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?

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