Reprinted from "First Responders for Young People" issue of Visions Journal, 2006, 3(2), pp. 17-18
Annie: It took me a long time to understand that Scott was struggling with getting by.
I had moved to Edmonton to attend university, and he was working in British Columbia. When the place where he was working closed, he moved into a shelter—and began spending more time on the street.
Finally I got him to come to Edmonton. Scott was angry and threatening. Even though I knew he wouldn’t hurt me, I became exhausted from my emotional reactions. After a few months I realized that our relationship was getting worse, and I made him leave.
Once Scott was gone, I realized that the things he had said to me were not rational. I had taken a course in abnormal psychology and began to understand that his problems were not just emotional—he must have a mental illness. I was leery of the mental health system in Alberta because I had heard stories of enforced sterilization of mentally ill patients. Also, I had no medical coverage so couldn’t get help there.
I tried to get help for Scott back in BC. This was the most frustrating time, because all the people I talked to long distance—at the shelter, or social workers—said he would have to agree to get help. And he wouldn't do that. The only other way they could intervene was if he did something to hurt himself or someone else.
Scott: I was afraid of what I would say if I talked to a doctor. Any time I feel manipulated, I get hostile about it because I realize that totalitarianism is a true evil.
Annie: When I finished my degree, I moved back to the coast, determined to come to terms with what was troubling my son. This time, when he came to stay with me, I sought help from the local mental health centre. I had come to believe that Scott had been living with a mental disorder—probably schizophrenia—for about three years. He was often terrified that people were after him, but refused to go to the hospital for help. He was struggling to survive and I felt powerless to help him.
A mental health worker told me that if I wanted to have my son committed for assessment and treatment, I would have to swear an affidavit before a judge that he was a danger to himself or others. But Scott is not a violent person and is not a danger to himself or anyone else, so I despaired of ever getting help for him. And no one in my family would support me in going through the steps to have Scott committed—we were all afraid of the system, having had the experience of giving up our rights to get welfare when we couldn’t find work, or having been abused by the police.
Finally, Scott did a couple of things I thought a judge might accept as dangerous. He left a pot on the stove and it melted. Then he filled a lantern with fuel and the fuel caught fire, burning the front porch. The judge accepted my affidavit and arranged for the RCMP to pick Scott up the next day.
I will never forget how I felt that day when the police came. They were kind and respectful—but Scott looked so confused and lost.
Scott: My sense of betrayal has softened over time. I didn’t know until recently that it was my mother that sentenced me to eternal hell.
Annie: When I think of all that Scott has gone through since that day, I still feel that I’ve betrayed him. At the same time, I am so thankful he is alive. He is not struggling on the street; he has his own apartment and friends. He is still under certification, however, and hates being injected with his medication every two weeks. His medications have negative effects and no one knows what the long-term effects are.
Scott: The doctor represents totalitarianism in my life. I'm afraid of her, how she manipulates my mind to get what she wants‹which is another pay cheque out of me.
Annie: I live with a mix of fear, guilt, hope and thankfulness that Scott is alive and that we have a loving relationship. Writing about this and sharing it with Scott has been important, because we need to talk about what has happened to us. We need to respect each other’s journey even though we see things differently.
Scott: The conspiracy between the drug companies, the media and government, who are colluding to bring about the destabilization of the family unit through fear mongering, is truly despicable and should be undone immediately. They keep me certified so that I have to continue taking their drugs. There are many viable alternatives to drug ‘therapy,’ like better diet and vitamin therapy.
About the authors
Annie has a PhD in Education from the University of British Columbia. She is also a theatre maker and has employed people with mental illnesses in her theatre company, Tricksters¹ Theatre
Scott was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1996, at the age of 24. He has been living successfully on his own for five years