Friday, December 21, 2012

Peace and Goodwill to all with Mental Illness

I recently watched the true story  of a Nobel Peace Prize recipient portrayed in the movie,  A Beautiful Mind, where the main character suffering from schizophrenia sees, and talks to people who are not there.  At one point the man (a doctor and professor) stops one of his students and (in regards to a second person he believes to be standing beside him) asks the student, “can you see this person too” to check that this new person is actually real before engaging in conversation in self-management of his illness.  
I often do similar tests of  'is this for real' when dealing with the labyrinth of political bureaucracy I find myself trapped in. It is important that my blog is not viewed as ramblings by some delusional person who has (as stated in the last posting) admitted to having gone off her prescribed meds, so I try my best to provide well-articulated arguments.
I am proud to boast close to 5000 views on my blog  A Bullish Government.  I often wonder if this truly reflects support or just curiosity, or are the numbers reflecting the number of times The Law Society monitors my blog in the hopes  I slip up, and they can either sue me for slander, or institutionalize me to undergo an involuntary psychiatric evaluation.  I hear Dr. Stanley Yaren is an expert on bipolar, regularly used by the courts [which brings to mind the show CSI Las Vegas that always seems to have the same detective on all the cases in Vegas.  But I digress...]  
I am not a doctor, but I am a person who has successfully lived for decades with bipolar disorder and have personal knowledge,  as well as professional experience working with organizations in the community dealing with intellectual disabilities. I am also a certified leader with Developing Capable People (Canada) a program that provides a profound understanding of why today's youth behave the way they do.
If we are to believe Winnipeg Free Press article, " Student found not criminally responsible for killing her grandmother" as true and factual (and that would be a big IF) I would say that  I find Dr. Yaren’s insight of bipolar disorder to be beyond offensive to the point of slanderous to people like me living with mental illness—not to mention completely inaccurate.  In any event, thank you Winnipeg Free Press for further adding to the lack of insight regarding mental health issues and adding to the ever-growing disinformation that is out there doing further harm to the most vulnerable in our society.  
It would seem that Dr. Yaren, in essence, has given the killer a hall pass from having to deal with the full consequences of her actions after only 15 months of committing murder. Madam Justice Joan McKelvey of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench accepted bipolar disorder as a criminal defence stating, "Clearly, at the time (of the killing) she  suffered a break from reality that has now been addressed through treatment" based on Dr. Yaren's expert medical opinion.
Manitoba Courts made quite an impact (on me anyway) in the way it handled this 2011 murder case whereby a 19 year old girl pushed her 84 year-old Muslim grandmother to the ground of their bathroom floor (where they lived together - three generations). The murder victim died from injuries as a result of the adult teen repeatedly stomping the head and upper body of this poor granny.
Let's be real, here --setting aside the 'killing part', could you not see a situation like this unfold in any household, on any given night -- where a confrontation with a teen explodes to the point there is a serious break from reality? I find the lack of insight and transparency of the facts in this case (not to mention baseless defence) more grotesque than any and all recent news involving mental illness to date.  Reason being -- What’s worse?  
  1. Doing wrong, or
  2. Knowing that you are doing wrong -- have full power and authority to do something about it -- and yet still choose to do nothing?
Bipolar Disorder has been found to NOT be accepted as a criminal defence. As quoted in Bipolar is not linked to Violent Crimes
In the wake of Edward Renehan's attempted use of his bipolar disorder as a defense for stealing multiple items at multiple times from the collections of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, the New York Sun's Jay Akasie examines the issues surrounding this particular legal strategy. He quotes defense attorney Murray Richman: "Using bipolar disorder as a defense in a case is just not viable. It's absolutely not a defense — it's an excuse. It has nothing to do with a person's ability to know right from wrong."

Other lawyers told Akasie that "bipolar disorder can have so-called jury appeal if the sufferer has a long and well-documented history of aberrant behavior coupled with requests for institutional help," and that documented cases of bipolar disorder can be used to achieve more favorable plea deals. Most often, however, because bipolar disorder primarily "affects mood rather than cognition," it is not considered a valid insanity defense.

First of all, would you not say that the majority of criminals in the justice system today must have some form of mental illness to commit the crime they were found guilty of in the first place? Why the special provision for this young beauty that had no history of mental illness prior to the murder; bearing in mind violence is not characteristic of bipolar disorder (except of course when the inflictions are turned inwards).

The behaviour described in earlier news reports does not even remotely resemble that as being characteristic of the disorder. What is found, however, is that when a person (with bipolar disorder) breaks the law, the disorder is only a mitigating factor; the motivating cause resulting in the crime is generally linked to illegal drugs and/or alcohol.
Regardless -- plain and simple:  whenever laws are broken, there must always be accountability and transparency to ensure that consequences openly and properly reflect that of all parties including public interest.
It would seem that the pendulum has swung too far away from timeless values and principles. Our first response when dealing with youth seems to be to cover up for their misdeeds, thinking we are somehow helping them. And, if as a parent, you happen to be affluent, and have access to, and can do the appropriate hobnobbing to enlist all resources at your disposal -- mental illness can be created to get your kid (in this case, an adult) off the hook.
I don't think it is a coincidence that Dr. Yaren did not diagnose schizophrenia (synonymous with the infamous Vince Li Greyhound Bus beheading) in this young girl's case as the "S-word" conjures up all kinds of bad images and public outrage. This would then tie in to my earlier posting,  Uncivil Behaviour and Civil Liberties where I described how society pre-determines who we favour in any conflict situation based on who has the higher 'social ranking'. 
Coming back full circle to my case, Rowan v Thompson Dorfman Sweatman,  I broke no laws and followed all processes to legally address what I believed to be wrongdoings against me. Professional and society's dissent of the difficulties I face as a woman with an "invisible disability" is evident given the manner I was treated regarding my request for an injunction order, in an attempt to stop the ongoing abuses of power, as duly documented and filed with the Court.

Requests for help at all levels went unacknowledged. Power handed off like schoolyard bullies keeping things from my grasp amongst three judges (under Chief Justice Joyal's supervision) ending with (yes...) Justice Joan McKelvey. Disability, in this case, did not pass GO with her and the play was taken out of jurisdiction for a Master to 'bench' it. Clearly a violation of my equality rights under Section 15 that is supposed to guarantee equal benefit and protection of the law to groups known to be historically discriminated against. 

"When we allow this to happen, we minimize the potential for dangerous consequences. Someone lost their head here, and Marielle isn't the one to blame for this one."

It is not an accident that Manitoba Justice did not factor mental illness when it was called to act on my behalf. This was an attack, not on some old person but friends with benefits. When I tried to broach the subject of violence within the legal system, I found no one willing to break the sacred code of silence to expose abuse of someone vulnerable, at the hands of one, or a group that belongs to the most educated and upper-income segments of our privileged society.  


See related postings:


  • We need to re-think mental illness and disarm the real problem at its root.

  • Time to hold government ACCOUNTABLE to practice what it preaches.

  • Time to STOP the harm that is knowingly being inflicted on those most vulnerable.

  • Time to GIVE HELP when asked and be careful of what works -- like revolving doors at health care institutions that result in long-term pain.

  • Time to STOP with the EXCUSES.







Marielle "Marie" Rowan

To those suffering from mental illness ... always remember
 Don't give up because you are loved. (YouTube link - Josh Grobin)

"When you are at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on."
Thomas Jefferson

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