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.

You Say “Healthcare,” I Just Shake My Head and Cry

I have no “craving” to return to the issue of smoking on hospital properties and it seems a lost cause but I will. Let’s just consider it a “bad habit.”

I was on hospital property myself yesterday. When I left the architectural brilliance and heat of the building itself I noticed a gentleman in his 70’s hunched over in a wheelchair. He appeared to weigh something near his age and seemed somewhat compromised. I imagine his struggles are profound even within hospital but he was attempting to smoke in the wind and cold about 40 feet from the hospital entrance.

It has been minus “21 Forever” here in Ontario and yesterday was no exception. No exception seems to be part of the problem. This man was breaking hospital rules and even the old rule of not smoking within 60 feet of a hospital entrance. I don’t imagine he had a rebellious heart or complete disregard for rules, I think he may have been unable to make it off hospital grounds and the temperature itself may have been a further hurdle. If my ears nearly freezing are evidence of anything his wheelchair wheels may have been frozen.

There needs to be more communication between agencies in the region. When the Health Unit and police agencies issue a cold weather advisory and warn people to stay inside it may be prudent to apply this information to hospital staff and patients. It may even be important to ensure that 70 pound patients in wheelchairs have a safe and suitable place to smoke. Maybe the blankets were being laundered but this gentleman was under dressed for what I barely endured with half the exposure. This individual is unlikely to quit smoking in his 70’s or in his proximity to illness. It may be a bad habit or a long time pleasure.

We can all be proud of moving in the direction of a “Smoke Free Ontario” but my grandfather shouldn’t be run over in the process. He wasn’t my grandfather or I would have brought him home from the illusion of healthcare he was enduring. He is however someone’s grandfather, “bully for you.” I hope some idiot or at least the compassionate committees who have brought us this far find satisfaction in such an individual being tortured in the guise of health and healthcare. If you think smokers are going to hell it is no less sinful to expose them to anything similar here on earth. Perhaps we should pray on this.

I wanted to take a photo of this poor gentleman but I did not want to remove my gloves which he was without. I also respect patient confidentiality and it would have been a blurry shot as he was shaking so hard. Oh well, the rightless wretch will soon be dead and we will not be so uncomfortable in our conscienceless ideals. The grandchildren who attend his funeral will no doubt find peace that his last days were dignified and comfortable. They will hopefully find comfort that he was “exposed” to the most advanced and compassionate healthcare available.

I’m not saying hospitals are being heartless but providing a wheelchair becomes ironic and disingenuous when a 70 year old patient is allowed to suffer from exposure and near frostbite. I was in the same elements for a shorter duration and in an appropriate winter coat and I couldn’t wait until I reached my frozen car. This gentleman was under dressed and unable to access proper shelter or even stamp his feet to provide a sense of warmth.

I don’t know how we get around ridiculous rules but I would suggest those who are making them spend 6 minutes in a wheelchair, in a jacket, in minus 20 degree weather. It may provide enough exposure to uncover enough empathy to enable true compassion if not sense.

I Use Christ as a Benchmark and Pull Back the Arrow Once More

I was thinking about God and or specifically Jesus Christ. He was a remarkable figure and I in no way want to disparage or disgrace His Spirit or messages. Any who know me would assume that was a given.

To a degree I understand His sinless nature and I recognize that in giving His life I was spared. He should have been elevated and celebrated when He was alive but He died betrayed, abandoned and with something less than the dignity He deserved. That is part of the story and in no small way one of the reasons I am drawn to Him.

I was thinking, He was flesh and bone-a human-a man. My understanding is He knew what it meant to be human, excelled at it and was even exposed to temptation. At the same time “to err is human.” His sinless nature does not separate me from Him but in a subtle way it does. I take comfort that He understands my pain and struggles and I believe He is often a presence in my life. I was simply wondering if He really does understand me. He did not sin so possibly He does not know what it means to feel shame, guilt or regret. I think He knew and knows more about forgiveness than anyone before or after but did He know about extending forgiveness to self?

I’m not saying the story would have been better if when He hit His thumb with the hammer He threw it, cursed and kicked the cat but I would have been drawn to that as well. Maybe it would have made His sacrifice impossible or impaired it somehow but if I knew He said, “Wow, that was stupid of me” or “sorry I messed up, I did not mean to hurt you but I have.” “I failed there but I will do better next time.” That would have inspired me to do better as well.

Maybe it would relieve some of the pressure to do and be perfect. To never sin is a worthy aim but to miss the mark often hones the aim and creates efficacy. I keep trying because I do miss the mark. I would sit on my sorry ass if I hit it the first time. I do not throw my hands up and say “I have fallen short, it’s over, I am disqualified.” I use Christ as a benchmark and pull back the arrow once more.

I say and do the wrong things fairly consistently. I am a blind archer but in my heart I believe God finds satisfaction in my persistence. I have a conscience and I sometimes shake my head at myself but I also laugh at myself. I’m hoping God is so busy helping you that He doesn’t notice me. “What have you been up to Brett?” “Who me?” “Oh a little of this and a little of that-you know the usual.” “Maybe we should talk about that.” “Sure. I’ll pencil you in.” I hope Jesus and God get me. Humour aside, I do hope they watch me once in a while and say: “Well, at least he’s entertaining.”

With all due respect, thanks for making me think God.

Is it really community integration when we have ghettos?

As a citizen of London with severe and persistent mental illness I am alarmed by the death of David McPherson and the displacement of a group of individuals with mental health difficulties.

We are giving these individuals our best when they are in crisis but we care less when they are chronic. Many surgeries are discharged prior to what would be considered good health as are mental health patients. What would we think if 25 post surgeries were displaced from a dangerous and disgusting dwelling? We can be proud of how hospitalization for mental illness has been transformed here in London but when I share my mattress with mites before and after it will be like Alice falling through the rabbit hole. Hospitalization will be a bizarre episode in a stupor of squalor.

It needs to be asked why so many individuals with mental health concerns are housed together. Is it really community integration when we have ghettos? When affordability means shared toilets and prolonged periods where privacy is extinct these dwellings essentially become a third world hospital with fewer staff. It should also be asked how much longer these individuals would have been allowed to be unsafe, unsanitary and defiled of dignity had there not been a tragic fire? Solitude is a human need, safety, security and sanitation should be absolutes.

If we are astute enough to recognize that clean and pleasing environments facilitate healing in hospital, why do we not employ it for people who are healing in the community? It all becomes mute when individuals are endangered, denied dignity and are made to endure circumstances and confines that would lead many to mental health difficulties. Possibly we would not remove the revolving door of hospitalization but fewer would need hospitalization if basic human needs were met in the community.

Many fine people and agencies came into contact with this tragedy far before it never should have been. Individuals with severe and persistent mental illness do not ask to be in these circumstances they simply need our assistance. I’m fairly certain it is against the law to do otherwise.

“Let them drink Scotch”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s A Plane Shame

“A plan by Correctional Service Canada to move female inmates who are mentally ill from prisons across the country into a new, specially equipped unit in Ontario’s Brockville Mental Health Centre is on hold because governments have yet to finalize a funding agreement.”

“Last May, Minister of Public Safety Steven Blaney held a large news conference in Brockville to announce a pilot project as part of the government’s response to the death of Ashley Smith. The 19-year old, who was mentally ill, choked to death in October 2007 in a Kitchener, Ont., federal institution after tying a piece of cloth around her neck. Guards stood outside her cell and watched — they had been ordered not to intervene.”

Forgive me for referring to Minister Blaney as Minister Baloney, it’s just easier for me to read.

“Federal corrections officials have acknowledged that between 20 and 30 female inmates are in need of psychiatric care that can’t be provided in prison. Baloney said at the time the two beds in Brockville were a first step in addressing those needs.”

Minister Baloney said, “The death of Ashley Smith was a terrible tragedy. This is why we need to take action, so such a thing never happens again.”

A news conference and announcement are not action, they are advertising. Thanks for the propaganda.

Am I off base to expect leadership and integrity from my government? I can deal with avenues I do not agree with but basic human needs should never be politicized. When a person or government clings to a tough on crime agenda to the point where citizens are tortured in solitary confinement I take issue.

The conservatives didn’t have a problem finding monies for Minister Tony Clement to purchase votes in his home riding. Minister Cement was at the time responsible for cutting excessive expenditures. Ha! This jackass moved a good portion of $50 million into his own riding. I’m sure most Canadians are pleased or complacent in the fact that much of this money went into parks, walkways and gazebos. I suspect that those who sleep in parks and under gazebos are less impressed.

Then we have the Teflon Toupee himself painting his colours of shame on his plane. Every prime minister who preceded him in the age of flight was fine with the drab military grey the military mandated. The new design in conservative colours cost an extra $50 000.

“Hey Tony, what should we do with this $50 000?” I suspect Minister Cement’s first suggestion was to paint the gazebo but clearly the prime minister had higher aspirations for vanity.

When paint on a plane precedes and precludes social justice, human dignity, healthcare and the humane treatment of any citizen in need of mental health services it not only illustrates incompetence but it highlights conservative callousness and their complete disregard for a disadvantaged and vulnerable population.

I don’t even know all the prime ministers but have we ever had one as colourless, stale and stiff? He is like a Pez dispenser. His friends hold out their hands while he coughs up partisan gems while the rest of us would do as well if the candies just spilled on the floor. In short, do we really need him?

When a government plans and pursues policy that produces votes at the expense of compassion, re-election is not a mandate as much as an accusation. History books will fill pages about Prime Minister Harper’s abilities as a strategist. Harper may even find majorities in the future but in the minds and hearts of Canadians he will be remembered for little else.

The prime minister and his ministers in their rush to be conservative have failed to read the definition of compassion that even in a lifeless dictionary precedes the other.

In ending I think we could find the funding by eliminating the Protective Policing Service provided to the prime minister by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Stephen Harper has no vital organs, so what’s the point.