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Media attention on Li forcing mental illness discussion: pollster

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Vince Li’s terrible crime, and the ensuing debate over whether those found not criminally responsible for murder should ever be released from a mental health care hospital, is forcing people to examine their own attitudes toward mental illness, says Scott MacKay, president of Probe Research.

"I think people don’t like to talk about mental illness. People who have a mental illness or a family member with a mental illness, there’s a stigma," says MacKay. "If it’s MS or cancer, you don’t have that stigma. Some people regard it as a weakness. With cancer, people won’t think that."

MacKay says the vast media attention on Li, his illness and his crime has forced mental illness onto the public stage.

"It puts it on the public agenda. We have to talk about it," he said. "Either you’re a principled person and you don’t think he’s criminally responsible or you just get thrown off by the heinousness of this crime."

MacKay compares the discussion to that surrounding gay marriage. He says it would have been inconceivable 25 years ago that the president of the United States would support civil unions for gay couples.

"These things change," says MacKay. "People on either side of the debate need to step forward and be heard."

'I don't have any weird voices anymore'

Vince Li was interviewed Sunday at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre by Chris Summerville, CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, who said he has spoken with Li once every two months, on average, since Li's confinement began nearly four years ago.

The contents of the interview were supplied Monday to the Free Press. Read it here.

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