This article will be upsetting to read.
Laura Winham was a Schizophrenic woman. I don’t know much about her, but I can imagine what her life might have looked like. Schizophrenia is a peculiar form of neurodivergence. I know from personal experience that this particular neurology can make you question just about every aspect of reality. It’s possible that (like me) she was exhausted from the daily battle to know what thoughts could and couldn’t be trusted.
Like any neurodivergence, I don’t see schizophrenia as an illness. What we see as the diagnosable condition is actually the manifestation of distress in a neurodivergent brain. It is isolating and scary. When episodes happen, you will give anything for it to be over.
Laura was a human being with a life, a family, and undoubtedly had a lot to offer the world if supported to move beyond the experience of distress.
I think when many people read this story, they imagine it as an unavoidable tragedy. Perhaps they imagine that the problem was with how long it took people to discover her remains. That is not the issue. The issue here is the failure of Local Authorities and mental health teams to provide the support this person needed to survive her distress.
These services are supposed to draw the line. They are the one’s we turn to in our most vulnerable moments. Yet, for many of us, it seems thar we are little more than a nuisance for them. The advent of crisis-driven interventions and defensive practice have meant that people of all ages and backgrounds are dying at the hands of services that couldn’t do their job if they wanted to. The resources aren’t there. There is very little meaningful intervention that services can provide while the system is being defunded and sold off to private interests.
If people want to know why individuals such as myself and Laura have such drastically reduced life expectancies; consider the ongoing distress we experience and the way that distress is compounded by services that offer little to no meaningful support. Laura was very much on their radar, but as you may have heard- you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Her death was 100% preventable. Schizophrenia and other neurodivergence doesn’t have to be a terminal diagnosis. When given adequate support, and when given access to affirmational environments, we are able to flourish. We can experience the joy of human connection and self-development. Sadly, Laura’s development was cut short by inept professionals and the fallout of a government that cares more about profit than people.
This failure will have unending ripple-effects that will go on and potentiate themselves throughout the lives of those who cared for her. This needn’t have happened. This could have been different.
Do not allow this failure to be swept under the rug. Don’t let her death be in vain. Now is the time for action, now is the time to draw a line in the sand, and protect all neurodivergent people from the dangers of a broken system.