I FORGOT TO WEAR PURPLE ON SCHIZOPHRENIA AWARENESS DAY
Sometimes these weird coincidences occur that remind me that there is a God – or as my father-in-law used to say a “Master Plan”
May 24 was “Schizophrenia Awareness Day” in BC. I’d planned to wear purple as many others were planning to do. In Prince George some planned to dye their hair purple.
Previously I’d emailed a reporter named Gordon Sinclair Jr who writes a column for the Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper. I’d read his article on the dilemma of whether or not to trust schizophrenics who’d committed a homicide – even after they’d been properly medicated and were considered “sane.”
I also wondered if he was the son of Gordon Sinclair Sr who had been a wartime journalist and in later years a panelist on the 1960’s TV show “Front Page Challenge” (Turned out Gordon Jr was the son of a journalist but not THE Gordon Sinclair I remembered.)
On May 24th Gordon called on the phone. We conversed for well over an hour. I still shake internally when talking about the horrible thing that happened with Bruce back in 1993. I promised Gordon I would email Bruce’s statement to BC Review Board in 1999 which precluded his release from the Forensic Psychiatric Institute.
I typed the scenario out (from my book) along with pertinent dates and info pertaining to Bruce’s release process. Gordon particularly wanted my take on whether I thought that Vince Li should ever be released into the general public. The victim’s mother insists the man who murdered and dismembered her son should be locked up forever.
My take on it was that each of these perpetrators is an individual- with individual weaknesses and strengths. When they become well [now referred to as in “recovery”] and on the proper medication, they need to have insight into their symptoms. It is important as well that they have the right attitude about continuing on their meds and staying well. And of course monitoring their mental health on a regular basis should definitely be on the agenda.[Same as when on a cancer or a heart disease medication]
Upon re-reading the notes copied from my book “The Ghosts Behind Him” (published in 1999)I am once again pleased and proud of my son for doing as well as he has for all of these years – ever since being released on a conditional discharge from the Forensic Psychiatric Institute in Port Coquitlam. Bruce is lucky to have had the ongoing support from both the staff at his group home and from his doctors. He’s also benefitted greatly from his association with the staff and mental health peers at the Gallery Gachet (art studio) in Vancouver where he spends much of his time.
Notes sent to Gordon Sinclair Jr.
May 23, 1996: (two years after being detained at the Forensic Institute in Port Coquitlam after being tried for Second Degree Murder and acquitted because of a mental disorder) The BC Review Board determined to approach release “more slowly” – have Bruce experience living in Hillside (cottages at Riverview Hospital) before discharging him from the Hospital and placing him in the less supervised setting of a group home…..”one significant change in the terms and condition” was that there should be a possibility of unescorted access to the community during the term (one year) of the new disposition…
Nov/ 96: I [Doris]was then able to visit with Bruce at the place where I was staying [no official escort needed as was previous stipulation]
In January 1997 Bruce phoned me to say the doctor had taken him off the older medication and had upped the dosage of Clozapine. Bruce said he was now able to concentrate much better.
In a letter to me he wrote: “…It’s been hard for both of us. There’s still so much pain when I remember…I try to leave it all behind me (perhaps too much) I live in the present moment and approach everything with as much patience as I can muster…. I hope to make some progress in the coming months toward establishing a sense of trust between me and the community. You and I know that I am not a violent person, but others hold my fate in hand. Others who do not know me.”
May/97– review board granted him visiting leaves including overnight stays. Bruce arrived in our community of FraserLake – [about 14 hours on the bus] – for a visit. He was allowed to stay for 4 days. [rules included notifying his ward at FPI upon arrival and before leaving for home]
In December he was allowed a visit with his dad and stepmom in Ladysmith. He had said he wanted to move back to Nanaimo but only if Mental Health would first consult with the Davis family. Bruce wanted the lady at Mental Health to assure them that he was “no longer dangerous” [don’t think he got any feedback on that… the family probably didn’t want him back in the same town??]
Bruce was eligible for “temporary leave placements” into a selected group home [this was in 1998]
It was in the group home in Burnaby where Bruce went off his medications and once again experienced the “dark voices” although they were not as strident as before. He requested that he be taken back to the Forensic Psychiatric Institute. A few days later when I phoned his caseworker, I was told his mental health “had already returned to baseline”
Bruces next Review Board Hearing was on January 6, 1999. He said he was going to be absolutely candid about why he went off the meds (he’d been advised by someone that the meds cause brain injury)
The people in his therapy group were very supportive, prompting him to write the following statement which reflected his new attitude.
“First of all I’ve learned that in order to stay functional, I have to make sure my relationship with my doctor and treatment team is mutually conducive. Throughout my therapy with Doctor T…. at the clinic, I have come to understand that it is integral I see myself as part of the team, that I have something to contribute to it. Moreover it is useless to be confrontative or even challenging toward a system that I am involved in. It is a matter of trust – both ways. Trust is a lot like money, it must be earned! I see myself as fulfilling the role of a job. In the same way that these professionals do their work, I must contribute.
“I had been told [by ex-patients] that there’s a chance of contacting brain damage from medications, therefore I stopped taking my regular dosages. Afterward my doctor suggested I read literature from an orthodox viewpoint. After the consequences I decided that I had made a mistake. When I stopped taking my medication, I immediately experienced hallucinations and then volunteered to be returned to FPI to be reassessed. When the dosages were raised I had no more problems and returned to reside [at the group home]. I am of the understanding that if I have a relapse of any sort, I am open to returning to this institution for as long as it takes, to be reassessed and treated in any way. I have stated this several times and have no reservations whatsoever- whether I have a custody order, conditional discharge or absolute discharge.
“Thus, perhaps I earn the trust that I am given. Now my job as I call it, is to maintain respect for the system and to endeavor to keep myself empowered. To know when I need help and not be too proud to ask for assistance. I am to be honest and not to worry about the consequences.
“ I have been as honest as I can be, considering my fears and despite the fact that I lied about the bad voices. They were always present [during the time he was off medication] but were not (as I saw it) debilitating and could easily be ignored through relaxation techniques. Now I can claim honestly that these voices have receded into the background. I feel I am ready to take steps toward a long and healthy rehabilitative return to the community I live in and am a part of.”
Note; it was at this point that Bruce received a “Conditional Discharge” from the Forensic Psychiatric Institute.