From the blog

Wouldn’t we all be better off if our governments invested in mental health care, for real?

Obviously by now we’ve all heard the news that the man who shot up the Danforth in Toronto, killing two young girls, Reese Fallon being one of them, who went to school with my nephew, was mentally unwell.  So was the guy who slit the throats of the two sisters in Oakland, leaving the youngest, Nia Wilson, another eighteen year old dead.

This tragic, senseless lives lost, dreams never realized, and gaps in families that will never ever be filled, that should not have happened.  Yet they did, and they continue to happen because for some reason mentally unwell people have access to guns.

Why?

How?

Our leaders are letting our communities down, and have been letting them down for decades now.  Ever since funding for mental health was slashed crimes like this have escalated.  I understand why we abolished mental institutions, so nobody needs to write in educating me on the criminal activities that were being afflicted on the people who were in the care of these institutions, or the barbaric ways they chose to “treat” the most mentally unwell of the patients.  I’m not suggesting that we go backward in time to that sort of locking people with great need for mental health up.

Not at all.

Instead what I envision are state of the art facilities.  Hospitals that include gyms, pools, rooftop gardens, situated on acres of forested land where people with severe mental health issues can live, and thrive.  Where they live in safety and wellness supported by medical professionals, and care givers, who not only have the knowledge as to how best support them, but also the passion to do so.  We all know that there isn’t a person on this planet who would thrive, heal, or find happiness living in a way that makes them feel like a burden, or when they feel unloved.  If we would create these safe utopias for them wouldn’t we all win?

I believe we would.

I also feel, as a mother, that there must be nothing more disconcerting than raising a mentally unwell child; certainly a child as mentally challenged as the parents of Toronto shooter did their best to raise.  They wrote in their letter to the victims and the city of Toronto yesterday that they did everything they could.  They tried medication, they worked with professionals his entire life, and never thought his mental illness would end in this way.  I can’t imagine the worry, that a parent of a child who had such great need, the way their son did, lives with day in and day out.  Constantly waiting to see what today would bring, how would their child act out today?  Wondering how it would all manifest, how would it play out, and how would that child’s story end.

While we honour the lives of the victims, let’s not forget, that even though the Hussain’s son did take the lives of those two innocent girls and injured thirteen more, his parents also lost their child.  They are also victims of their son’s violence.  They will also forever, and always, carry the guilt for the lives that their son took, and the survivors who’s lives will also never be the same again.  So may we remember them in our prayers, and offer up our compassion to them also.

We have the means to give more to those who are severely mentally unwell.  We have the resources, and we have the knowledge.  Now, we need the funding and support of our governments to find a way to bring this all together so that these sort of crimes can begin to become a thing in our history.  Maybe I’m being too idealistic, but in my opinion creating these safe, nurturing, humane homes/hospitals for those in our community who are in desperate need of them, to support the families and those who suffer from severe mental health issues, seems doable.

So let’s do it.

While we allot the tax dollars to create at least one place like this in each major city of Canada, we must also tackle the issue, of closing the black market gun trade/industry.  For that, I am currently without a plan…but am hopeful that there is a way.  If Australia and Great Britain have managed to keep guns out of the hands of their gang members, surely we can figure it out as well.  Because the escalation of gang gun violence in Toronto my friends is next level out of control, and needs to be addressed, like yesterday…

5 Comments

  1. A wonderful vision except for getting the government involved in any way. To make this into a reality that lasts over time, it has to be privately funded by organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Warren Buffet Foundation, etc. If government is involved and it is ever built, within a few short years the funding will start being reduced, professional/nonprofessional staff salaries will not keep up, facility maintenance will be reduced/ignored and you’ll end up in a decade with nothing more than a warehouse much like the old style asylums became. At one time, all those “state hospitals” were state-of-the-art facilities staffed by caring professionals too. It’s always “out of sight, out of mind” if you get the government involved and politicians see money being spent on “expenses” that could be spent elsewhere buying votes.

  2. Denmark does quite a good job with this although there aren’t enough openings to meet demand. After several years on the wait list my friend’s son is in a building in Copenhagen where he has his own apartment and can function on as high a level as he can manage. There are doctors and nurses and caretakers who either live there or visit often. He has schizophrenia and cannot stand crowds or too much stimulus but here he has gardens and a new girlfriend and can venture out on his better days. He’s only in his 30s so it’s a comfort to them to know if something happens to them he’s in good hands.

  3. Thank you Shantelle, for this well focused and important post. The mental health services in Canada are well behind what is needed, and we sorely need a new national strategy. I would also suggest , as a career elementary teacher, that we start looking for warning signs and behaviors in the primary grades, and start addressing this problem across the country. Thank you again for such a heartfelt article.

  4. Yes, very well said. Currently our Hospitals don’t have beds for people suffering from heart attacks as just an example. Mental health beds, are non existant. So much “talking” has been done (Bell Let’s Talk for 1 example) aimed at reducing the stigma. I fully support that, BUT, what happens when the person who gets the courage to ask for help, cannot get any? Well, if we allow ourselves to finally admit it, we all can see EXACTLY what could happen. Health care in general, has been turned into “bureaucrats,” not “help.”
    This MUST change.
    That’s my 2 cents at least.

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