On Saturday the Ottawa Citizen ran a story called Pleas to help mentally ill son ignored, mother says. It was in Hugh Adami’s column, The Public Citizen.
Complete with names and a photograph, this article provides detailed personal information about a 22-year-old man who lives in Ottawa’s shelter system. The information was supplied by his mother.
The young man was quoted by Adami as saying he didn’t want his story in the paper. And yet there it is: his suicide attempts, his drug use, his paranoid schizophrenia, his bipolar disorder, his behaviour problems as a child, his anger management problems, his doctors’ assessment of his current mental state, his brushes with the law, his rental history, his housekeeping shortcomings, everything. Right there with his name, photograph and height.
If his mother’s version of events is accurate, I can understand her frustration with the shortage of mental health resources available to her son. But does anyone else think that publishing this article was a flagrant violation of his privacy rights? Certainly there’s a valid point to made about mental health resources, but couldn’t this point have been made without publicly identifying him?
Even if he manages to get his mental health issues under control with treatment, this article will probably haunt him for the rest of his life. Anybody who ever googles his name will learn personal and confidential information about his medical and psychiatric history. This includes potential employers, potential landlords, acquaintances, neighbours and everybody else, forever.
It’s not right. And I can’t help but wonder if the Citizen would have published personal medical information about somebody who was not poor, homeless and mentally ill.