Mental illness can impact anyone – just look at Alexander Thorpe.
Earlier this week, the 21-year-old Airdrie resident was found Not Criminally Responsible (NCR) for murdering his mother earlier this year, as a result of a mental disorder. According to testimony from a psychiatrist at his two-day trial, Thorpe suffered from undiagnosed bi-polar disorder and was in a psychotic state at the time he killed his mother, Melanie Lowen. He believed he was killing Satan, who had taken over his mother's body.
Every time our newsroom has produced a story about Thorpe's case this year, it's met with comments that NCR verdicts are just a way to get murderers off for free, or an excuse for murderous behaviour.
People seem to think Thorpe has gotten off easy. Those comments couldn't be further from the truth.
Thorpe has absolutely received a life-sentence. He'll have to live with the fact that he unwittingly killed his own mother for the rest of his life, which will likely be spent in psychiatric facilities or under close observation. He'll be on medication for years, if not decades, and will never live the type of life he once enjoyed.
And what a life it was. Before Lowen's grisly death earlier this year, members of our newsroom had interviewed Thorpe on two separate occasions. The first time was in 2019, after he had scored 100 per cent on his Math 30-1 diploma exam. The second time we interviewed Thorpe was after a local high-school soccer game, in which he was the captain of his team. Thorpe also played soccer competitively and was a volunteer with his local club.
He was named his high school's valedictorian in his graduation year, and was excelling as a commerce student at the University of British Columbia. He was clearly a brilliant kid and it seemed he had a bright future ahead of him.
The tragic circumstances all go to show that mental illness can, indeed, affect anyone. It's why early detection and diagnosis of a mental health disorder is so important, as is destigmatizing mental health in the first place.