Victoria man’s 85 convictions highlight links between brain injury, homelessness, crime
A Victorian man’s life of crime has turned into one of survival, hope and advocacy in an ongoing conversation in the community about how best to tackle public safety issues.
Derrick Forsythe has 85 convictions. A former criminal in his 50s says he was caught in a vicious cycle of spending time in prison, getting out, and repeating the cycle.
Just one diagnosis was the turning point in his life for the better.
“It’s not the best thing to say, ‘Thank God for a brain injury,'” says Forsythe. “God kicked me in the head and said, ‘This is the end. You must be wise now or you will die.
It all started with a car accident in 2009, but he believes it began in childhood when boxing took a toll on him.
“By ninth grade, I was in trouble. I was dropping out of school. My anger issues were off the charts,” he says. “The behavior was not due to drug use, nor was it at that young age.”
He received treatment while in prison. First in hospital, then he received support through social workers, therapists and speech therapists. Forsyth said he had to relearn basic tasks like shopping and ordering products online.
“My brain, seriously, felt like someone had hit reset.”
He remembers getting lost after a car accident. He lived downtown Vancouver on the East Side and drug addiction took him through the day.
“I didn’t know what to do, so I deliberately committed a crime and went to jail to ask for help,” he recalls.
Forsyth says he was diagnosed in prison when corrections officials noticed him behaving differently from past behavior observed in the justice system.
“Hearing voices was the scariest thing,” he said of his symptoms.
Now, more than ten years later, he lives soberly in his own home. He is his worker who supports his family through Victoria’s Cridge Center.
“I swear to you now, without those people I wouldn’t be here. First and foremost is housing.”
Brain injuries lead to homelessness and crime
“No one is born [and] I’d rather sleep on a trash can or on a park bench,” adds Forsythe. You need to ask yourself, “So if I see someone like that, why?”
According to the Nanaimo Brain Injury Society, research shows that 50% of the homeless population has brain injuries. Imprisoned people also have a higher incidence, around 80-90%.
“Brain injuries must be part of the equation when trying to address these issues in the community,” said Executive Director Kix Sitton.
She spoke with CTV News following the mayor’s response to the shooting at a downtown homeless camp where serious injuries were taken to hospital.
“Local governments in this state need help, and that help means addressing a serious mental health, addiction, brain injury and homelessness crisis on the streets,” said Leonard Crogg. In response to the events of March 12th, “We need solid presentations. We need safe facilities. We need treatment.”
Brain injury researchers and advocates agree, joining the chorus of calls to action now at all levels of government.
“We can see when people are unable to maintain employment due to brain injury, or when they are unable to maintain their housing, or when brain function prevents them from maintaining those supportive relationships. This is not a moral failure,” Sitton says.
Janelle Breese Biagoni, senior executive member and clinical counselor of the BC Brain Injury Association, says that not all people with brain injuries become violent or develop addiction problems. says. But she says she’s never met anyone who didn’t have mental health issues after a brain injury.
“Sometimes people do have addiction problems if it’s not addressed. It comes from prescription drugs. Sometimes it’s like, ‘I go from hopeful to hopeless.’ “Because they’re self-medicating just to get through the day and get through the day,” she added.. “They may lose their jobs or may not be able to go back to them.”
Biagoni is working with Congressman Cowichan Malahut Langford to promote Building C-277 Develop national strategies to support and improve brain injury recognition, prevention and treatment.
“This is not an NDP issue. This is not a liberal issue. This is a problem for everyone,” Biagoni says.
“Should health authorities start talking together and reach agreement on what best practices are? What are the best services and supports needed? Don’t you have something?”
Both Citton and Biagoni advocates say that people who have experienced brain injuries can grow. Those who do are given access to service and support.
“I did something stupid”
After Forsyth was released from the William Head Institute in Mechosin in December 2011, he was sick of one last mistake.
“Within 10 days of being out, I did something stupid. I did.”
It was December 22nd, which he will never forget. Something I decided never to do again.
“What I stole from the community, I have now given back for the last 10 years,” he says.
Derrick is still facing symptoms of brain damage, including exhaustion. I was told he might never go away. He says that dealing with his injury has taught him how to give more, understand, and be more compassionate.
He helps take elderly people to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings once a week. he volunteers He is passionate about sharing his stories to help people like him through documentaries and guest speaker sessions.
And he says he’s at peace with himself.