Posted: Tuesday, June 11, 2019. 8:28 am CST.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
By Lisa Shoman: No words can give the Vasquez family comfort. This isn’t written for that.
This is to join the call to action sounded so powerfully by Jules on behalf of his brother who was in his words, mauled to death. It is action to deal with mental illness beyond institutional care that will honor Nestor Vasquez Jr., not words.
I knew Nestor when he was young and beautiful and free…he was the kind of boy that girls have crushes on, part wild, part sweet. He was a little older than I was, and ran with a cool crowd when I was just a skinny kid. But he, he epitomized cool and daring.
Somehow, somewhere, his mental illness began to manifest. And Nestor was plunged into a world of pain, and dissociative dissonance. The beautiful boy was trapped in his own body and burdened with interior torture and terror.
In about 2005/6 I urged our then PM to ensure that we did something serious to address mental health for seriously ill persons who had violent episodes. He agreed.
We have done better since then on mental health for all, but it is not enough.
In 2014 I wrote “Where to start? So much wrong….those persons with mental illness in our nation who get no help then snap and hurt or kill another; “
We need to do better. We need to do more. With all due respect to the excellent intentions, the swift action and the pledge by our Commissioner of Police, padded cells in police lock up are not the answer. It is needed.
It is badly needed in all major police stations in Belize, not just at Queen Street or Raccon Street, but in every district and big town like San Pedro, Independence, Placencia, Buena Vista, Carmelita.
What we need even more urgently is a place and protocols to deal with severe, debilitating mental illness and in particular with violent mental illness. Police lock up is no place, Prison is no place for the violent mental patient.
But what other recourse do concerned families have? The mother of Andy Rhaburn, Braulia Pech, besides suffering previous harm and attempted arson, would call police but refuse to press charges. It is understandable. Her son was mentally ill and no one else wanted to deal with him. She probably saw his humanity, the child she bore and raised-and his inner demons.
And ultimately in January of last year in Carmelita Village, he murdered his mother with a crowbar. She was my age – 56.
I cannot even begin to plumb the level of despair and torment that was so evident yesterday in Jules’ face, his voice, his body language and he spared himself none at all. He gave us the truth of what happened to Nestor – unvarnished and unsparing. It was hard to look. It was impossible not to listen.
And it should, as a result of this atrocity, be impossible not to act. We need proper mental care, programs and facilities for mental patients who are violent to themselves and their families and others, and it must be humane and it must take into account the constitutional and human rights of those with mental illnesses.
Our Constitution guarantees human dignity, and that means mentally ill persons and those with mental disabilities too.
This may be deeply injurious to some, but Collin Francis, like Nurse Elijio and Nestor Jr, is another victim of Collin Francis. He must be properly evaluated to establish his degree of actual awareness and consequences of his crimes. And then he must be dealt with accordingly.
Putting him to death like a rabid dog although advocated by so many on social media (and perhaps satisfying to some) isn’t the answer of a nation that cares for the most vulnerable among us.
Where to start? We must change things. We need that cultural seismic shift that Jules spoke of. We must take steps to address this and urgently.
Too many families in the Jewel are forced to ask for police intervention when they cannot handle loved ones who are dangerous and violent. And too many still wait until they cannot handle the matter any more to call. Too many families may now think twice, thrice before making that call.
Bear in mind that whoever they call, will probably need to seek police help. And so the Police Department will need help and resources to tackle this.
I am anguished for Nestor’s parents and his siblings whom I have known all my life, and who are undoubtedly in incredible torment. I share a measure of your grief and we all see your pain.
May Nestor live free of his torment in your hearts forever. I am so sorry for the brutality of his going and my heart grieves for your family.
May we honor his memory and his life and pain, by making change.
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