The Mental Health Minute

Articles and news about mental health issues

Mental illness was cause of slaying; Circumstances forgotten amid furor

Here is another take on an article I posted earlier.  I agree that Li is sick and because hei s sick he deserves to receive treatment.  What I have a hard time with is that he may eventually be free to move out and about among unsuspecting communities with not so much as a rap on the hand for what he did.  I don’t know what the answer is to this dilemma, I just know that it doesn’t seem right.

The other thing I have a concern about is the statement that Mr. Li could be out with a security guard and a nurse for up to an hour (best case scenario) twice a day.  I don’t know how staffing is in Canada, but I believe it is the same or worse than staffing is here in the US.  There is no way that one patient can utilize two staff for two hours a day without compromising the care and treatment of all the other patients on his unit.

Where I work, there is one security guard for an entire hospital and we routinely work with only two RN’s and only two techs.  When you have a full census, it is hard to find a minute just to take care of your own personal needs, let alone take one patient out for walks.  This just doesn’t seem to be well planned or thought out.  The people responsible for setting these guidelines either have never been inside a psychiatric facility, or they don’t understand the needs of this population.  In either case, to take staff off an already understaffed unit is a prescription to injury and danger.

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By: Lindor Reynolds 4/06/2010 1:00 AM |

If I were Tim McLean’s mother I wouldn’t want Vincent Li to see the light of day.

That’s why we don’t allow victims (or their families) to decide punishment.

Li killed her son in such a brutal manner that news of the crime flashed around the world.It was an unspeakable act of depravity and violence. He was found not criminally responsible for the 2008 Greyhound bus slaying.

The judge found him to be suffering from hallucinations and untreated schizophrenia.

When he sentenced Li, the late Justice John Scurfield said: “Clearly there is a logical reason for the law, and indeed for society, to distinguish between persons who are sane and those who are not.”

In January 2009, his treating physician said he should be kept indefinitely at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre. Dr. Stanley Yaren said there was no chance Li could be released immediately back into the community.

At the time, Yaren warned that Li hadn’t been studied yet “outside of an extremely controlled and regimented environment.

” Li got close to his first flicker of freedom this week. The resulting maelstrom changed all that.

There were those who thought he should be locked up for life. Indeed, there were those who bemoaned the end of the death penalty. But Li, who said he was acting under commands from God to attack a “demon,” was sent to a locked ward in Selkirk.

Early Thursday, it appeared he’d be able to walk the hospital grounds for 15 minutes twice a day. He’d be accompanied by two staff members, according to a ruling from a Criminal Code Review Board. Eventually his privileges might be extended to one-hour passes, twice a day, as long as there were no problems.

But Thursday morning, Justice Minister Andrew Swan said Li would not be allowed to breathe fresh air until security measures were beefed up.

“In our view this order is contrary to the interests of public safety and seriously undermines public confidence in the Canadian system of justice,” he said. It was also a publicity disaster, something Swan and his team surely recognized. If the NDP is seen as catering to a madman, well, you can only imagine the trouble that would cause it come next campaign.

Most of you have never visited the Selkirk Mental Health Centre. It has sprawling grounds, lush grass and no fences. It looks like a park. It is here that Li would walk, accompanied by a security guard and a nurse. The staff would carry two-way radios or cellphones.

The board decided to give him a shot at leaving his locked ward.

Now, we don’t know how Li is reacting to treatment. We can assume that the proposed small lifting of his restrictions indicates he’s taking his medication and responding well. His treating psychiatrist says Li listens well to staff, has attended required programming and treatment and has an understanding of the impact of his crimes. He still occasionally suffers hallucinations.

He’s got a long way to go before he gets well, if indeed that’s possible. If he goes off his meds, who knows what might happen? What’s getting lost in some corners of this debate is the fact that Vincent Li is a sick man, one who did not make a conscious decision to kill. He is ill and that’s what caused the murder.

We all want to be safe. The idea a psychotic killer might escape from the hospital grounds is terrifying. But we need to understand that the goal of his treatment is to have him leave that hospital some day. He is supposed to get better. He just might get better.

It doesn’t matter what you feel: He did not receive a life sentence and was found not criminally responsible.

The medical system is trying to pick up the pieces and put Vincent Li together again. If the hospital (and our justice system) aren’t prepared to let him out for a walk, how are they ever going to deal with the eventuality that someday, however remote, Li will again be allowed to take a bus by himself?

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 4, 2010 A3

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June 11, 2010 - Posted by | Mental Health | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Incredible story

    Comment by nikolaus in koln | June 19, 2010 | Reply


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