Embracing Neverland

Mental health……………………………………………………………………………..the journey is our own


Seeds of Compassion, Buried but Not Gone  I first examined Michael in the mid-1980s, when he was a 30-year-old patient in a maximum-security hospital for the criminally insane (though there were no criminal charges against him). He would stay in his room all day long for weeks on end, uncommunicative, with periods of extremely hostile behavior toward anyone who came nearby. Six months ago, at age 52, well groomed and well dressed, Michael started going out to the mall and on trips, and attending meetings and programs. He underwent hernia surgery without incident, and became eager to approach anyone who paid some attention to him and had the time to talk.

By George, it’s hard to watch fine minds sailing away  Dealing with dementia can be frightening for paid professionals, but how much more difficult must it be for carers?

The Radical Intellectual  People who care about the world and its inhabitants have long recognised Chomsky as a visionary and a man of the people. As an eminent scientist with a social conscience he embodies the tireless academic worker –with a vast output of high-quality work– who reluctantly sacrificed his private life for a public one in order to make the world a better place. In that sense he is also a committed conservationist, and this is expressed in his deep concern for the natural environment, especially in his more recent work. That he is vilified as public enemy number one by political and economic reactionaries comes as no surprise, but it is a heavy price to pay. His good-humoured acceptance of such a fate should inspire us all.

Challenging misconceptions  A fly-on-the-wall documentary aims to change common perceptions of the mentally ill, reports Saba Salman. Subjecting someone with severe paranoia to the intense scrutiny of a fly-on-the-wall documentary seems a less than sensible idea, but filmmaker Martin Hicks has pulled off the challenge with impressive results. Hicks’ film, It’s a Mad World, charts the experiences of five people with enduring mental health problems. Commissioned by Comic Relief, it features those who use facilities run by the Stoke-on-Trent housing association Brighter Futures, which is among the organisations that have benefited from the £6m donated by Comic Relief to mental health projects since 2005.Bath-based Hicks lived in Stoke-on-Trent for five months and spent one month building up friendships with his subjects before picking up his camera, time that was vital in gaining the trust of those suffering from paranoia and depression. He and assistant producer Claire Martin spent around two days a week following their subjects. Hicks says: “The aim is to show that with the right support, people can start to rebuild their lives. We wanted to give an honest representation of what living with mental health problems can be like.” But why would vulnerable people subject themselves to the pressures of life under the lens? “Everyone we spoke to felt the stereotypical image was negative, representing them as dangerous people who complain about their conditions. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Everyone we spoke to was so positive and trying to lead a normal life. They all had a right to moan, but not one did: that is what I found so amazing and enlightening.” The 40-minute film showcases two Brighter Futures projects, the American Clubhouse and the Observatory, café-style venues where those who have experienced mental illness can take part in activities designed to build their confidence. The projects, which have received a total of £89,000 from Comic Relief, also employ people with mental health problems, giving them an opportunity to get back into work. With one in four people in Britain suffering from mental health problems, Hicks says the film should illustrate how the issue can affect anyone. “Social action films give an opportunity for real people to represent themselves in a way you don’t usually see. These sorts of programmes should provoke discussion and raise awareness. “Our participants are much more interesting than those you see on reality television like Big Brother because they’ve got more experience of life. I’d hope that people’s perception of the person in the street they usually walk past, frown upon and give a wide berth to will change, and they won’t be so judgmental.”

Trapped in the system
Gul Davis’s story (Haunted by a life in care) reflects a mental health system that has failed not just him, but thousands like him. Like so many adults with mental health difficulties, Gul can trace his problems back to his childhood, and yet during his teenage years no effective support was delivered. A basic principle of good mental health services should include age-appropriate, specialist support. The mental health bill was recently amended by House of Lords to ensure that children and young people can receive timely and appropriate services during times of mental distress. Whether this vital change is supported by MPs is yet to be seen. YoungMinds urges MPs to read Davis’s story, to support the amendment and to commit that no other young person should experience such a lack of appropriate support.  Barbara Herts, chief executive,



Mad as hell  Angry activists say treatment for mental illness is too often more about the pills than the person

Mental Health Service User Movement?   Up against bureaucracy the whole time. To be paid our travelling expenses is like trying to extract blood from a stone. We are hardly welcomed when we do attend. We have to write separate letters to ask if we may please have a free place at a conference…we wouldn’t be asking for a free place if we could afford to come! And it is humiliating to feel we are begging which puts so many Service Users off that they don’t participate at all….

Survey of  users of mental health services 2006 

Interview: Clay Walker talks about his MS   By REBECCA PEARSEY

WASHINGTON, March 8 (UPI) — Every hour, one more person is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an unpredictable neurological disease that can lead to blurred vision, slurred speech or paralysis. The disease affects an estimated 400,000 Americans every year. One of them is Clay Walker, the multi-platinum country-music artist who was diagnosed with MS in 1996 while on tour in Canada. United Press International spoke with Walker, 37, about his life after diagnosis.

The jury’s out: I’m guilty of having a mental illness   Like 2 million other viewers, I tuned in to The Verdict on BBC2 recently, curious to witness the goings-on behind the closed doors of a jury room in a major criminal trial – albeit a fictional one. Unlike most of my fellow viewers, however, I know that I will never be called to sit on such a jury. My mental health status rules me out. My judgment is invalid. My friend Alec also watched the programme. In fact, we agreed on the verdict. But this was just a coincidence, for while Alec is a rational being who could be summoned for jury service tomorrow, my own considered opinion – at least in so far as the criminal justice system is concerned – has all the credibility of a casually tossed coin.

  As I was awakened from a deep sleep, I glanced at the bedside clock and knew that I had to get up in three hours so I could rush to get dressed and prepare myself for my husband’s arrival from work. I kept drifting off in the darkness of my bedroom. The shades were pulled. The windows and doors were locked, checked and double checked. Interruptions were kept to a minimum with the telephone ringer off and the door bell in need of repair.

It is hard looking back at those days of darkness and silence broken only by recurring nightmares. Often they drove me from my bed seeking safety. My husband would wake to find me missing from the bed, hovering in the corner of our living room on the floor asleep.Just a few years prior, I had been in college, excelling in my field. I had been active with my family, in my faith and in my community. I even enjoyed a part-time job. It was a time in my life when I should have been looking forward to realizing my personal future goals, but instead I landed in Holly Hill Psychiatric Hospital in Raleigh, when at the same time I was scheduled to receive the Governor’s Award of Excellence just a few miles from my hospital bed. The years of struggling with my mental illness had finally taken me to the bottom of my journey from which I spent many years fighting to regain my footing.My treatment included many different trials of medication with various side effects, and some benefits, but the bridge to my recovery was the continuum of talk therapy with professionals who would not give up on me. As I look back, I am amazed at their everlasting persistence and never failing support. I am sure that I must have challenged their patience on more than one occasion. There are no works to describe my gratitude to those individual professionals for their dedication and continued support.Today my life is so different. I am eager to awake to the singing of birds and chatter of the squirrels in my yard. I rush to the kitchen window to see the sunlight of the new day. My prayers now begin with how grateful I am that I have been given this new day in which to be with my family, friends, and whatever may happen that day. My struggle with mental illness has not ended, but I now know that I am not alone and that as long as I keep working on my treatment on a daily basis I will be able to have a fulfilling life.

My goal is to reach out to others by volunteering with A Place to Belong, a grassroots organization seeking to open a consumer-run, peer support center to ensure that other mental health consumers will have the support and education that I found on my recovery journey.GAIL BOSWELL is a mental health consumer and advocate through The Mental Health Association in Wilson County Task Force and volunteer director or A Place to Belong.


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