Tuesday, November 13, 2012
A Miserable Tale
Soon there will be a movie version of the classic Victor Hugo story, Les Miserables. Les Miz, the musical has launched thousands of school trips and tells a tragic tale of a man who is imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread to feed family members. Thank God this couldn't happen in real life.
What about a drama featuring a teen girl who is jailed for throwing crab apples at a postal worker? Her undiagnosed mental illness leads her to act out in incarceration, so she has time added to her sentence, again and again. Eventually she is uncontrollable and is shunted from institution to institution, sometimes restrained and muted with duct tape. This is a tragedy which ends with the young woman dying in a prison cell while guards look on. Eighteenth-century Jean Valjean, meet twenty-first century Ashley Smith, Canadian citizen in a liberal democracy.
In recent weeks just about everyone has decried what happened to Ashley Smith from the Prime Minister, to corrections officials, to editorial writers. But Ashley is dead, and we have to wonder what has changed. On a number of occasions we have addressed mental health issues together on this blog. Some of you have first-hand knowledge of the impact of compromised mental health and you know that the institutions for the most seriously afflicted are akin to prisons from another era.
Yes, we are seeing changes through CAMH and the societal stigmas are lifting. But Ashley's story reminds us how grim the reality can be for the mentally ill.
We have agreed that it is essential for Christian communities to respond compassionately to those with mental health issues and to lead the way. But let's be honest, we are still learning, still trying to understand.
What are your thoughts about the Ashley Smith situation? Comments about the way we address mental health issues generally, and within congregations?
Read Wake Up Call on Groundling http://groundlingearthyheavenly.blogspot.ca/