Brockville Mental Health Centre is a forensic psychiatric hospital where people who have committed violent crimes are sent to receive treatment for their mental illness. Every single patient has some type of criminal charge against him or her. And every single one is capable of being extremely violent even to the point of self-hurt.
According to studies, many people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia have violent or aggressive behavior. This, however, leads to stigmatization and poorer treatment outcomes.
This film shares the stories of four Brockville patients—two men and two women— who struggle to gain control over their minds and lives. Their goal is to return to a judgmental society that often fears and demonizes them.
One of the patients is a young man who struggles with schizophrenia. He has shown some improvement, but it’s not enough for him to be sent back into society. This young man, Michael Stewart has become extremely sensitive in social situations; he has a feeling that people are aware of what he did. This guilt is probably what keeps him from socializing with co-patients. Michael describes the area where he’s living as a hostile environment because there is a constant threat between patients and between patients and staff.
Stewart explains that he just finished a program called ‘Symptoms Management’ and he has learned to distinguish between a person talking to him and a voice in his head. He also explains what are command hallucinations and explains how he has heard voices telling him to hurt himself or hurt others.
His progress has been slow, but he’s allowed to visit the community. He prefers doing so with a staff escort.
Another patient, Carole Seguin, seems to be having difficulties telling the difference between voices in her head and real voices. She keeps hearing her sister talking to her, judging her, although the sister is nowhere around. In fact, Carole has no next of kin listed in her clinical chart. She became a ward of the Children’s Aid Society at the age of 11.
Sal Beninato was diagnosed with schizophrenia after a series of violent outbursts against his family and reports of hearing voices. Before entering the institution he attacked his mother viciously in what he defined as a ‘temper tantrum’. As a result, his mother suffered irreversible neurological damage that affected her ability to walk.
At the hospital, he has been known to downplay his symptoms because he fears not being able to get out of the center as soon as he would like. So when asked if he hears voices, he initially answers no, but then goes on to describe some of the things these voices tell him.
John Kastner spent 18 months at the institution interviewing dozens of staff and patients and his findings are educational, to say the least.