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June 28, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
WOW MAGAZINE| 7
By Dr. Makini McGuire
"GIVE ME THE CHANT of the madman. It's the only salvation", words of
one of the stalwarts of calypso, David Rudder. I will stay clear of comment-
ing on how painfully relevant the lyrics of a song sang almost 20 years ago
still are in the midst of the current political climate of Trinidad and Tobago.
Instead, we will focus on that 'madman' as we dive into the world of schiz-
ophrenia and psychotic disorders.
If you've ever seen the video for David Rudder's 'Madman Rant' you will
see that the videographer captures live footage of a 'madman' in down-
town Port-of-Spain, dancing and chanting, looking quite dishevelled, home-
less, essentially what we know as our everyday, common, household or
garden vagrant. Even those who have not seen the video, if you have ever
walked or driven through the streets of Port-of-Spain or set foot on the
Brian Lara Promenade I'm sure you would have walked right into the scene
from the video.
I know that as a child I often asked myself, "But how did they become like
this? How did they reach here? Don't they have family or friends who
could take care of them?" The answer came to me like a slap in the face in
medical school as I rotated through psychiatry. I then understood the pro-
gression to vagrancy. So I'll now take you through that progression, and
hopefully you will have a greater appreciation for mental health as being
just as important as physical health. Let's start with a story.
'Average Harry', now 35 years old, lived in a small, tight knit community all
his life. He still lived in his family home, and though some of his childhood
friends had moved out, he kept in contact. 'Average Harry' had gone to uni-
versity, gotten a degree, and had a job that could sustain him. He did have
a few strained family relationships with siblings, his mother had died and
he was yet to find a spouse, but that doesn't sound like anything extraor-
dinary. His closest relative was probably his dad, with whom he lived.
No one noticed the subtle changes that had begun to happen to 'Average
Harry', he had become just a little bit paranoid, a little disorganised, and
just a little unkempt. He was starting occasionally saying strange things,
and was slowly insulating himself from the world. However, human beings
are generally too consumed with themselves and don't take much notice
of changes in others. Therefore, everyone was caught by utter surprise
when one night a chilling scream came from Harry's home. Harry had used
a large kitchen knife and stabbed his father to death, knifing him over 30
Indignation raged throughout the community; the only thing they didn't
shout was "Crucify him! Crucify him!", but I suppose if that was still socially
acceptable, they would have. Before you take sides with the community,
take a moment to listen to Harry's side of the story. For months he had
been displaying features of psychosis, but no one cared enough to see it.
Harry had developed deep-rooted beliefs with no basis in the truth about
several bizarre topics, or what is known as a delusion.
He believed that aliens were covertly invading his house. They were trying
to get to him, to convert him into one of them. He believed that they were
looking at him through the eyes of the people around him. Harry had been
hearing voices that no one else could hear, what is known as an auditory
hallucination. These voices were telling Harry many derogatory things
about himself and also convincing him that the only way he could prove
himself to be anything was to kill the aliens.
On the night of the incident, there were now three voices in Harry's head,
chiding him to remove the alien from his house. Telling him that he would
not be safe until he removed that alien and that he was very stupid not to
see it. Harry was left with no other choice; he had to protect himself. He
picked up a knife, sneaked up behind the alien, and stabbed him until the
voices told him to stop. Harry had no idea he was stabbing his father, not
before, not during, nor even after.
Harry has schizophrenia, which was not previously diagnosed, and had de-
veloped delusions, paranoia and hallucinations so great that they had now
become his reality.
This story is based on a true story, and the rest of it will be told in Part 2 of
"Understanding Madness" in next week's WOW. Mental illness is real,
treatable and sometimes preventable. Look out for Part 2!
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