In recent days, disturbing videos have surfaced on social media and television networks of a young man attacking a Sydney bus by smashing the windscreen glass and cutting himself in the process. He has been called a crazy man, a zombie, an ice or meth addict or said to be on some kind of drug.
As his closest friend and with support from his mother, it was important for us to set the record straight in the midst of such false portrayals and hurtful comments circulating about my friend. Before I continue though, it is so important for us to recognise that in this age of technology where any picture or video can go viral overnight, that a mere picture or video will never and can never show the full story or context of any situation. While the media plays an important role in bringing to light incidents such as this, we as a society mustn’t be so quick to judge, especially if we don’t know the whole story.
The man in the video, who unfortunately has already been named by the media to be Tim Wynberg, is not the man those that are close to him, know and love. The man in the video is exhibiting what mental illness can do to someone, but I don’t see my friend Tim. The exact diagnosis of Tim’s mental illness isn’t definitive at this point in time, but he does suffer from some kind of mental illness. And no- Tim was not intoxicated, on meth, ice or any kind of drug before, during or after this incident.
It may be hard to believe after seeing his behaviour on video, but Tim is actually such a loving, generous, thoughtful and sensitive person with a very happy disposition. It is very frustrating for those who know and love him to see him being portrayed as someone he just is not. His mother wants people to know that it is a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes this sort of illness and it is not Tim’s fault. She says that while he is in a lot of pain, he didn’t hurt anyone else, only himself and that he wouldn’t ever harm anyone.
The viral video of Tim shows exactly what mental illness can do to someone, but the video says more about us as a society than it does of my friend Tim. The media and the public’s response to the viral videos of Tim were people calling him a crazy, drugged up person which sadly demonstrates how unaware, unequipped and uneducated we as a society are towards mental illness. More importantly, as was seen in the viral video, the passengers who can be heard “heckling” (understandably so) my friend, only appeared to aggravate his behaviour, which shows just how unequipped we are as a society to recognise and subsequently deal with those suffering from mental illness.
While I strongly condemn violence of any kind, I don’t believe he is danger to society, I think if anything, he’s more of a danger to himself than to others. It’s so easy for us to say that people who display such behaviour are not fit to participate in society, but according to SANE Australia, the National Mental Health Charity, approximately 20% of adults in Australia suffer from some sort of mental illness every year. Mental illness is a real issue. We must aim to help, instead of condemn and criticise. There needs to be greater awareness of mental illness and its effect on people, we need to get rid of the stigma and judgment around mental illness, we need to educate ourselves on how it works and learn how to help people who are suffering from a mental disorder. Tim’s mother believes more research needs to be done on person-centred holistic care in mental health.
Having said all this, I don’t intend to excuse his actions, I just want to explain his actions. I want the world to know that he isn’t the person you see in the video. However, I completely understand how confronting and concerning the video is to watch and I realise how frightened and shaken up the other passengers would have been, but the sad truth is that this kind of behaviour is something that people with friends or family members with mental illness, know all too well, maybe not to this degree, but it happens. And for anyone offended by the racial slurs he allegedly made, I would like to sincerely apologise on behalf of Tim and assure you that he is not racist in the slightest and definitely did not mean to offend anyone. He really is a very caring and loving person and it’s upsetting that the media isn’t seeing the Tim I know and love.
Tim is currently receiving medical assistance. He is also being charged with common assault and malicious damage. He suffers from mental illness but does not belong in the criminal justice system, he is not a bad person so hopefully the legal system will appropriately take this into consideration.
If you know of anyone that may be suffering from mental illness, contact SANE, the National Mental Health Charity Helpline on 1800 18 7263.