Septiembre 23, 2003
Crazy Talk

Why do homeless guys always talk to themselves? Or at least, why are there so many people in the streets that are doing it? Some guys talk non-stop, and other guys talk, then pause as if they are listening to a response. What is this condition, and why is it so common? I imagine it evolves out of loneliness, but would this happen to any of us if we spent a few years with no one to talk to?

Some guys walk down the street screaming with rage. Screaming and swearing. And I wonder what's happening inside their heads? We can all relate a little bit I think. Everyone's had moments where their mind races and they can't calm down and if you imagined the extreme of this mental's still hard to understand. But there are so many people like this. Every day I pass someone who's doing it, and there they are, just walking around, disturbed. Disturbed is probably the best word to describe it because something inside them is clearly disturbing them. I guess your brain can really just blow a fuse so to speak. And there you are: a walking, talking, cursing lunatic. Just walking and talking wouldn't even be so bad, only you never see anyone talking to themselves in a cheerful way about flowers and bunnies and happy things. It's always semi-incoherent, profanity-laced and angry through and through.

Wait, not always. The other day at the Tim Horton's at Bathurst and Bloor there was a guy -- the guy that bums change outside, and he was inside and he was standing beside the line-up staring into space, and his voice sounded well, sad. And he kept repeating: "What did I do wrong Kirk? What did I do wrong? Why did I ruin the day Kirk? Why did I ruin the day? What did I do wrong Kirk? Kirk? Why did I ruin the day?" That's all he kept saying, to the point where
I felt kinda sad for him. I was like, fuck, give the guy a break Kirk-- everybody makes mistakes.

I have no basis for thinking so, but to me it seemed like Kirk was his former employer, and whatever happened on the day this guy ruined, it
shattered his confidence for good, and that's the day he started down the road to living on, well, the road, in the squalid parts and back alleys of delusionville.

Hey! Maybe he was a P.A. on Growing Pains.

That'd fuck your mind up.

Posted by King at Septiembre 23, 2003 01:48 PM

Being a P.A. in general could certainly do it.

Posted by: on Septiembre 23, 2003 02:51 PM .

Schizophrenia. Few schizophrenics can hold down jobs, and there are fewer treatment facilities available:

Prison cells have become the catch-all for people unable to find beds in an ever-shrinking supply of mental institutions. The number of beds in Ontario's psychiatric hospitals dropped to 2,800 in 1997 from more than 5,000 in 1976. A further 2,000 could be lost by 2005 when six of the province's 10 long-term psychiatric hospitals are due to close.*
So those whose families are unable to support them often wind up on the streets (or increasingly, in jail). I often wonder if the absence of any non-brutal human interaction drives many otherwise sane homeless to develop schizophrenia, but have yet seen nothing to support these suppositions.

Also discovered on that site that Irish people are more likely to be schizophrenic: 4% of the population in parts of southern Ireland as opposed to 1% in most places. Yikes! Among homeless, it's 11-16%, apparently higher for the "chronically homeless".

Posted by: D on Septiembre 23, 2003 04:26 PM .

I think D made the point: fewer places for these guys to find treatment.

I don't know too many details about the social safety net for the mentally ill, but it obviously ain't good. I've heard anecdotal evidence that the incidence of homeless dudes talking to themselves is closely tied to public mental health services available.

I don't think many of these guys started out as easy-going homeless dudes. I remember reading a ridiculous story in the Star a couple of years ago about a mother and daughter who kicked Papa out of the house because he started behaving erratically and talking to himself!! He froze to death. It was left to a reader to point out that Papa had become schizophrenic and perhaps needed medical attention.

On a closely related topic, how many beautiful homeless women do you think there are in Toronto?

Posted by: tv on Septiembre 23, 2003 07:03 PM .

I think it was just a couple years ago that funding was reduced to long-term mental care services (no link, sorry. it's straight outta' my memory) and the Queen Street mental institute, among others, opened their doors to let patients out on day passes. The number of people on the streets with noticeable mental illnesses rose dramatically at that point.

And the guy at Bathurst and Bloor (if it's the guy that I'm thinking of, with the headphones?) is indeed schizophrenic. If I remember correctly, his name is Robert.

Posted by: marijke on Septiembre 24, 2003 09:51 AM .

Schizophrenia came up in my Post-Structuralism class today, like it would. Just before that I saw this schizophrenix woman give this guy an epic ream-out which featured stupid whores, tommy guns, narcissim, death (both hers and his), claims to ownership of the entire western half of the city, and more stupid whores. The guy had asked her to move away from the door of his store, in front of which she had been squatting and hissing. She was wearing really nice pants.
I remember when the mentally ill were all of a sudden all over the place in Toronto. I think it was towards the end of the first Harris term. It's pretty outrageous. You would think that that sort of thing would be a noteworthy campaign issue... Oh wait, no, you wouldn't because crazy people aren't reliable party supporters. Because they're crazy.

Posted by: TheDiscourseOrNotTheDiscourse on Septiembre 24, 2003 07:53 PM .

this morning, a crazy woman on the subway was going on about September 11, and how "someone would have to be insane to do something like that" and "it's a conspiracy" and some more graphic and racist things that I don't feel like repeating. I found myself thinking that Sept. 11 must be some great fodder for lunatic ranting. Then I found myself wondering how a paranoid schizophrenic would filter an event like that through their illness, and what their perceptions and conclusions would be.

As she was getting off the subway, the crazy woman told the lady next to her, who had been patiently listening to her, "Bye, I hope you win a million."
I thought that was a really nice parting comment.

Posted by: marijke on Septiembre 25, 2003 04:27 PM .

I saw the Growing Pains guy again this morning. He's still outside the Tim Horton's just east of Bathurst on Bloor if you want to catch a glimpse. I really wish I could communicate in print what his voice sounds like...because it's really soft and plaintive, and completely earnest, and yet he says "crazy" things all the time. Like, this morning he was saying: "Hostage and terrorist, spare some change sir?" "Hostage and terrorist, spare some change ma'am?" "Hostage or terrorist spare some change?"
I gave him change this morning. I had to. It was just so bizarre and original. He has a very positive tone to his voice...bordering on the pathetic sure, but he's definitely not angry.
Why was he saying hostage and terrorist? Why damnit?! I can't figure it out. Was he just trying to make his plea more current...was he saying ' I'm bumming change here, but it's cool daddio, I'm hip with the times. I read the news, sort of' But why hostage? Why!!!!

Posted by: king on Febrero 17, 2004 09:31 AM .
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