Thursday, March 29, 2012

Insanity in Toronto & Some Thoughts on Unconventional Therapy

Dr. Finch (Brian Cox) from the movie Running with Scissors

Insanity in Parkdale

I've been seeing a lot of crazy people wandering the streets in my neighbourhood lately.

I live in Parkdale, in Toronto's west end. This neighbourhood is home to CAMH (The Center for Addiction & Mental Health) which is slightly more than three city blocks east of my house. This may be the reason why I often see insane people on the streetcar. 

Last Saturday as I was heading downtown from the west end, a tall, balding, heavyset gentleman boarded the streetcar a couple blocks after myself. Picture Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown in Back to the Future, except taller, heavier, and balder. So this fellow gets on the streetcar and hasn't been on board for five minutes when he starts in with an insane stream of consciousness rant.

He covered everything from brain eating zombies to cops, to death, and I forget the rest. What I do remember is people inching away from him and his one lucid comment, which he screamed somewhere around Bathurst Street. It was, "I'm going to visit my mummy!"

I started laughing, because really, what else would you do in that situation? Then I started getting some funny looks of my own from the other passengers.

To top it off, we reach Osgoode Subway Station at Queen and University, and the guy puts his feet on the steps to activate the doors, leans out, and asks the TTC workers standing near the steps to the subway in the calmest, most rational voice, "Excuse me guys, is the subway working today?" The workers said no, the subway is not running. Just about everyone on the streetcar yelled something to the effect of, "Yes! It's running, get off now!" The guy did not get off. He just returned to his former spot and resumed the crazy babbling.


Why Is This Happening?

Where am I going with this story you ask?

I've always joked that the number of mentally ill people in Toronto must be a high number, but I think mental illness is more visible today as people are being pushed into desperate financial / mental and emotional situations by the prolonged economic downturn.

Ontario and the federal government have both recently released their 2012 budgets. It's finally time for the respective governments of Canada to reign in their spending and keep their pocket books close to their chests. Which is what Joe Canadian has been doing since about 2008 or so. The feds just cut $5.2 billion in spending and raised the age at which Canadians can collect Old Age Security from 65 to 67, a change that will be phased in.

People who are carrying around any significant amount of debt, or who work low income jobs are certainly feeling the hurt in Toronto. Housing is not cheap here, as the housing market in Toronto isn't particularly sensitive to the needs of people who just need a place to live. It's geared to people who want to park their money in multimillion dollar condominiums, many of which sit empty.

It's my gut feeling that desperate financial circumstances make people more susceptible to mental illness. I think that's why I'm seeing more and more deeply disturbed people wandering the neighbourhood.

This brings me to the third, and most important point of this post. Sometimes we all need a good therapist, a hug, some laughs, and an adventure shared with close friends.


A House Call from the Good Doctor / Collective Wake Up Call

I recently watched the movie Running with Scissors again, and was reminded of the healing properties of a little wacky therapy and a lot of unconditional love. The book is based on the memoirs of Augusten Burroughs. They chronicle his formative years, some of which were spent as the adopted son of his mother's therapist, in the book referred to as Dr. Finch.

The memoirs got Burroughs in quite a bit of trouble with the family of Dr. Rodolph H. Turcotte, who filed suit against Burroughs in 2005 for how they were depicted in his novel. 

But what I'd like to focus on is how Dr. Finch is portrayed in the movie version. As played by Brian Cox, the good doctor is unconventional but unquestionably loving. True, he basically gives his children, and the children of his patients, free reign in his quirky home, but his zest for life, adventure, and fun are undeniable.

Dr. Finch treats Augusten as an adult, never patronizing, and always with an open door and an open mind.

I've written before in my blog about the importance of treating each other well. That's my final thought for today. Treat each other well, love your friends, and step back from your desk often. Have wonderful adventures and take the time to enjoy them.

In closing, here's a link to a clip from Running with Scissors. It illustrates how God sometimes works in mysterious ways.

Until next time ; - )

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