Many theories abound as to why mental health stigma plays such a major role in society. But one undeniable truth is that the media have likely done more harm than good.
A Canadian news story caught the attention of the world in 2009 when Vince Li, a Chinese immigrant to Canada with schizophrenia, suffered a psychotic break and brutally murdered and decapitated Greyhound bus passenger, Tim McLean.
Should the Mentally Ill Be Locked Up Forever After Committing a Violent Crime?
As far as horror stories go, there isn’t much worse than someone taking out a machete on a public bus, decapitating someone and then parading around the bus licking blood from his fingers while holding onto the head of the victim.
This happened, and it is absolutely astonishingly awful. There is no denying that. I can’t imagine what the family of Mr. McLean have gone through over these past few years. My thoughts are definitely with them as I’m sure they are dealing with more than I could ever imagine.
The reason I bring this up is that Mr. Li has caused yet another public outrage by recently being granted supervised access to the community where he is held in a forensic psychiatric hospital.
A recent editorial in the Winnipeg Sun seems to have a fairly good grasp of the public sentiment regarding this news.
Not Now. Not Ever
“His schizophrenia symptoms are being managed with high doses of antipsychotic medication at Selkirk Mental Health Centre. And according to his doctors, he’s doing very well. That’s great. We’re all happy for Li and we hope that he continues to take his medications and finds some type of meaningful life inside the walls of a mental facility. But he should never get out. Not now, not next year, not in 10 years – not ever.”
Not now. Not ever.
Mr. Li was found “Not Criminally Responsible” for his actions on account of a major mental illness. Not criminally responsible. Then why does society feel the need to criminally punish this man, for something over which he had little to no control over?
Mr. Li likely did not wake up that day and decide ‘I’m going to go on a bus and decapitate someone because that just seems like a neat thing to do.’ Mr. Li, in his deluded and paranoid state due to untreated schizophrenia, believed that Mr. McLean was an alien and that he was in fact saving the world by killing him.
As someone who has suffered psychosis, I can at least somewhat put myself in the shoes of Mr. Li. Although the things I did while psychotic cannot be paralleled to what Mr. Li did, I certainly can understand that what he was doing felt right at the time and that after coming back to reality, he likely felt absolutely awful about what he did.
Mr. Li was ill. Just like anyone else. But most people’s illnesses don’t typically result in the death of another human being.
And just as the newspaper article against him being granted supervised access to the community stated, he is being managed on medication and is doing quite well.
Take a Walk in His Shoes
We have already lost one life to this terrible tragedy and sadly we cannot bring back Tim McLean. But we don’t have to allow another human life to be thrown away because of it.
Imagine waking up from a psychotic rage to realize that you had ended an innocent life? Mr. Li has to deal with that thought every single day.
Put yourself in his shoes and ask yourself, ‘doesn’t he deserve a second chance?’