Saturday, 27 September 2008

Self publicity, Amazon and more of Amy Winehouse

I'm now a shameless self-publicist. Well, I have to, I guess. I'm no longer at the top of the tree. So I've been tagging myself onto every book on the Amazon site that has any reference to mental health or drug addiction. The only problem is that there's probably over a million books with references to both those nomenclatures. It might take me a bit of a time... I only wish that there was a human being at Amazon with whom I could speak so that the UK and USA sites that stock my book were to make sense. However I try to change them, their robots are only programmed to fix certain 'product description.' Now mine looks a mess and I can't rectify it. So much for self-publicity...

I wasn't going to mention Amy again. I'm sure that everyone's pretty bored with my take on her. Looking at the latest photos yesterday, I was angered and disturbed. She looks like 'Zach' does when he's manic and in the throes of brain-dead addiction - in her cut-off shorts, her skeletal frame and her scratched, dirty, hairy arms. She's surrounded by people, so how come they let her go to 'galas' and gigs, or make the rounds of the local pubs? Surely by now they know that she's not going to be able to hold it together and sing?

I'm angered because no one, it would appear, cares enough for Amy to do anything creatively to help her. She won't be sectioned because she's addicted to drugs - the NHS aren't interested enough to do that. I know, I've been a party to trying to get Zach into hospital when he's all but killed himself on the streets and the eminent psychiatrist or the 'crisis team' weren't in the least concerned. She's a danger to herself but, of course, is so far out of it, that she won't seek independent help and I also know that it's virtually impossible to beg, cajole, tempt or coerce someone who's mentally ill to go in for treatment when they're in denial. But surely something could be done. Not a spa but a private jet could spirit her away to some kind of facility that would save her. But it needs cajones to do that and it doesn't appear that there's anyone who has any, any more.

So no amount of self-publicity by Amy - for maybe this is a subconscious self-publicity, exhorting her hangers on to do something, anything - is going to make a difference. And I'll continue with my own benign self-publicity that ultimately may also prove to be pointless.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Memoir mania.... and Zarif

And another one! How many more this week? Sir Roger Moore today. Gloria Hunniford, Richard Madeley, Bill Oddie, Cliff Richard, Sir Bobby Charlton, Ann Leslie... Whew! Who's going to have time enough to read them all? And they all get published. It's extraordinary. The received wisdom is that the 'memoir' genre has all but dried up but obviously the autobiography hasn't. But when is an autobiography not a memoir? When, presumably, there's no abuse. But wait a minute, doesn't Richard Madeley talk about his dad giving him a hiding and Bill Oddie's mum not wanting to recognise him because she was tragically schizophrenic? Surely these kids were abused too?

Ah, but... They're celebrities you see. The past is a different place for them. Everyone wants to know all about Judy's post-natal depression (or do they?) and Cliff's visiting his auntie in Upton Park. Really? Didn't Gloria write another memoir a few years back about Caron Keating? Is there really much more to write about?

I suppose that we should really be looking forward to Kerry Katona's 'warts and all' about her relationship with Jordan. Baited breath. How many copies would any publisher think he would sell before that's binned and turned into toilet paper? And every intelligent publication moans about the state of publishing in this country. Hardly surprising, is it?

Last night, for want of a change of subject, I went to see Zarif perform in Soho. Some people would describe her as the new Amy Winehouse. Hardly an apt description, apart from the fact that she, too, writes her own songs. The lovely thing about Zarif is that - she's lovely! She's also bright and sparky and clean - by that I mean no pointless weed or smack or ketamine. Her set was great and the band were phenomenal. I really wish her the best. Go Zarif!

Saturday, 20 September 2008

GPs, unsafe motorists and paranoid schizophrenia

I feel a rant coming on. This morning I read that GPs are now going to held responsible if one of their patients has a driving accident should the GP have been aware that his/her patient may not have been well enough to take a car out on the roads. This may result in the GP being sued for negligence. What next, a GP/psychiatrist/social worker being sued should a patient of theirs kill someone if the GP etc knew that they weren't taking their medication?

The last sentence above is meant to be taken ironically, if you hadn't already guessed.

This week another woman was attacked by a 'paranoid schizophrenic'. She was knifed repeatedly and almost killed. The mother of the attacker was, understandably, incensed because she knew that her son wasn't taking his medication and, it goes without saying, although he was under the 'care' of the local authorities, they no doubt knew that the wasn't taking them too.

Last year, one of the worst for us as a family, when 'Zach' was in freefall after his repatriation from Thailand, he, too wasn't taking his medication. That was nothing new. However, the 'crisis' team were visiting him twice a day, even to the extent of seeing him once we threw him out of his flat, after he'd invited the junkies and the homeless to make themselves available of his 'generosity' within the walls we had so carefully painted for him in a previous, happier, time.

Two social workers, twice a day, every day. You'd think that was a pretty good scheme. You'd think that having spoken with 'Zach' at length, medication in hand, they would hand it over and tell him to take it. No, they couldn't do that. That was in breach of his civil liberties. They could talk until they were puce but they weren't going to ensure that he would take the very chemicals that would have helped reduce his grandiose and uncontrollable mania. So the flat was crammed with little white boxes full of pills and his bag contained other dosages but he didn't take them and they opted out of taking responsibility for someone who was a danger to himself and, consequently, other people.

What happened with 'Zach' last year, is repeated ad infinitum throughout this dogged land. No one person, GP, psychiatrist, local authority, social worker - you name it - will take the responsibility of caring for young people who are suffering from this most hideous of diseases: mental illness. Each and every time that someone is attacked by, generally, a young man in the depths of psychosis, there's an 'independent enquiry'. How many more enquiries do we need before someone decides that enough is enough and there's a directive that 'care in the community' do exactly that, care?

So the poor young man, labelled a 'paranoid schizophrenic', is now incarcerated for life in some revolting institution among the demented and criminally insane, pilloried and lambasted because someone in charge decided that his life wasn't worth caring for but GPs are now meant to take time out of their increasingly fraught days to ensure that a patient who may have had an asthma attack ten years ago while at the wheel of his car, is not about to have another one in the future. What planet are we living on?

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Max Pemberton, Antonio Carluccio and a chronic lack of awaredness of mental health issues

I've taken a break from blogging, so wonder whether my avid readers will rejoin me. What's been happening? Radio broadcasts, letters to editors and now the invitations for me to go into schools and colleges and mental health organisations to give talks. Speaking in front of a bunch of 16 to 18 year olds will need my utmost guile.I've been informed that GCSE students only have a concentration span of five minutes. That's not much more than goldfish. Can this be true? Sounds pretty patronising and condescending to me. Surely seven minutes is a more realistic goal...

I saw this week in The Telegraph column written by Max Pemberton, Finger on the Pulse that there's an 'alarming lack of knowledge concerning mental health issues.' Well, well, well, so this is 'news'. Of course there's an alarming lack of knowledge. No one is interested in teaching kids about mental health problems. God knows I've gone over this enough in this blog but it just doesn't seem to hit home. At least being asked to go into schools and speak about Zach's problems with his Bipolar moods and his ingestion of drugs that sparked and tangled with his neurotransmitters, then it's a start. But where do I start from?

I'm not going to be able to go into schools and ask various kids, 'So when did you take your last hit?' and 'How many of you get wasted at the end of the day after school's out?' Not the sort of thing that PGCE teachers really want to hear their students discussing, is it? I can't go in all guns blazing and rant at them about predispositions to mania and the kindling effect. I guess that all I can do is to tell them about what happened to Zach at Glastonbury when he was fourteen and how I found him shackled to his bed in Greece when I went to repatriate him - events that led to chaos solely the result of mental health issues and drug abuse.

I read today that poor Antonia Carluccio, he of the pavement cafes and stunning pasta, has been admitted to hospital suffering from, yes, that's it, depression. A depression, it would seem, that resulted in him repeatedly stabbing himself. Seems to me that he is not simply suffering from depression per se but more than likely psychosis. Why won't the media call it by it's real name? Yes, the bottom end of depression does lead to psychosis. It would make it so much easier for the public to begin to understand mental health issues if they were given the correct terminology for them.

So another celebrity is 'outed' but it won't help get the message out and notwithstanding that I wrote to The Telegraph to say that yes, Max Pemberton is right: there is an acute lack of awareness among young people concerning mental health issues and that I've written a book about a young man who suffers from chronic mental health problems and that I'm going to be going into schools and discussing this same problem with young people, I've not heard a dickybird from them. Strike you somehow hyprocritical, not?

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Is Lily Allen turning into Amy Winehouse?

Well, no. I don't think so. For a start, she has one-tenth the talent that Winehouse exhibits in her little finger, although I have to admit that on first hearing I did enjoy Lily's debut album. The problem with Lily, artistically, is that she sounds the same on every track and it all becomes so boring on second listening. Amy, by comparison, only becomes better. That's her salvation. But is it going to save her?

Readers write in to comments' pages because they're fed up reading about 'z-list' celebrities. But that's what the newspapers want to give us, that's why. Someone asked why newspapers don't write about 'real' people with 'real' issues and problems. The reason is axiomatic. No one is interested in 'real' people with 'real' problems. At least, that's what we are forced fed to infer from the same newspapers or magazines. When journalists write features about people with, among other things, problems with money or sex or madness, then the snapshot of their lives that we are presented with has no relation to reality.

A shocking headline is offered up to the reader in order to draw him or her into the article, whereafter everything is spun. "My life was ruined because of my excessive spending" reads one. "My wife left me because I ran with call girls" is another banner. "My girlfriend's depression caused me to want to take my life" is one more.

Having then offered a hook, the article invariably goes on to rehash what has been written about time and again and, because these are 'real' people, without celebrity status, the interest factor is about nil.

So we are left with the Lily Allens of the world whose celebrity is predicated on their getting drunk to oblivion and then making asses of themselves - so that they can then vomit up feeble excuses on Facebook. 'Look,' they say. 'It really wasn't me. It was the booze/draw/coke/my cat died/I didn't sleep last Thursday...' Tedious, isn't it?

Lily Allen the new Winehouse? Would she wish it? She probably would.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

The oxymoron of 'Care in the Community'

Poor, poor Benjamin Frankum who was allowed out while under 'section' to, guess what? Care in the community! You may argue that we should not feel pity for Benji Frankum, because he then went on to kill a perfectly innocent father of three, Daniel Quelch. Mr. Quelch was definitely in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

It's heartbreaking that yet again, after who know's how many instances, that someone who suffers from chronic mental illness - let's call it schizophrenia - even paranoid schizophrenia - is not being taken care of in the least managable way. The very fact that he had been sectioned because it had occurred to the mental health authorities that he was a danger to himself, and as a consequence other people, then why on earth was he released out?

Presumably, as was the case with Zach, Benji Frankum was visited by a 'crisis team' or a 'social worker' while he was living in his 'supported accommodation' and presumably, as was also the case with Zach, they offered him his medication. Did they not force him to take it? Or did they stand next to him, offering him sweet nothings, while maintaining that they had no authoritity to force him to take the meds?

Is there no one in this country who is going to take responsibility for the unbelievably shoddy treatment that our mentally ill suffer from? How many more innocent people will die until there is accountability by the mental health bodies? The people who die are innocent, but, invariably, those who commit the crimes are innocent too, if they are suffering from a chronic mental illness. And when these so-called 'Mental Health Authorities' fail in their duties, as they increasingly do, who indeed should bear the guilt for the consequential fall-out?

It's about time that the blame is apportioned to where it emanates and this is with our 'caring' services. Maybe when professionals are made to take responsibility of their risible 'care in the community' and heads roll, then possibly less innocent lives will be lost.