Metro Magazines article on Paul Ellis

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.

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8 thoughts on “Metro Magazines article on Paul Ellis

  1. The guys mad! Obviously an issue in regards to mental health stability. I mean who in their right mind takes to their father with a baseball bat???? I feel imfinelty sorry for his family present and past because they are the ones who have to live with his actions! Do you think a follow up story to this article is beneficial!? would be imteresting to see how the family is coping with his release into the community and how he is coping now!

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    • Would like to mention the above statements were written by someone else unfortunatly logged onto my facebook try at the time – While I do have huge sympathy with the family. My views are not correctly reflected in the above statement. Nicky

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      • Thank you for the follow up Nicky, I appreciate it just as I’m sure Paul would too. I have briefly heard from Paul a little while back, he obviously does not enjoy the negative comments, but I guess they are part and parcel and a knee jerk reaction to not having a greater understanding of the situation and the more complicated aspects of illness. Paul is getting on with his life, he mentioned he had a hard year last year, which one would assume to be an ongoing natural reaction to a life changing and traumatic event. Though he is also keeping himself healthy and is moving forward with his life in a very productive way, personal employment, relationships etc. I was very happy to hear from him, and hope to hear from him again, or at the very least wish him the very best for the future..

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  2. can you do a follow up story on how simpson as he sates – people do not go mad slowly – does a follow up of how he is coping in society now he has been relised from mental health and how his family and indeed his victim family are coping with him ? I think you will find that there are TWO sides to this story that you have not recognised in your article. There are TWO victims if not more if you take into account his own family and his wife and children at the time. I think your article is biased and not a true account of what happened in that time. Also it doesnt make the mental health team accountable for the mistkes they have made leading up to the attack and afterwards .

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    • This is an article from Metro magazine. You will need to follw them up if you want another article.

      Have you had experience of mental illness? People do not just snap overnight, usually it is a build up of different factors that contribute to a mental breakdown.
      It. Media and movies of insane people often put forth a perception that is not correct and creates fear in society. People can and do get well. If given the right support to do so.

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  3. All I can tell you is this- I knew Paul very well in the early 90’s he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever known, all these years later I still have a very hard time understanding what happened, he really helped me out alot when I was going through a very difficult time. He always was a little “out there”, in an adorable kind of way, girls simply loved the guy…he was just a really good guy. I would never have believed he was capable of that, I think the mistake is people look at these situations and simply label that person as “evil” and he really isn’t, he has an illness that is there inspite of himself, this was not an act of revenge, hate, money..there was nothing to be gained. It is easy to make judgements when you read or hear about it, but when you actually knew that person it make’s it all the more unreal, it is a tragedy for all involved, lives changed forever…..last time I saw Paul was 2000/0001, I still think about him, it and his family…leaves me with a lot of questions and few answers.

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    • Thank you for your comments Andrew. There are often many factors that lead to mental illness,and as Paul has mentioned in this article drugs did have a certain amount of influence in his mental state. Many people who I have met within the forensic mental health system advise that they were doing a lot of drugs before they reached their crisis point.
      A lot of research has been conducted that shows that Marijuana, considered a harmless drug by many, in some people ( not all) can cause psychotic episodes.
      The importance of this story, is that he has been able to recover from his mental illness, and it is important to know that. It may help others to understand the need to seek help if they start to experience such distress. Part of the work of the Hearing Voices network is to show people that hearing voices is not just a random brain disease. That actions a person takes can effect the voices for better or worse. Providing support for people to manage their experiences in a safe way. Unfortunately the stigma about hearing voices and peoples attitudes towards it often prevent people from getting help, until after a crisis has occured.

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