The Danforth Shooting – Violence and Mental Illness

By Dr David Laing Dawson

In the wake of the Danforth shooting a couple of my colleagues have been quick to point out that the association between mental illness and violence is small, that most people suffering from mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of violence. They are worried about the stigma of violence attaching itself to mental illness. And of course they are right. Though one of them goes on to use those horrible euphemisms of “mental health issues” and “mental health challenges”.

Language is important as are the questions we ask.

If we expand the problem to “mental health issues” then I am sure I can rightly say that all acts of physical violence by one human against another are the products of “mental health issues”. Otherwise we will have to expand our concepts of normal and healthy to include physical violence.

And the use of such ill defined euphemisms plus our worry about stigma cause us to ask the wrong questions. Did he suffer from “mental health challenges” and “issues”? Of course he did. Is a circle round?

These are the better questions to be asked:

1. Did treatable mental illness play a role in the Danforth shooting?

(I have just read that the man in question “repeatedly cut into his face with a pencil sharpener blade” and talked of hearing voices – both symptoms of a treatable mental illness, a psychosis, probably schizophrenia)

2. If he did have such an illness why was it not being adequately treated?

(Not “supported”, “counselled”, “accommodated”, but treated)

And finally, because question 2 will always lead to imperfect answers, 3. How did he get a gun?

I have to add that while many people suffering from delusions never act on those delusions, especially if they are being treated, a very specific sign that a psychotic and delusional person will act upon a delusion (that is, attack his imagined torturers) is self injury to face or genitals.

2 thoughts on “The Danforth Shooting – Violence and Mental Illness

  1. “And the use of such ill defined euphemisms plus our worry about stigma cause us to ask the wrong questions. Did he suffer from “mental health challenges” and “issues”? Of course he did. Is a circle round? Yes I agree euphemisms seldom help anyone. Treatment does.

    A public enquiry should follow . We should know what kind of access to treatment this man got. Someone who is cutting into his face needs monitoring and treatment. This tragedy could likely have been prevented. There should be findings as to what went wrong and more than recommendations to prevent another such tragedy.

    The bi-partison Select Committee Report lies gathering dust on some bureaucrat’s shelf.

    Long before the Graham Report was another report. The Hasseltine Report . It was full of sound common sense. The Graham Report said that the seriously mentally ill should be the priority . WE all knew that was not going to happen.

    Many reports followed all pretty much full of euphemisms and other tosh.

    The spinners of myths grabbed the grants. Scandalous.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well said.

    If I may respectfully add my view of this matter:

    There are a litany of issues that are related to this shooting or any other violent crime in Canada. Unfortunately, given the one-sided politicization of every such event by the left and the right, the monetization of the YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook cultures, as well as, the anti-intellectual polarization of public discourse, complex analysis or discussion is generally out of the question in this age. Nonetheless, let me add a short list:

    First, there is a substantial difference between suffering from a “mental illness or disorder” and the Criminal Code of Canada which states, in part: “16. (1) No person is criminally responsible for an act committed or an omission made while suffering from a mental disorder that rendered the person incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act or omission or of knowing that it was wrong.”

    To that end, the press has provided anecdotal reports of Faisal Hussein’s mental fitness or behavior. But, no one, has provided verified medical, psychiatric, psychological or any professional evidence of Mr. Hussein’s medical condition or diagnosis. As such, we may assume that Mr. Hussein suffered some form of “mental issue” however there is no evidence that he had lost the capacity to know right from wrong. Nor is there any evidence that Mr. Hussein was religious or radicalized by any Shia, Sunni, Ahmadiyya, or Ismaili terrorist groups or philosophy. In addition, unlike in most cases of the daily violence that plagues our nation, there is no reporting by the press or investigators of Mr. Hussein having a Facebook or other online identity which would point to INCEL, ISIS, anarchist, or other extremist affiliations or beliefs.

    And so, before we make this man a victim or villain, there should be an in-depth and professional analysis by a psychiatric or legal individual or body about this incident and Mr. Hussein. Perhaps, there should be a coroner’s inquest or other such process to have an objective review of all actors and activity involved in the Danforth shooting.

    Second, the Peel Regional Police Chief made headlines recently because she keeps a jar of spent casings, which people assumed from her presentations were crime scene evidence but are actually collected by her from the Peel gun range. The jar of spent casings is meant to graphically represent shootings in her region. Although, an emotionally charged display, the statistics and evidence stand in stark contrast to her statements to public groups which are meant to generate support for increased police funding and resources. Instead, there should be a review of the end of the gun registry by the Tory government but more importantly the utter incompetence of the Liberal government that instituted a system without ever having properly assessed the necessary cost or human resources required for a system that is as essential as the CPIC system. Sweden and Norway are the best examples of multi-faceted approaches that address criminality through the implementation of legislative changes to healthcare and rehabilitation services, public and private sector cooperation, and government funding at every level. As a result, they have the lowest violent crime and recidivism rates in the Western world. Canada, in the 21st century absolutely requires a detailed and computerized gun registry that may be accessed by all relevant: police, intelligence medical, social, and government agencies. And, through the same legislation, the gun manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and private sellers, have to be part of the formal process. There is no reason that we as a society should not know the location, ownership, and status of every gun in our nation. I come from generations of African hunters, and it is part of my blood, but so is the essential value system that all life is precious, gun ownership is a privilege and not a right, and the paramount duty of every individual is to society and not one’s self.

    Third, the choice of the Mulroney government to start the end of socialized medicine in this nation by selecting the “mentally ill” as the most likely to be blindly cast aside by the public is revealing about the Tories. But sadly, the Chretien and Justin Trudeau liberals are worse because rather that address the complex nature and necessity of rebuilding the medical, psychiatric and social care networks that have been dismantled over the past 40 years, they simply use political or social distractions, to continue the march toward the failed American model of “take care of yourself” or “only the rich receive treatment” medicine. And, for all their public statements about building an egalitarian and just nation, the NDP under Premier Bob Rae, showed that espousing the moral high ground is sufficient to get elected, however, governance requires competence and skill to implement the very things that will make Canada the nation that was envisioned by Tommy Douglas and Pierre Elliot Trudeau. And, the latest NDP leader is not even a member of the parliament let alone willing to denounce and distance himself from the terrorist and extremist philosophies and groups infecting the WSO or the Canadian Sikh culture.

    I and most of my friends would be happy to pay higher taxes to house, care for and treat the growing nation of homeless and “mentally ill” in every city in Canada. However, it will take a shift in societal discourse and engagement to have people return to a time when our personal interests were dependent upon our collective national well-being. This will take governments of all parties, levels, and interests to work together to build our economy, employment, education, social assistance, and other essential infrastructures. It was the wealthy conservatives that voted for President Trump, but the wealthy liberals all voted for Hillary Clinton, Trump won because of all the poor, disenchanted, and marginalized voters across America fell for his “Make America Great Again” fraud. Enter Doug Ford, Ontario’s new premier and the latest example of the Ayn Rand delusion.

    People who are worried about housing, food, employment, childcare, education, retirement, and a litany of other personal issues, cannot be expected to put aside their concerns for the needs or traumas of other individuals or communities. When a national body politic builds the citizen, then the citizen is empowered and motivated to build the nation and society.

    Finally, this is just a short list of issues that will never be covered by the press, politicians, and police or in fact society, it is difficult and time consuming to read, think, and acquire a broad based critical analysis of any matter. And until we return to a society that will embrace rather than reject intellect and social democratic values, these issues will endure and grow.


    Liked by 1 person

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