During my romping driving expeditions for work during the summer, I tend to listen to too much AM radio. I'm not sure if this skews my perspective on things or not as the two daytime talk radio hosts Richard Cloutier and Charles Adler often blow things out of proportion or try to make something where there is nothing, for the sake of entertainment.
The outcry that is happening currently over Vince Li receiving 15 minutes of fresh air a day has gone on for two days now.
Given that I am rather well versed in the areas of mental illnesses and am very familiar with the facilities at the Selkirk Mental Hospital, the ignorance and brashness that is voiced by people who think this man should never see the light of day is heartbreaking. I realize I shouldn't take too much offense to guest callers on AM talk radio, but the lack of information out there and complete misunderstanding of mental illness issues is astounding.
The first thing that comes to mind is that people either refuse to accept or forget that Vince Li is not some murderous monster. He has a lifelong illness that at the time of the Grehound Bus incident, was untreated.
I completely understand that people are scared of this man. Mental hospitals are not fun places. General hospitals are not fun places, but at mental hospitals you see the extreme progression of many different kinds of illnesses that you would never see on the street, or understand at all, unless you had an illness yourself or know somebody who has one.
I also completely understand the stigma that comes with mental illness, the stigma that it is not to be talked about or that it is somehow off-limits. This only purpotrates a greater misconception and supports a lack of understanding as normal. Ignorance is never bliss.
The science of mental illnesses has come a long way. As such the understanding of mental illnesses has also come along way. It was not all that long ago that people with mental illnesses were treated as guinea pigs and subject to inhumane experiments at the hands of some scientist at an insane asylum. At this point I will direct you to the history of psychiatric institutions, on Wikipedia which will give you a general oversight of the broader picture. What we know today as pharmaceutical drugs to treat mental disorders is a relatively new practice...one that has only been in place for the past 60 years and has only advanced to the point of being used effectively for perhaps 30 years.
To this day, despite abandonment of medieval style treatment methods and social exclusion, people with mental illnesses are still spoken of in a despicable manner, and all one had to do to prove so was to turn into Richard Cloutier's show recently.
Above is a painting by Vincent van Gogh, entitled At Eternity's Gate. As a side note, I am often baffled by the complete lack of the depiction of sadness or despair by modern artists. I chose this famous painting over a photograph of an old "insane asylum" because well, this one is perfect and it is difficult to find a "perfect" asylum photo.
Van Gogh would take his own life mere days after completing this painting. His last words, according to his brother, were "the sadness will last forever."
Modern facilities such as Selkirk Mental Hospital treat a wide range of patients, from depression to people who will be cared for their entire lives. This is where the most heartbreaking and sickening comments about Vince Li are those saying how he should be locked up for his entire life (see above: people refusing to accept that Li is not a murderous monster) and those saying he should remain locked up because the Selkirk grounds aren't fenced. That there should be a fence around this facility.
Such is the reason why I'm writing this post, education. The information is out there but as I said, it comes with the stigma of not being a subject that is talked about. The info is there, but goes unnoticed, unlearned, and ignored.
Putting a fence around such a wide-ranging service facility such as Selkirk is more insane than the people who live at these facilities for their entire lives are. It is not a prison.
Let me repeat that: it is not a prison.
It is a rehabilitating place, a hospital, a place for help and medicine. It houses people in all states of recovery. It is not a prison, it is not some annex of society. The mental hospital is a part of society, and a part of society that never gets seen or spoken of unless you are directly involved. Putting a fence around it, fencing everybody in and not allowing anyone to leave, with a gate and security guards, to allow people zero freedom, is lunacy itself.
We aren't talking about letting Vince Li back into normal society. For all intents and purposes, we're talking about letting him spend 23 hours and 45 minutes a day in solitary confinement, instead of 24 hours a day. We're talking about letting him see the sun for 15 minutes a day and maybe have a smoke as he listens to the birds in the 150 year old elm trees on the Selkirk grounds.
That's all I have to say...I can only hope maybe I have opened people's minds a bit or perhaps provided avenues for you to do some of your own research on these things.
I'll be tuning the AM radio out from now on. (Edit: I will now be avoiding the CBC site. The comments there are disgusting and appalling. You would think this was the 16th century in Great Britain).
Thanks for reading.