The Toronto Star has a powerful story about a man with schizophrenia who killed his mother during a psychotic episode. The article documents how he and his family (father and siblings) have tried to piece their lives back together after such a terrible incident.
Michael was a regular kid who developed schizophrenia in his late teens. His disorder was characterized as treatment resistant. In and out of hospital and treatment, his family supported him as best they could. In 2002, he became increasingly violent over a period of months. He slipped away unnoticed at the psychiatric hospital where he was being treated and ended up at his parent's home. His mother came home to find him there and Michael, believing there had been signs compelling him to kill his mother, murdered her that night.
The interesting part of the story is how his other family members were able to accept that it was his illness, and not him, that was to blame for his actions. His father and sister (he also has two brothers) were supportive of him - the article states: "From the beginning, both were unwavering in their belief that he should not be blamed or punished for what happened."
One of the most striking sections is where a psychiatrist describe how the assailants in these situations are affected once they realize what has happened:
"Imagine emerging from a psychotic breakdown and realizing you've killed your mother, or your child, or your spouse." Dr. John Bradford says the greatest challenge in treating people who have harmed or killed loved ones while psychotic is the debilitating guilt they feel afterward. "When they recover, the enormity, the impact of what they've done hits them . . . they can't forgive themselves," says Bradford, an internationally renowned forensic psychiatrist. "You've got to get them to redo their thinking: that person wasn't me."
The article is fascinating and heartbreaking. It's so rare that we hear about the people who commit these crimes. Often they are only depicted as "that crazy murderer who should be locked away with the key thrown away". The piece humanizes Michael and his illness in a way that I haven't seen before. It's an exceptional piece about mental health and violent crimes.
Here is the full article: