The heartbreaking tragedy of the death of 11-year-old Luke Batty by his father at a cricket training session at Tyabb and the consequent outpouring by the boy’s mother about mental illness and family violence casts a grim shadow over all who experience mental ill-health. The implications for the mentally ill are horrifying, tainting all of them with the spectre of violence; to be feared and mistrusted and alienated of course. Media reports about the mentally ill all too often are about the few who are violent and disturbed; often shot and killed by police because they sadly, don’t know what else to do. Neither tragically do the psychiatrists who if in their hands, just sedate them into oblivion. A female shrink I am forced to see at the moment actually commented it was good that the boy’s mother was talking to the media about the father’s mental illness. I was horrified at her as there was no awareness about mental illness and its tenuous connection with violence let alone putting it in a true context about the mentally ill. The reality is that most people, young and old, experiencing mental health problems, are indeed NOT violent; and if they do become too aggressive or hostile, it may well be because no one, including the shrinks and nurses looking after them, have even cared enough to find out the truth. I know because I’ve been at their mercy at a public hospital where no one bothered and where the police and paramedics broke into my apartment handcuffing me as if I was a criminal, violent and dangerous. What is of great concern to me is that the police made NO attempt to talk to me; I was just standing up as they entered, no weapon, nothing as they grabbed me as I sat down on a chair where I did start to struggle physically against them as they grabbed me saying – what are you doing? I soon stopped as they just pulled my hands behind my back to handcuff me. Truly mortifying, as I’d done NOTHING… I was indeed shocked; I had committed no act of violence and never have. But I was hostile verbally to my sister on the previous night when a CAT team came to the apartment with her, she is a retired GP, whose words counted for everything. As for my perspective, it was ignored and irrelevant. Her point of view was paramount and the police when they burst into the apartment the next night offered me no opportunity to talk. They certainly weren’t interested in my truth (sadly, neither was my sister or the shrinks).
It is true I wasn’t well as I had taken the drug prenisnolone mistakenly for what I thought was a pinched nerve in my knee which made me a bit manic, but I should have been safely escorted to a hospital for my physical health as I also had deep and painful cuts on my fingers from the harm I felt inflicted on me over the past weeks by my sister and so-called friends that I interpreted as a VERY sick game. I should not have been locked up in a lunatic asylum where I was left to die of dehydration in emergency at St Vincent’s. My crime? I don’t like my sister, and furthermore, had written a book over 30 years ago about a female violent character who attempts murder (see earlier blogs about a shrink Dr C who thought and thinks it was my truth). So the insanity of it all lives on. The reality is that for so many other people who seemingly live normal lives but who are violent, it’s never about mental illness. Are mental good health and violence synonymous or as I contend, a tragic contradiction in terms? It’s just never considered!
Having grown up in a psychologically violent family and perhaps unsurprisingly, had a boyfriend who was both psychologically and physically violent, (albeit I was 21 and never repeated that iniquitous pattern of behaviour), the reality of how his life panned out professionally and my own is indeed terrifying. Not just his career compared to mine, but the friends he had who knew both of us who later turned their back on me. And how my family too, regarded me because of the books I’d written. Let alone the shrinks which I’ve outlined in WHOSE MENTAL MADNESS? The reality is that this ex-boyfriend became a media star on 60 Minutes earning megabucks when his violence, on going (as I was well out of the relationship by then), was to some extent known by his friends at least. Did anyone label him mentally ill? Not on your life though he nearly killed me and couldn’t even remember what happened. Moreover, there are many men I worked in the media, both here and in the UK, who were known to be violent; yet they had prestigious well-paid jobs while I was relegated to the scrapheap because I was supposedly mentally ill. And look what my sister just did to me and the police and St Vincent’s! Moreover, some of the courts, when confronted by violent men, instruct them to do anger management courses; not consult a shrink for a mental health issue. Violence for men is just not considered as a mental illness.
Moreover, to step beyond my personal experience, the king hit punches in our streets that kill are so easily ascribed as alcohol-fuelled violence but just ask a counsellor who deals with alcohol abuse about the mental health of their patients? Or go ask Alcoholics Anonymous about the self-hate (often projected onto others sadly in their drunken rages) of their clients(I’ve done stories on Alcoholics albeit recovered who say they were full of self hate and loathing). Mental good health or mentally ill? There’s also the horrific increase in workplace bullying, fuelled by what? Feeling good mentally about yourself when you psychologically demean, belittle and humiliate your workmates is an obvious contradiction in terms from my perspective, let alone some of the physical assaults in the workplace that end up in court with fines and only occasionally prison. The perpetrators are not ever regarded as suffering from mental illness; their mental health is never an issue and indeed they are not locked up in St Vincent’s Mental Health Service! I know because I have researched and written a story on that and experienced it too as a victim.
Are these people who prey on others so mentally well? I know first hand they are not. But as a victim, you’re fucked in the head for resigning and walking out of such mentally disturbing and sick behaviour; that’s the tragic truth about our society. Who is really sick I can only ponder? Furthermore, there’s internet bullying (so-called), violence in our schoolyards, behind closed doors in suburbia and too often all of these violent behaviours are not associated with mental illness, just a norm of human behaviour however slightly aberrant they may seem. And of course, women are more readily locked up in mental institutions than men.
What does this say about how society condones violence? And defines it, sees it? And how the mentally ill are too often regarded? According to the Macquarie Dictionary, mental health is defined as the general condition of the mind with reference to sanity or vigour. How, I ask myself at least, can violent behaviour/actions be regarded as sane when you inflict damaging and grievous harm on others? And what of psychological violence as I’ve penned in a recent previous blog? Hurting others in the name of mental health NOT mental illness!!!!! It’s indeed horrifying to me that we do NOT really clarify what constitutes mental GOOD health; only that we define mental illness and that’s a very circumscribed definition that doesn’t include violence unless it’s homicide and/or suicide on some occasions only, at that. A sad indictment of our social milieu and the people responsible for our health; both body and mind! Luke Batty’s murder SHOULD make us confront it all.