Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I can't get this Story out of my head

I read a story today in the Toronto Star. It was simply a side bar, so I'm unable to find it to link to it.
The headline read, Woman, 49, found dead in sweltering apartment.
The few lines that follow tell us that, Suzanne Young, a mentally ill woman was found dead in her apartment because she couldn't afford the air conditioning, available. When found, her apartment was sweltering. She was living on assistance and cleaned parking lots for extra money.
I can't get the story out of my head, because I don't understand how stories such as this are possible in this country.
I've heard subsequent radio reports that round this tragic story out a bit. She was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, but was taking medication and quite functional. None the less, she had an inordinate fear, that by opening her windows, she may be broken into and harmed, so she refused. She had an option to have air, through building management, but simply could not afford it.
Friends and neighbours are outraged, as am I, but the answers aren't simple.
It's easy to put this in a left/right paradigm, but I'm not sure it makes much sense to do that. Harris certainly carries blame. His cuts had a dramatic effect on mental health, all bad in my opinion. Rae is not without blame either and perhaps I stand to be corrected, but I think under his watch, it came to pass that people with mental health issues, could not be aided, without their consent. On the surface, it sounds very nice, but in the end, not so much and indeed, I think puts more people in harm's way.
So what to do, now? Government has not taken an aggressive stance here and they must, imo. I also think that at a community level, there should be more involvement. This woman's friends and neighbours were aware of her paranoia, perhaps they could have found the money as a group, to give her some a/c? Maybe not, perhaps they have their own financial constraints.
No easy answers here, but surely, there must be a way, in this country to prevent this.
49 years old, in Canada, to die of heat exposure? We're better than this aren't we?


Anonymous said...

you forgot to blame another one, the ontario liberal government, who can change what harris did, and help these people, dont get me wrong i still think liberal is better, but they failed this lady.....right?

billg said...

When Mike Harris took over as Ontario Premier the province was borrowing 1 million dollars every hour. Federal transfer payments to each province had been cut, and, each province was sent begging. Nothing has changed. Your question about is Canada not better than this, well, your post gives an answer as to why we are not better, partisanship. There has been a Provincial Liberal government in power for 4 years, yet, your answer is to blame a Conservative Premier from 8 years ago, and, the cycle continues. What happened is your fault and my fault. 32 million dollars in a mini heritage fund in Ontario so the Conservatives or the Liberals, whoever is in power,can dole it out to anyone who can help them, and all that poor lady needed was a 250$ air conditioner. I'm no expert, but, I would guess a billion dollars a year is pissed away in Ontario, yet, the faint cry's of help from the elderly and the mentally ill fall on deaf ears. Yet, when a tragedy like this happens the left and the right scurry to lay blame instead of growing a backbone and get it fixed. No, we are not better than this, not right now anyways.

Anonymous said...

billg - and Harris was giving tax breaks on that borrowed money (finance minister was Flaherty). How dumb was that?

It reminds me of the pregnant woman charged with welfare fraud. She was confined (John Baird's punishment) to her apartment as punishment - she died in a heat wave.

Anonymous said...

KNB I don't know the facts of this case,but your right these kind of things should not happen in our country not in 2007.Were not in Bangladesh for heaven's sakes!KNB do you know how old she was?Did she have any family? The friends and neighbours that said were outraged about this where were they when this poor woman needed their help? Everyone involved failed this poor woman in my opinion . The so called friends and neighbours if they had no money to help her
there are charity organizations that they could have gone to for help isn't there in Ontario I'm sure they are . KNB i would comment on
this if any thanks.


Anonymous said...


KNB i would like a comment on this if any thanks.


s.b. said...

Um that's like saying someone dies because they won't go down stairs who lives on say the tenth floor of a building is somehow the fault of the government. If you are afraid of stairs don't live upstairs. If you are afraid of opening your windows, don't live in a hot apartment. It's her fault, sorry. She knew where she lived. She knew about her phobia. She could also have left the apartment and gone to the mall for example. Sure its tragic. But trying to blame everyone else by her is silly. She was aware of her conditon and made her own choices.

Anonymous said...

S.B. Like i said on my earlier article that i don't much about this case,because I'm from
Montreal. What i read from KNB article is that Suzanne
Young was a mentally ill woman so in sense your article doesn't hold water sorry S.B. If it were a sane person i would probably agree with you,common S.B.your smarter then this.Any comments?


knb said...

Anon @10:45, the fact that I wrote the post suggests that the current gov't here in Ont. is not off the hook.

billg, you missed that fact that when McGuinty took over there was that tiny matter of 5.6 billion dollar deficit, after being assured by Flaherty that all was well.

John, she was 49. The article was a few lines, so not much information. I have no idea if she had family, but yes, I think her friends may have stepped in more. They kept an eye on her, but one presumes that they have little money as well. She may have even had a case worker, given that she was on assistance and ill.

Which brings me to SB's point. Government, Harris, turned mentally ill people out on the street. Government has programs that assist people who need it. Government, in this country does have social programs that are very much geared to looking out for people who aren't able to look out for themselves.

As for this comment, She knew about her phobia., surely you see the idiocy of it. A phobia of course prevents you from being rationale about it's existance.

Blaming the victim seems to be quite the fashion these days. Why I'm not sure. You've apparently joined that group. I think your comment is disgusting frankly. You're either ignorant of mental illness, (which I'm sure you're not), or you feel a need to feel superior to it.

We live in a country with social services and I for one expect them to work.

Anonymous said...

KNB we agree what a miracle get out the champaign;) I also like the
way you answered everyone on a single article kool;)


Steve V said...

Nothing says rational, and of sound mind, like a phobia. Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

McGuinty's government make announcements on heat alert days indicating places to go where A/C is available.

She probably didn't have a choice of where she lives. I've heard there's a waiting period of about 12 years for subsidized housing.

I have an elderly neighbour and I check on her regularly. She doesn't like A/C because it makes her cold. I have her over for lunch and sometimes dinner and keep the A/C as low as I can for comfort for her. I've asked her to stay overnight until the heatwave is over, but she won't. She likes her own bed. I phone her daughter who lives quite far a way and report how's she's doing.

That's all it takes - is checking up on a neighbour who is elderly, has a heart condition, etc.

knb said...

Well said anon. To be honest, I hate A/C too and only use it when necessary. I'm not elderly, but have always hated it.

Oddly, it sounds old fashioned doesn't it, to check in on neighbours? Such a basic concept, caring about others. Somewhere we've lost it.

I extend that to governments too. Pretty basic things are in place, but more could be done.

Interestingly enough, the one person on this thread who blames the victim, supported Dryden during the Lib race.

Who do you suppose would see this as a failure on many counts, including government, more than him?