Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Worksop, World Mental Health Day and lesson number one

Worksop, somewhere in the middle of England, declared that 'World Mental Health Day' was a 'great success.' Not wishing to belittle Worksop, I'm glad that the inhabitants of that small town believed the spin. However, I don't believe that such an emotive reaction was embraced by the rest of the population of the world.

When I went in to speak with my GCSE class the very day of WMHD, I was informed by 'M' that "The class are pretty restless today. It's Friday... You know, start of the weekend and all..." After they had sat themselves down and put their mobiles and i-Pods away, I prefaced my talk with a question: "Did you guys know that today is World Mental Health Day.?" Blank faces. Disbelieving stares. Boredom. "Effective, isn't it?" I laughed. They settled down a bit. "I've come in," I explained to them, "to speak to you today about drugs and mental illness..." A couple of sly glances between the girls, 'Who's this old biddy come in to talk to us about drugs?' but when I actually began to speak and then to read from the book, you could've heard a pin drop.

I think that I probably spoke for about twenty-five minutes and then we had a question and answer session. The kids were interested. There were some very considered questions. They had obviously been listening. I had told them that I wasn't going to lecture them about drugs. I also said that there was no point in my telling them not to 'use' in any shape or form. I'm too late for that. I simply wanted to impress on maybe one of them - there were about twenty odd in the room - that the 'gateway' drugs lead to a far more dangerous scenario. The one where, at some stage, one in four of them will have a mental health problem and that those problems may well be as a direct result of their drug taking. I'm sure that there will be plenty of health 'professionals' who will disagree with me here, but I stand by that statistic.

So, by the end my hour and at the end of the questioning, I think that maybe I had made them aware of the correlation between drugs and mental illness and the axiomatic increase of patients on psychiatric wards but I doubt whether they will be interested in October 10th, year on year. Why? What's that? World Mental Health Day. Of course!

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