Got to keep the loonies on the path.

In this country it is believed that at least 1 in 4 people will experience some sort of mental health problem in their lifetime. This could be post-natal, due to grief, redundancy, isolation or childhood experiences and many more. It is all around us, it intrinsic to the human condition. Where there is stress, be it physical or mental, there is illness in consequence. So why is it so hard to deal with? Why is there such stigma? There are mental health days aimed at raising awareness of this problem. Do they? Even if awareness is raised what are we expected to do with it? I don’t know for sure. There are charities working tirelessly to plug the gaps in services where the demand is so great. There are working groups, users forums, conferences, thick documents charting the challenges faced for people with mental health problems and their impact on society. There are good things happening all the time, perpetuated and initiated by well-intentioned people. Yet, we still have a problem with mental health.

Perhaps we need to get to the baseline, clear the decks and begin again. If it is such a big problem, then we’re not getting it right. Obviously. Stigma is still there and often distrust of someone who might have had an ‘episode’, which deviates from the norm. Well don’t we all one way or another.

As this is my final ‘Pause for Thought’ this week, I’m going to share something with you. My heart is beating hard as I say this, a sign that I recognise even in myself that the stigma is still strong. I will say I don’t care, but we’ve got to know one another over the past week, so I can tell you that I most certainly do. It seems to me that people who suffer with mental health problems have one thing in common. WE often feel like outsiders. If you noticed at this early hour, yes, I said WE. I have experienced significant mental health problems since I was a teenager. That was some time ago. In the recent years I was given the label of having ‘Bi Polar Disorder’. There are different types, but suffice to say an episode as it is called, swings you round like a mouse in the jaws of a cat, and sets you down when it’s had enough, whenever it likes, leaving you and the people you love exhausted and bewildered, until the next time. There is always a next time. I was lucky, I had people around me who tried to see through the wall of madness and hang on to the person beneath. I wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t.

Pink Floyd on their album Dark Side of the Moon said ‘got to keep the loonies on the path’ Do you mean us? Syd Barratt, schizophrenics, depressives and so on? Why? We’re not loonies. That’s the trouble. You can’t herd people, because they’re not cattle, they’re different. I have spoken to you every morning this week, I’ve turned up and enjoyed it, and hopefully we’ve engaged. I listened to one of our wonderful paralympians talking about her disability resulting from one of the train bombings in London. She said, had that not happened to her, she wouldn’t have become an Olympic Gold Medal winner, and would never have achieved such a wonderful thing. How’s that for courage. It’s another example why we shouldn’t judge. I became a writer because my life was turned on its head. I always wanted to write novels. I’m not sure I would ever have found the courage or the drive to do so if my life had been different. I wanted to express myself, finding it increasingly hard to do so in what we might call the conventional world. Though I end with cliché ; something I assiduously avoid in my fiction- it is sometimes wise ‘not to judge a book by its cover’.