WINNIPEG – Blood stains on the ceiling and broken glass remind Aziz Mohammed of the night his 21-year-old son nearly killed him.
“He started getting all paranoid, he kept telling me dad, you gotta get out of here, they’re coming after us,” Aziz Mohammed said. “I said what are you talking about? I was shocked.”
Mohammed’s son Donovan is a diagnosed with schizophrenia but he decided to stop taking his medication. During an episode in December 2016, he attacked his father with a crowbar.
Donovan was charged with assault but deemed not criminally responsible (NCR). Instead of being sent to jail, offenders who are mentally ill – found NCR – are sent into psychiatric care.
“I’m suffering emotional pain, and physical pain. It’s unbelievable, I’m going through hell,” Mohammed said.
The emotional pain is because Donovan is currently locked up at the Brandon Correctional Centre. There aren’t enough beds for mental health patients in Manitoba hospitals.
It’s an issue the province’s forensic mental health services have been dealing with for years.
“The issue is in most provinces, people found NCR or not fit to stand trial will stay in hospital for a year while an ongoing assessment and safe community plan is developed,” Dr. Jeffrey Waldman, forensic psychiatrist, said.
But in Manitoba, Dr. Waldman said 75 per cent of those who are found NCR or not fit to stand trial will be transitioned to the community because they don’t have beds at their first hearing. This is putting a massive strain on the only two forensic psychiatrists in the province.
“We’re trying to do it within the resources that we have but really we’re reaching a critical capacity in terms of the work we’re mandated to do,” Dr. Waldman said.
Donovan called his father from jail during the Global News interview. Mohammed and his son have never been apart for this long.
“It’s so difficult, I miss him a lot,” Donovan said on the phone.
Mohammed said he holds nothing against his son because he is sick and should be in a hospital – not behind bars.