More than 20 years ago someone close to me was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Back then care in the community seemed to be in the news constantly. It was a policy everyone could attack: rightwingers because they didn't want "dangerous schizophrenics" in the community, lefties because they didn't want "dangerous schizophrenics" in the community either, but could pretend they were merely objecting to cuts and a lack of adequate support networks.You see, if you point out that letting dangerous lunatics roam free isn't a very good idea, you are being hateful and judgemental!
Why, the possibility of having your head sawn off by one of the careless with the community guinea pigs just adds a soupçon of excitement to your day, clearly...
I'm almost certainly being unfair – after all, there is still a dire lack of support networks – but that was how it felt to me. I felt less afraid of the illness, devastating though the consequences were and continue to be, than I did of other people's prejudice.It's a drearily familiar refrain.
Two decades later, I'm more aware than ever of how isolating a schizophrenia diagnosis can be. Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not all out to get you, and the vulnerability of those suffering from severe mental illness makes them an easy target.Mmmm. I think I know who is 'vulnerable' here:
Slightly built unarmed teenage girl
Powerfully built knife-wielding black immigrant
Oh, and a special mention for the arrogance of Inspector Gadget, who long before the suspect was sectioned (genuine, or a good defence ploy?) was insisting in his blog and on Twitter that of course this was another 'care in the community' case, because, well, it stands to reason, innit?
The defence most love him on the stand!