Harambe the Gorilla and Mental Illness

By Marvin Ross

Like many, I was saddened to see Harambe shot. Was he helping the toddler as the initial photo may have suggested or was the toddler in danger as the subsequent video suggested? I have no idea! But I am astounded that there are seven petitions out there for people to express their dismay. One petition is approaching 500,000 signatures as I write this while another is getting close to 200,000 signatures.

That’s a lot of people who want justice for the gorilla.

Sadly, there is far less of an outcry when someone with untreated mental illness gets shot by the police. According to the Washington Post, a quarter of those shot by the police in the US were mentally ill. In Canada, according to a recent documentary on police shootings, 40% of those shot by the police are in a mental health crisis.

Here is one example of Toronto Police shooting a poor man in his hospital gown after he ran out of hospital https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbWUnzvAgb4

Shootings of those with untreated mental illness is only one small part of the injustices suffered by those who develop a mental illness in our society. In Canada, 38% of incoming prisoners suffer with a mental illness. Their offences often result from a lack of proper treatment. In Ontario, 40% of prisoners in solitary were locked away for 30 or more straight days. This is twice the limit permitted by the UN in its Nelson Mandela Rules. The main reason for the solitary was mental health or special needs.

Homelessness in Canada is accounted for by mental illness or addiction in between 23 and 67%.

In the US, a recent report found that there are 10 times the number of mentally ill in prison than in hospital. The consequences of not treatment, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center is homelessness, incarceration and violence.

And so few people care about any of this! Instead, we angst over one shot and killed gorilla.

To paraphrase Stalin one dead gorilla is a tragedy, a million maltreated and ignored mentally ill is a statistic.

Isn’t it time we showed some compassion for the mentally ill and gave them appropriate treatment and support?

8 thoughts on “Harambe the Gorilla and Mental Illness

  1. As I have written in so many of my posts the Western value system marginalizes and stigmatizes the mentally ill. By the very nature of this value system the following traits are awarded the title of “worthy” Being independent, competitive, strong, successful, attractive, hard working and self reliant. Our mentally ill cannot meet these expectations and therefore they are deemed unworthy. They do not vote or buy consumer goods….they are powerless and voiceless. Unless our value system changes….nothing else will change


  2. OMG. We need to get perspective as a society to demand respect for human life period. Animals are valuable life,of course, but what happened to common sense of the mere fact that we are humans. I’m sorry above animal rights! Let’s get a grip!!!


  3. Perhaps we should put the untreated mentally ill on display just as zoos exhibit wild animals to educate the public about their endangered lives. At least caged wild animals have fresh air which caged untreated mentally ill do not get. I know of a recent mentally ill person who has just completed a three month stay in solitary confinement and only had 1/2 hour fresh air in that time and is believed to have not received treatment to address his tormenting voices. The guards did not communicate with him as his meals were pushed through the door. Perhaps if these examples of torture could be more available to the public, it would galvanize outrage.


    1. It is hard to understand how any person should think the life of the gorilla is equal to the life of a child.

      But we know from the writings of psychiatrists Drs. Torrey and Shorter how horrifically the “mad” were devalued and made laughing idiots.to be viewed by citizens as comical entertainment for families and their children..So Sundays in earlier times (1700-1889) , were the fun day to go out to the Mad Houses and chuckle at the funny-actions of the fools they came to observe.(Think of your own beloved schizophrenic in this place.)

      This is no longer accepted behavior toward the insane but there seems to remain some people who disrespect those who need heartfelt, educated understanding for those unfortunate enough to become infected by psychoses,


  4. Our greatest sin against the seriously mentally ill (SMI) today is that we ignore the scientific research findings that point to microbial brain infection. Instead of following up on this rational scientific approach we continue to behave as if social studies have the answers.

    This kind of decision-making is like doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result.


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