Colony of Losers

Colony of Losers
Halifax, Canada
December 31
Colony of Losers
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Michael Gray Kimber is a 26 year old writer from Halifax, Nova Scotia born slightly after the ides of March. Since the age of six when he realized his career in professional modeling was going nowhere he has wanted to be a writer. At the age of 10 years old he wrote his first book “A Game’s Master Games”. It was a derivative of Mortal Kombat and if published would have resulted in a rather lengthy lawsuit which would most likely have ruined his middle class family. Much has changed since then. His brother became a rapper known as Josh Martinez. His father Stephen Kimber began known for punching idiots in the face with his oh so powerful words. Graduated from King’s College with a degree in English as well as a degree in Journalism he finds himself on the hunt for actual employment. Launching his blog Colony of Losers he hopes to get attention for his finished novel For Four, encourage magazines to give him freelance work and find an employer who will make all his dreams come true. During this struggle to become an adult he came to grips with an anxiety disorder that would see him lose the ability to sleep and go to war with himself. He went looking for a cure, trying every solution suggested by the internet, from self help groups to medication, to hot yoga where beautiful women farted in his face to meditation sessions with madmen. Nothing was too ridiculous in the hopes that he could make it all stop. The Cure is his story, as friends and family made him realize that their wasn't a cure, there was simply learning how to live with it. 1 in 5 deal with mental illness. The system is not equipped to deal with them. The stigma of mental illness is keeping us from recognizing the crisis that is facing his generation. The ridiculous and offensive honesty of this story is meant to give a human face to what we would all prefer to look away from. Read his series in its entirety at While this begins with his story it will soon move onto his talented friends, inspiring strangers and absolute nutjobs he meets along the way. To get in contact with Michael please email him at PS my avatar is made by the amazingly talented Peter Diamonds who is the chief illustrator in the series.


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JANUARY 21, 2011 9:27PM

Tucson: Selling Out The Mentally Ill For Safety

Rate: 32 Flag

Christina Green was born on September 112001 and died January 9th, 2011 when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on Congresswoman Danielle Gifford in a mall in Tucson, Arizona.  Five others were killed and 14 injured. You probably know that. If you’ve paid a lot of attention you also know that the Congressman is married to an astronaut and has an extensive collection of glocks.  You also probably know that this story has suddenly become about safeguarding society from the dangers of the mentally ill instead of addressing issues regarding the culture of violence that is crippling America.

On January 16th, CBS reporter Bob Schaffer asked “America’s Mayor” Rudolph Giuliani why this tragedy hadn’t brought the US together in the same way September 11th did.  It strikes me that there is a very real danger that this tragedy will do just that. In the wake of tragedies we look for simple answers to complex questions and the States tend to look for people to arrest en masse.

Good folks all across the States are making the focus of this debate that we need to make it easier to institutionalize the mentally ill. This time the mentally ill are the shadowy threat to society.

A common misconception about mental illness is that the mentally ill have a defined predilection toward violence.  This misconception is fed by the fact that every time we have a large scale discussion on mental illness it is prompted by one of the rare occasions where the mentally ill act violently towards someone other than themselves.

This idea can be corrected by doing some simple research. Pretty much any scientific study done on people suffering from mentally illness shows that they are more likely to hurt themselves then others and are no more prone to violent action than anyone else. Yet the media doesn’t do much to correct these stereotypes. Violent acts are described as psychotic. The term psychotic is constantly misused, as most people that suffer psychosis, (hallucinations and hearing voices) don’t commit violent crimes. Being psychopathic and psychotics are totally different things.  A psychopath has symptoms of extreme narcissism, hatred, lack of empathy, alienation but isn’t suffering from any clinically treatable mental illness such as depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. This societal myth has convinced many to fear the mentally ill and many people suffering from mental illness to fear themselves.*

In past generations when the mentally ill were abused in asylums, lobotomized and tortured, hiding your disease was a way of maintaining what little life your illness hadn’t taken away from you.

Recently I received an email from a 60 year old mother of a friend of mine. She confessed that she had hidden her depression from her own family. Even her husband didn’t know such was the weight of her shame. Imagine hiding for your entire life because you were scared of what others might think of you, even what your family might think.  You might say that things have changed and wouldn’t happen in our day.

I have a friend who is almost 25 and hasn’t told her parents about her bouts of mental illness. Since Tucson she has spent a lot of her time reading articles about it, wondering what the words meant for her. Obsessively searching, hoping to find that society’s beliefs didn’t mimic her fears. Finding Facebook statuses with phrases like: “The Tucson shooter should have just killed himself,” and “Fucking nutcases need to be in the loony bin.”  Reading articles where unidentified parents expressed the worry that their own children would follow Loughner.

2/3’s of people suffering from mental illness don’t get treatment due to stigma.

She is not in the minority.

On September 11th there wasn’t a dramatic reassessment of the US policies in the Middle East that created the hatred that made people want to attack America. Instead Bush focused on the surface of the issue and rallied around the idea of finding and killing the terrorists. Which doesn’t address the root of the problem and in fact increased the sense of alienation the Islamic world feels towards the West.

The same thing is happening now. Rather than attempt to rebuild the shattered foundations of our mental health system, we are assuming the system will fail to help these people deal with their problems before it reaches the point when they have to be institutionalized. I repeat we are assuming that failure is the only possible result.

There does come a time when society has to step in.  We can’t force a person to take their medication when they need it.  There comes a time when a person is no longer responsible for their own actions and needs to be safeguarded against themselves. I’m just saying that this isn’t what the debate about mental illness should center around.

Instead of addressing the root of the issue, we are looking to provide a surface safety so that we can stop thinking about it. And we are making it worse by propagating stereotypes in our search for safety and making it harder for people like my friend.

And why? Because it was politically expedient for ring wingers to change what this debate was about because no one wants to talk about gun control and the question of who actually needs to own a glock. Of why Christina was killed by dangerous weapons that are made available to basically anyone who wants them.

But again I’m moving away from the point, which isn’t some clever analogy comparing Tucson to September 11th or a discussion about gun control.

The point is that every time the media focuses on mental illness awareness it is as a result of the rare case when a mentally ill person hurts someone other then themselves. Which gives the impression to the general public that the mental ill are violent by nature and as such reinforces negative stereotypes even when trying to dispel them.

It matters how you open a discussion especially when you always open it the same way.

The hard truth is that we do need to talk about violence and the mentally ill. But it’s the violence they enact towards themselves that needs discussion and as a society we aren’t trained to talk about suicide. Journalists can cover murders, they can’t cover suicides.

Right now suicide is the leading cause of violent death, not homicide. 4,000 people die of suicide every year in Canada, 32,000 in the United States. The silence comes both before and after suicide and it’s the silence before that we need to deal with most.

I never learned anything about mental illness in school from junior high school through to the end of University.

My education has been watching my friend’s collapse, chase drug addictions and commit suicide.  Watching from the sidelines, when they wound up in the terrible place they had no understanding of and chose to run as fast as they could away from the person in the mirror.  I only was able to understand them when it was my turn to run as fast as I could until the people in my life helped me look in the mirror and accept what I saw.

Now we are back in that crucial moment that has come a thousand times and passed us by a thousand times. Are we willing to stop being polite and actually talk about the epidemic that is crippling us behind closed doors? We need to provide education to our children when they are going through puberty and experiencing those first changes. When they are in high school and university when most mental illnesses set in. We need to provide counseling to those who need it whether they can afford it or not. We can’t simply accept that the system will fail.

We can’t be afraid to look in the mirror.

There isn’t one easy solution. But we have to try to take those small excruciatingly slow steps in the right direction. I can’t accept failure as a given, not when I know that means.  The system is not an animate thing, but a collection of voices that include our own. We can change it.

The mother of my friend is 60 and still dealing with the stigma of mental illness that afflicted her generation. A friend of mine is 25 and scared to tell the people she loves about her illness. In a few years I’ll have children and I don’t want them to feel the shame that we do. I want them to know that my love isn’t contingent on them being happy. Please don’t wait for the next tragedy to talk about mental illness.

We can’t make it perfect, but we can make it better.

 *Information obtained from article in the Globe and Mail by Bob Wilkerson.


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Did they not say they were cutting 39 million to Arizona's mental health care due to lack of money? I am pretty sure I heard that this week.
It;s easy to pull the wool over people's eyes. This is one subject that should not be.
rated with hugs
I also believe the insurance companies hands are in here somewhere as the mentally ill, sometimes, need long time care and God forbid they have insurance to cover it if they do come forward.
I keep reading smoke and mirrors and that is what all this leads to.
I may have learned more from this post than from any post I've yet read on OS.

For what it's worth, most of what I've heard has been a combination of the two issues: How could someone with a documented mental illness be able to purchase a firearm legally? Given your suicide data, that might actually be a valid question; just not for the reasons they think.

I've heard a professor, a colleague of my wife's, refer to bipolar disorder as a terminal disease. That is, I think, an exaggeration, but maybe less of one than we think. We certainly need to be dealing with this more comprehensively.
Good points. I am glad, however, that the subject IS talked about even if the negative brings it to light. Thanks for this COL
I have much mental illness in my family, I am lucky to be touched by only a little depression.
Being sad and feeling hopeless is a tough road to finding joy
When it comes to funding, care for the mentally ill is woefully underfunded. The county mental health systems were constructed to help de-hospitalized patients suffering from disabling disease cope. The county mental health system is underfunded. Loughlin was clearly a danger to himself and others but there was no agency or procedure for PIMA Community College to report. This whole incident is to say the least unfortunate.
Lots to think about here. It almost seems that our culture places a higher value on a life taken via homicide than on one taken by suicide. I never really thought of that.

I like your comparison to Bush's reaction to 9/11. Kill the dirty rag heads. This country is far behind in the 'civilized' category.
Great post.
(love this font too)
Great post! I haven't heard a single other person make that point in the wake of the Tucson tragedy.

I'm glad Bush is no longer president, or he may have declared a "War on Mental Illness".
I do not at all think this will be used as an excuse to round up those w mental illnesses. r.
Almost every volunteer job on Long Island and New York City requires a full background screening. So I don't volunteer because I am worried that a background screening would reveal my 25 year struggle with manic depression. If it came out, no one would want me around children or the elderly. Volunteer organizations were much better when they weren't directed by officious social workers.
I am reposting my traumatic loony bin experiences in from 1989 to 1996, along with my descent into hell at St. Vincent's in 1973, after I was wrenched from my entirely breastfed baby and tricked into the hospital. People have the agreeable fantasy that loony bins are caring places, not jails where insubordination can get you locked up in four point restraint or locked up in the quiet room for hours.
I distinguish between violent mentally ill and mentally ill. You should too. Violence is its own form of mental illness. The argument in society should be contained to who is violent...not who is mentally ill. When you do that, you will find too many to count and deal with, and so america keeps on denying the real issue--violence.
Well written and intelligently stated. And what L in the Southeast said.
The is the most magnificent, articulate and all-encompassing piece on the plight of the mentally ill in this country that I have ever read. R
the mentally ill are the first cut because they are powerless and have no lobbyists; many of these illnesses require long term expensive treatment;
no, obviously few are violent; but I think this has gone too pc.
some are violent, and we have to deal with it
involuntary commitment for those who have lost all touch with reality and are a danger to themselves or others should be legal with appropriate safeguards against misuse; psychosis is real, denying it has not made it go away
Great Post. You are correct on everything you wrote.I read yesterday where the men and women in the National Guard, who have been on multiple tours in these wars, suicide rates have doubled. This is PTSD and the military is letting thousands of people out without any treatment. They did it in Vietnam and we , have a half a million vets homeless who are "mentally ill," so-called by society!
Great post and we do need a national discussion about mental illness. Thank you for writing this.
The title of this post is intriguing. I doubt that anyone will care much until such time as the trial starts then it will be weeks of minutae and reams of pontification from the "talking heads".
The right wing nuts that control the state of Idaho just proposed cuts to people with physical disabilities and the mentally ill. All of my clients will be cut-off from services. The state says that volunteers will have to pick up the slack. Nobody gives a rip about the mentally ill. Many still think of mental illness as a lack of discipline. The talk about caring for the mentally ill is pure bull--nothing will happen for the positive but if the trend continues there will be more in prison and less getting help.
"A common misconception about mental illness is that the mentally ill have a defined predilection toward violence. "

I believe that mental illness is layered onto the character that is already formed in an individual by the time that they reach puberty.

The malignant and/or violent mentally ill were that way before the onset of the illness. There are very sweet and benign mentally ill people and they are in pain and ignored, just as you have stated.

I appreciate this well written and informative article and hate that it only gets a pitiful Zumapick.
Excellent article! We do need to be looking at the causes if we want prevention of the issues you mentioned.
As a former mental health journalist and advocate for the mentally ill, let me just say that you have written an articulate and informative post. Rated
The reason the subject of mandatory treatment is discussed at a time like this is that it is the question society can do something about, along with the question of funding and of what to do with the violently mentally ill.

Should we allow people who are suffering because they cannot bring themselves toward treatment or not? If the answer is yes, than it is the mentally ill who suffer. The challenge is to find some way to intervene as well as finding a treatment modality that is more humane than state-provided medical care. I have long felt that care provided by religiously based hospital systems may be where this need can be met, provided there is adequate public funding for them to provide it.
What an excellent piece. A few observations: access to mental health care is simply another form of the access to health health care issue. Despite the efforts of the late Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, much, much more needs to be done on this score.

You are so correct that very few people experiencing any form of mental illness exhibit a tendency toward violence directed at others. However, some small percentage do. While we have reporting requirements for professionals such as psychologists, none really exist for organizational entities such as colleges. That Pima Community College barred Loughner from classes pending a mental health professional's okay was rather unique (and it seems to have stemmed from accusations against the college as an agent of genocide, strangely enough), but it implies a larger responsibility if indeed he was seen as dangerous. On that score, we seem to be caught in a Catch-22. Unless a disturbed individual makes a specific, credible threat, he or she cannot be judged dangerous and thereby ordered to receive mental health care--until, that is, he perpetrates a violent act. And then we erupt with the recriminations about what we should have done prior to the act.
there is still a stigma attached to mental illness in this country that is not matched by anything else. it's like leprosy in the 19th century. it takes a direct involvement for most to even begin to take the problem seriously. the medications have improved in the last 25 years, but in terms of treatment (medication is not treatment, it only masks the problem) we are in the dark ages.

It is interesting that the governor of Arizona has a son who is mentally ill, and was an advocate despite the tea party ignorance, but didn't make the case, or I didn't see it. Lockin' 'em up is as barbaric as sending them to their death.

and lunchlady is right about the insurance company complicity. they want the drugs used in lieu of real treament because it's so much cheaper. No, they'll never learn as long as there is a profit in it for them.
Michael Binder, I don't see why you associate "religiously based hospital systems" with a preferable standard of mental health care. Would you care to make the case for that?
Sorry. "Bindner." I type too fast.
4,000 people die of suicide every year in Canada, 32,000 in the United States

Now why do you suppose the US of A has 8 times as many people checking themselves out as does Canada? Do you suppose it's because Canadians apparently have a much greater sense of the common good as opposed to many Americans' almost adolescent-like individualism?

By the way, there is no "stigma" of mental illness, any more than black people suffered from the stigma of being black. Black people suffered decades of violence and indignities for the same reason that people with psychiatric illnesses used to suffer decades of violence, abuse and lifelong incarceration (a la Gitmo) and now suffer malignant neglect - HATE. Pure, unadulterated hate. Until enough of us push back against that hate, nothing will change for the better.

See also:
I think Stigma is a very real thing. Because Stigma is also the hate we put on ourselves and the expectation we feel. It's not just about changing what others thinks of us but changing what we think of ourselves that prevents us from seeking people. A lot of the "hate" is based in misconceptions we have learned from society. Also Canada has eight times the suicides but America has close to ten times our population. Proportionally the problem is actually worse in Canada.
You are so right. The stigma and neglect toward out mentally ill is shameful. My stepson was schizophrenic and one of the most gentle people I've every known. I adored him...sadly, his father was ashamed of him. That sort of sums up the compassion index in general.

As for Arizona, Governor Brewer cut funds from Medicare and Medicaid. The transplant patients are dying because the governor stripped a mere $1.5 million from Medicare. She gave $50 million to the prison system...gotta have somewhere to put them illegals! It's a disgrace.