From time to time, I write about my experience with mental illness on this blog. I try to be as honest as possible about my personal struggle and experience of stigmatization. This may be why I am able to express a great deal of empathy for someone like Vince Li. A story known around the world for its intense amount of violence as well as being an incredibly dividing issue.
Hot on the heels of the much-publicized #BellLetsTalk Day, Li’s yearly review is being publicized and opinions are flying all over the internet on whether or not he deserves certain freedoms.
Ok, let’s back up a bit. What is this #BellLetsTalk Day? On January 28th this year, BLT Day promotes talking about mental illness in order to eliminate stigma and promote positive conversation. For every hashtag tweeted that day, Bell donates 2 cents to mental health programming. There were millions of retweets, supposed from people who support the reduction of stigma, promotion of acceptance, and want to see those with mental illnesses do well in their lives and in their communities.
Well, of course, a hashtag means fuck-all in real life (don’t even get me started on internet activism) and when you put beliefs and actions to the test, sometimes things don’t match up. That’s where I have been coming across this disconnect when it comes to actually, truly supporting people with mental illness and just saying we support them.
I’ve come across some truly horrible tweet over the last week regarding Vince Li. Let’s take a look…
That’s a few of the more PG tweets I came across. But don’t forget about the insults and the outlandish claims made by the folks on that same side of the fence. I was called names (yes, called mean names) for my more empathetic opinion of the Li case. Yes, intelligent comments those were. They have since been deleted.
But, I am also pleased to see that some fellow Canadians standing up for Li and all those with a mental illness. These words and actions DO line up. Supporting BLT Day and supporting Li.
Ending the stigma of mental illness means ALL mental illnesses. You can’t pick and choose what you suffer from and you shouldn’t choose which illness is forgivable and which is not. If anything, the extreme illnesses need our support the most. They do not need to be demonized and those who suffer should not be stripped of all human kindness.
I truly am sorry for the McLean family’s loss. Losing a child or family member in such a terrible and publicized way is just a nightmare that no one should have to go through. But, that family also has an incredible opportunity to forgive (when they are ready to) and demonstrate exactly what we need them to do in order to reduce the stigma. Instead of promoting laws that perpetuate hate and the possibility for vigilante violence, I hope one day they will move to a place of peace and forgiveness. Vince Li is horrified in himself by his actions. He lives everyday in agony over what happened that night on the side of the Trans Canada highway. From now on, he is more of a danger to himself than any other who might cross his path.
What would you ask Vince Li if you happened across him in a coffee shop?