Overcoming Paranoid Schizophrenia, Ben’s Story


Ben suffers from Paranoid Schizophrenia and has been a client with Turning Leaf for over 4 years.

Ben grew up in a close, supportive family, the kind of family we all hope for. He was very close with his Mother who later became a huge advocate for him when his mental illness – Paranoid Schizophrenia, began to take over.

Ben was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at age 21

As a result of his mental illness, Ben began bouncing in and out of the legal system. There was a strip of private gentleman’s clubs that he would frequent and the people there recognized him as a vulnerable person – someone easily taken advantage of. They befriended him and began giving him lists of things to steal for them.

Ben just wanted to have friends, so he did what they asked him to do. He thought they were his friends, but Ben was wrong. He was caught stealing, he was arrested and then Ben began bouncing in and out of custody.

About Paranoid Schizophrenia

Paranoid Schizophrenia is the most common subtype of the debilitating mental illness known as Schizophrenia. A person who suffers from Paranoid Schizophrenia commonly has delusions that a person or some individuals are plotting against them or members of their family. It is common for the person suffering from Paranoid Schizophrenia to believe the government is ‘out to get them’. As their paranoid thoughts begin to intensify, they may begin to behave aggressively or commit violence in what they believe to be ‘self-defense’.

A person suffering from Paranoid Schizophrenia will also commonly experience auditory hallucinations that are unpleasant and cruel.  Learn more about Paranoid Schizophrenia

Ben Stopped Taking His Medication For Paranoid Schizophrenia

Over time and after frequent jail sentences, Ben’s problems began to escalate. Without proper support, Ben stopped taking his medication and the paranoid schizophrenia began to seriously impact his life. He started writing threatening letters to government officials and city leaders and ended up in custody again. This time his sentence was longer than ever before.

Ben is not a criminal. Ben is sick and he needs proper care to maintain his mental health. Because Ben didn’t have the care he needed for his illness, he ended up in jail. If he was properly managing his medication, Ben wouldn’t have said the things that he said in the letters. So he did quite a bit of time in custody, but the last time Ben was released, he had the help of Turning Leaf.

Ben’s Road To Recovery Begins

The staff at Turning Leaf Community Support Services helped Ben prepare his plan once he was released from custody. He received help getting set up with an apartment in one of the Turning Leaf Residential Homes, but he was still living independently in a little bachelor suite and had 24-hour access to the qualified staff of Turning Leaf. They helped him get back on routine with medication and helped him get involved with the Winnipeg Mental Health Courts.

The goal of the Mental Health Court is to divert adults whose criminal involvement is a direct result of their mental illness. It’s like an extra step in probation for people who have really severe mental health problems. The courts took into account the fact that Ben has a mental illness when sentencing him.

Rather than punishment, the court worked with Ben and his supporters at Turning Leaf to help find solutions for him. Ben reported once a week to the Winnipeg Mental Health Court where the judge would review with him what his week has been like. He would acknowledge what Ben had done really well during the week and give encouragement. If Ben hadn’t done so well, for example, if he missed his curfew or got caught stealing, the court would consider adding community service hours as an option instead of just sending him to jail.

Ben has really benefited from The Winnipeg Mental Health Court and if all goes well, he will complete his probation within the next year. Five years ago no one would have ever believed this!

Ben was listed as one of the top 100 most dangerous offenders in Winnipeg because he sent threatening letters to government officials. This is definitely a serious crime when committed by someone without a mental illness. However, this type of behaviour is a common symptom of someone suffering with Paranoid Schizophrenia.

Ben holds a special spot in the hearts of the staff at Turning Leaf. He’s been with them for 4 years. They have worked with him every step of the way; from being in custody non-stop, to being supervised by co-probation as one of the top 100 highest risk offenders in Winnipeg, to graduating to regular probation, to completing his community service hours and now, Ben is going to school and living independently in his own apartment.

A look at Winnipeg’s Mental Health Court for those struggling to find their way

[this article originally published here]

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