I’ve been thinking about this, about whether to write it, and whether to post it. But I suppose if I have to think about it on Christmas Eve, maybe other people should too.
It’s a rotten world, you know? It is all kind of abstract, when I go on about Darfur and other hellholes. But here is a particular:
I posted about the party
. What I didn’t mention is how it ended. The dignitaries left, the tv cameras left, the kids and families went to their rooms and played with the toys, and we were left with Peter. Peter is a young man from Sudan with a broken mind. He thinks he has a drooling problem, so he only wants to eat dry bread (when he eats at all), and likes to stuff his mouth with Kleenex when he can. He was sitting in the tv room stuffing his mouth with tissue all afternoon and into the evening, while the children were downstairs getting toys.
He was a child once, of course, whole and with dreams, but now as far as we can determine, all his family was killed, except for one uncle who is likely crazy too, starving and drinking himself to death in public housing, and certainly unable to help him.
He lived in our hostel for a few weeks last year, when he first came to Canada, and we must have been the first people that had ever been nice to him, because now our hostel is, in his mind, his home. He kept his key somehow when he moved out (to go to Brooks to kill cows for money, which he just couldn’t do for long); we re-keyed the rooms, but not the bathrooms, so he sneaks back in at night and sleeps in one, from time to time, no matter how firmly we ask him to leave.
He scares the bejeezus out of resident clients, though I don’t think he’s dangerous.
Though you never know, really.
So there we were, full of the glow of Christmas, trying to think of how to deal with Peter.
What have we done so far? We’ve tried to tell him he might feel better if he saw a doctor. Like most of his people, he believes the only thing a doctor can do is give you an injection. Our medical personnel tell us that he is clearly ill, and that an injection will not fix it. A daily regimen of pills might do it, but he a) does not believe in pills and b) does not think he is mentally ill. Like many mentally ill persons.
Like many mentally ill persons, he is bright, articulate, and engaging.
We managed finally to get the police to take him involuntarily to the hospital. He was there less than 24 hours: they determined that he was not an immediate threat to others or himself, and did not consent to treatment. So he showed back up. That’s the way it works.
He actually has a fairly good pile of cash available, because in desperation welfare has been sending his cheques to us, off-loading the problem as it were. Not that the cheques mean much, as he does not have and would likely have some trouble in opening a bank account to cash them in. We have no idea what he is living on, or how he is acquiring his marijuana.
Mostly he isn’t living on anything of course, and the dope, well, it is pretty harmless and might even provide more good than harm for him. (Pretty much every mentally ill person I have ever met self-medicated, usually to extreme extents. From my point of view, his mild pot use is a good thing, all things considered.) But his ethnic community, well, they are pretty conservative about drug use, and no one wants to help him because of it.
So what can we do? We can call the cops again, and they will eventually show up, depending on how busy they are with wife beatings and convenience store hold-ups by drug addicts, and escort him off our property, to which he will eventually sneak back into.
He’s been to the homeless shelters, but doesn’t like it there, there are too many crazy people he says. He’s right about that at least.
What we have to do, is get a restraining order, which is problematic to deliver as he doesn’t really have an address, but anyway once he breaches it, he can be arrested, put in jail, and then forced to appear before a magistrate, who can then order some treatment, maybe, if we are lucky, and any might be available, which is unlikely.
The last crazy guy that hung around too much and we worried about, ended up punching someone, and got put in jail, where he was raped and beaten very badly, which has made him a great deal angrier and even less stable. He’s hanging around too, not at the hostel thank god, but we don’t know what to do with him either.
Most of our court system and our jail system and our social services systems are clogged with mentally ill people. With Peters. We are forced to throw him there, because we cannot care for him, and no one else will. Jail is often the welfare system of last resort.
We are social workers, of a kind. We can help you with your substance abuse, we can help you with your dysfunctional family, we can help you with such basics as getting a job, apartment, and divorce. We can and do do a lot of good, on a daily basis. But if you are mentally ill, there is virtually nothing out there for you.
Peter may be spending his Christmas Eve in jail, if he shows up, and he likely will, because we put him there. Because he is young and very thin and weak, he will very possibly be beaten and raped too. This is the only way we, who are supposed to care for him, can see any hope of him getting treatment.
Otherwise, because he refuses the shelter, I expect this Christmas he will be sleeping on a public bathroom floor somewhere, stuffing tissue into his mouth.
Based on nearly 20 years of experience, it is unlikely that he will get any help. What all my experience tells me, is that he will live on the streets and sleep in the parks and be most despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, until he dies, which won’t be all that far away.
* * *
Over the last almot 20 years, I’ve had six clients with whom I had a personal relationship die on me for unnatural causes. Here are their names:SaraAliMohammedKrystinaJorgeJohn
I couldn’t help them.
Four of them were mentally ill, one of the others had a mentally ill partner. I am sure that I will see more this year, whether it is Peter, or any of the others.
Too many others.
Sorry. But when I eat my turkey tomorrow, I will be thinking of Peter, hoping he is indeed on a warm bathroom floor somewhere, and not in jail. I just wish I knew how to help him.