Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on Friday that he plans to introduce legislation (Bill C 54) to prevent what he considers to be the early releases of individuals that were deemed mentally ill at the time of violent crimes. Our normally very controlled Prime Minister showed emotion and rightly so, as he spoke of the death of 3 beautiful young children and our country’s need to prevent such tragedies.
In no way can these children’s deaths, or Tim McLean’s murder on the Greyhound bus or the deaths of Dr. Guy Turcotte’ children be explained or understood. However, we have been told that these tragedies are a result of mental illness. The media ensures that we get this message. So does the Prime Minister.
Thankfully, such crimes rarely occur but they stay in our minds. Would these images be imprinted in our brains so clearly if our stigma of mental illness did not exist?
For instance, many studies such as the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, report that 1/3 of murders are alcohol related . Would we feel the same way about these crimes if the perpetrators were drunk on alcohol at the time? Is the media telling us that alcohol is a risk factor for murder when we’re watching those good looking people enjoying themselves on t.v. beer commercials?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not condoning violence in any way but research consistently says that people with mental illness are victims of crime and seldom the cause.
So what are we doing to help? 1 in 5 Canadian’s will need mental health care and there are only 4,100 psychiatrists and the number is declining. Person’s in jail particularly lack mental health care. Think about this the next time you” belly ache” about your own health care: there are 70,000 physicians in Canada and the number has been steadily growing.
Should we start to speak up? Do we all have a responsibility in this? Prime Minister Harper, it really is time to get emotional.