautious making broad statements. I guess I take issue with this person because they use an ignorant and broad stroke in painting Liberals as homosexual.  This person is clearly a bigot and working from memory small minded. I might also add that they appear to be homophobic. It is a fact that homophobia often involves the fear that others might think “you” are gay. I can only deduce that there resides in this person’s conscious or unconscious a basis for this fear. It may be insecurity (this person is middle-aged) but why would their masculinity be threatened by even the stereotypical femininity associated with gays? My partner is very feminine. In no way does this take away from or threaten my masculinity.

Why would you deny dignity to someone because of what naturally pleases and excites them? We all differ in what pleases and excites us. Frankly, I am not bothered by these variances unless it involves children.

The first few times I noticed this person’s views I was offended but ignored it and thought it best not to bother. I knew this person as a child and throughout high school. At those times there was nothing remarkable about this person; clearly the same still holds true. They are essentially a pre-teen male without the knowledge and or experience to find value in their own masculinity and identity without devaluing others. When you look down on others you are in no way above them!

I enjoy differing opinions and especially opposing political views for the balance they provide. It is dangerous however to write someone off because of their political views or sexuality. It creates a vacuum where you are in danger of believing only your own rhetoric. This vacuum only breeds further ignorance.

The homophobic fear this person has could be put to rest with knowledge. Read a book, it might be written by a gay person; enjoy it regardless. Watch a movie, it may have a gay actor in it; enjoy it regardless. Take a drive or walk down the street, meet someone new, they may be gay; enjoy them regardless. Despite your closed minded opinions your world is full of and enriched by people who are in fact gay. Most often you will be oblivious to this fact just as they are oblivious to what makes your blood flow. Expand your horizons and you may find qualities in those you belittle that you could only wish to have. Another quick exercise, which I must warn involves modern ways, is to Google famous gay people. You will be confronted with a never-ending list of people you will never hold a candle to. When the sneer is wiped from your face, take a look in the mirror and make peace with the fact that you will never make a list entailing quality despite what you do with your boner.

The Year is 2012

I am my ideal body weight so I must be ideal.

We shop at “Forever 21” because no one wants to be 12 any more than they want to be 40.

We consider baldness bad unless it is self inflicted in which case it’s hip.

We are born with breasts, yet we buy them.

We throw away our boots because all of a sudden it’s fashionable to wear something a rattlesnake would pop a vertebrae trying to bite above.

We leave factory stickers on hats because some popular hipster was too lazy to pull them off.

We build houses with 3 garages and 4 bathrooms for two cars and three rectums.

We have walk in closets but never step foot in our neighbour’s living room.

We wear clothes emblazoned with the name of the school, store or business we purchase from without credit for advertising.

We pull out carpets and counter-tops so we can rip oak and granite from the earth.

We wet ourselves when we see Justin Bieber on the street while we pass each other by without a nod with ear buds blaring “Baby”.

We have 40 flavours of salad dressing while billions don’t have two carrots to rub together.

We gel, spray, condition, tease, curl, shampoo and massage something that is dead while our partners live and breath next to us without notice.

We build cars that can go over 200 kilometers per hour weather permitting.

We look up to sports, MTV and Hollywood stars but fail to notice the real ones.

We drill wells for oil but seldom water.

We practice democracy on American Idol but fail to notice it’s demise elsewhere.

We have at least seven banks you can cash a cheque at and only one for food.

Only the crap you don’t need comes on sale.

Why is my surface considered my substance?

 

 

 

 

 

Fingers and Toes

I was returning some favours today so I noticed some things outside of my daily habits. I noticed how sweat catches any breeze and the sun can only be danced about. I noticed my community and what we look like from two stories up. I noticed muscles and actions I was unaccustomed to. Not long into my shingling I even noticed synergy.

I was two stories up working for a friend with a physical disability who does more than most. He had a hired man whose name for anonymity is Roger. Roger stands 6 foot three with a mustache and pony tail. Nearing or above 270 pounds his shadow is larger than mine. His belly is bigger than his biceps but his forearms are larger than many within labour. His hands are huge. I didn’t take off my shoe but I swear his fingers were as big as my rather large toe. I stared at them every chance I had.

Since I was the grunt we both found ourselves in the midst of labour and conversation. I saw enough of his laugh and intelligence to want more. He was quiet but I tried to talk to him through the silences labour brought. We started talking about old bars in the city and surrounding region. Roger mentioned that in his hometown and at least one other establishment in the city there was either a side for Natives or another section entirely. I was shocked. “How old are you?” I then pleaded for the decade. It was the early seventies. I was sure racial barriers were long less than that. I was glad to have helped Roger for I held nothing but grief in my heart for him. What might it have been like to grow up on the wrong side of humanity?

Roger accepted much less pay than any job near this size might command. His wages were closer to the decade he was segregated. I think we expect people who have been wronged to stand up and protest. What if it is the person wronged who should be approached? If you do not believe Native Canadians are worthy of your respect it does not mean they should not be apologized to. I worked hard for the hired man. If it was a weight on a scale I did more. I only hope my back was stronger when I knew his pain.

Roger is proud in a way that involves no chest but plenty of heart. In discussing one of the premiere builders in the city he couldn’t understand that they do ten jobs and laugh at their customers while he does so many more for so much less.

We celebrate success but there are some who measure it differently. Is Roger less than builder Dan with his truck and trailer or is he more as he bikes from job to job?