The latest Metro magazine September 2009- on sale at present, has an interesting interview with Paul Ellis called “the Night I Killed My Father.” by Donna Chisholm. It talks of his “descent into madness”, the killing of his father, and his treatment at the Mason Clinic in Auckland. It is a surprisingly honest story. A 7 page feature and well worth the read.
He does believe that his heavy cannabis use was an attributing factor to his condition.
” At 27, after 10 years of heavy cannabis use, Ellis had his first psychotic episode… ” You don’t just wake up one day and you’re fully blown mad. You become mad, slowly. “I had reached the point where I had pretty much burnt myself out. I’d just finished a relationship so I was going to work and coming home and spending time by myself. I ended up not really having anyone to talk to and it became a pretty lonely existence. “I had physical symptoms. I was sick, I had diarrhoea. I don’t know if my body was saying “i’ve had enough.” That kind of lifestyle is pretty unhealthy no matter how you look at it. Any addiction that starts to take over your life, starts pretty much to drag it down.”
“I started to notice most things in my life- relationships with people, my work, my family- all started to become neglected, apart from my addiction. Ans I think that is how addictions go; it takes over. I spent more time by myself with my drugs. I started to notice something wasn’t right with me. There was a change in my thinking. I started to fall into Paranoia.”
[ The Hearing Voices Networks reasearch also shows that stress, trauma, and a lack of general health, or physical neglect such as drug abuse are often present when a person starts hearing voices.]
There are interview segments with Dr Sandra Simpson from the Mason Clinic talking about his treatment and treatment at the clinic in general. Which highlights the fact that the actual ratio of those with mental illness that commit murder is small.
“Of about 70-80 homicides in New Zealand each year, an average of four are “associated” with mental illness, and only one or two of those are, like Paul Ellis found not guilty by reasons of insanity…”
[ that is a percentage of only 2-3% ]
” The most common misconception about mentally ill killers, says Simpson is that people believe that there is some kind of hair trigger and it’s impossible to predict when they might do something dangerous.” the pattern of risk is usually very readily understood and if you take care and time they can be readily managed. Such people then are at vastly lower risk of reoffending than someone who has done the same thing and is not mentally ill. As a population they are much less risky because the causes of their offending are understandable treatable and monitorable.
Heavy cannabis use is thought to trigger schizophrenia in 5% of the predisposed individuals, says the director general of Mental Health, Dr David Chaplow a former head of the Mason Clinic. The number of schizophrenics who kill is very very tiny.”
It is important that we address the fact that often hearing voices can become so distressful and disorientating that it can sometimes have such consequences. However as pointed out in these figures from the article, it is not very often that it does. The media often portrays “schizophrenics” as crazed killers, so it is good to see a balanced article on a man who did kill, that shows this is not the norm for those that suffer distress from psychosis.