There But for the Grace of God Go I.

I doubt that anyone on this planet could seriously defend the Tory government in the UK in terms of their record on mental health. Their proposals and policies for dealing with what is the largest health epidemic of our time have been best described as ‘bullshit‘. I could have written endlessly about this joke of a government in the intervening quiet time since my last post but one thing has recently captured my gaze: IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection).

There are around 3000 people in the UK serving IPP orders. They are intended to keep behind bars those who, in the absence of having committed a crime, may still be deemed to be so dangerous that their liberty ought to be deprived of them. Put simply, they are imprisoned without a release date yet they have committed no crime worthy of the sentence they are serving. Once such person is James Ward, a man who is currently serving the eleventh year of his 10 month prison sentence for arson. No doubt this will immensely please the ‘lock them up and chop their balls off’ merchants who want nothing more than to see the reinstatement of capital punishment, the return of the short, sharp shock, and grotesque mutilations for thieves and sex offenders such as amputations, castration and so forth. The efficacy of draconian state power is at the very best dubious, however what bothers me is the (mis)usage of these orders and how they are deployed against the mentally ill. Ward is currently self-harming and his parents believe that his suicide is simply a matter of time, so yet again this is another example of outrageous state power being wielded against the most vulnerable in our society. Are there really 3000 people in the UK who are so dangerous that they ought to be deprived of their liberty indefinitely? I doubt that very much. What I think is more likely is that these ‘throw away the key’ sentences are popular with voters, easy to use when dealing with difficult prisoners and politically expedient. After all there are no votes to be gained in campaigning on behalf of people like Ward, and that aside, who wants to be the person who releases someone who then goes on to kill someone when they could have given them an IPP? I mean, come on, is this not just the perfect tool for a politician to use in order to secure a platform upon which to spout off empty rhetoric about a zero tolerance approach to crime and punishment? The parole board obviously couldn’t care less, and a right wing government sympathies for criminals extends as far as their own interests.

If you think that you are not to worry about this then good for you. Personally I am scared to death of these orders. I am one serious mental breakdown away from being the subject of an IPP. We are 200 short years further on from the mentally ill being a tourist attraction in Bedlam. Do you think we could not possibly return to those awful times? I tell you now, we are closer than you might ever imagine, and the road from IPPs becoming routine down to rampant paranoia and indiscriminate imprisonment of those deemed to be so dangerous that society cannot be subjected to their presence is very much shorter than we think.

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2016: Carrying on Where 2015 Left Off

2016 is shaping up to be a terrible year for mental health, those who treat sufferers and sufferers themselves. In the UK funding for services has crashed into the national toilet. Our vicious Tory government could not care less about it. Children are being failed and dealt with as though they are adults (as an ex bipolar child this is especially painful to me). Were I to suffer a breakdown tomorrow I might well have to travel hundreds of miles just to get treatment – oddly enough I pay my taxes like everyone else so I would really love to have an explanation on that. I am not holding my breath, however.

Stephen Fry has made The Not so Secret Life of the Manic Depressive – a follow up film to his two part documentary entitled The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. I recommend the former in earnest to you and the latter I am just sitting down to watch. I like Fry but it is harder for me to see him as someone like me. He has my illness and symptoms but I cannot relate to a man with millions in the bank and who has no limitations on the life he wishes to lead. It is impossible. I admire him from afar but I might as well be on Mars compared to him and the lifestyle he leads. I do not resent him at all, good for him. He has cashed in his winning lottery ticket, but he is privileged and loved. I am neither of those things. I feel privileged simply to be alive. Every day that I get to smell my daughter’s hair, or hug my son is another day I treasure as a man who looked into the suicidal abyss and from which I am fortunate to have returned. Many of us simply do not make it.

In other news, this year I would like to produce a memoir, telling the story of how I arrived where I am. We shall see how that goes…

The Pandemic of Bipolar Disorder

Imagine an illness that was prevalent in every country and on every continent on the planet. Imagine that it is an illness with outcomes ranging from chronic, long term symptoms, often substance abuse and in the worst case scenarios, death. Imagine that it is a disease which afflicted those about whom society cares very little, and therefore by extension society cares nothing for that illness and the loved ones of its victims.Imagine an illness that is essentially a death sentence upon diagnosis, both a socially and a literal death. We have seen an illness such as this. In the 1980’s HIV/AIDS was precisely that. I am no historian but it seems to me that this epidemic was a key driver in the campaign for the emancipation of those who are members of the LGBTIQ community, and the simple truth is that there freedom was won because when HIV/AIDS began to lay waste to their communities they had no option but to come out swinging. They were being killed by this disease and many governments refused point blank to invest money in researching, treating and (hopefully one day) curing it. To quote Dan Savage, advice columnist and founder of It Gets Better, gay people had to fight because ‘they were fucking dying’. The institutionalised homophobia in the government of my homeland, the UK stink. The repulsive homophobe Margaret Thatcher and her odious Tory government were happy to let homosexuals drop dead in huge numbers. Even now I hear people say that AIDS is a punishment meted out to homosexuals for their lifestyles. It is 2015 for crying out loud.

Today we have a similar situation with my people, the mentally ill. Isolating just the sufferers of Bipolar Disorder estimates suggest that it occurs without discrimination in all populations at a prevalence of approximately 4%. Taken as a share of the poopulation of the earth this amounts to 120000000 people. By any standard you care to measure that is a crisis. If one accounts for all illnesses prevalence is 25% of the population, some 1.75 billion people. In Paris recently Islamist gunmen killed 129 people and as a result NATO has mobilised for war. So what happens for us? As little as possible. For terrorist deaths the military might of the West is brought to bear upon the problem, yet for something that is decimating our communities and way of life, especially the young, the machinery of government scarcely trembles. As is so often the case with politicians I doubt that this will ever change until it happens to one of them. The empathy gap in Westminster is astonishing in scope. When one of their sons or daughters is found having committed suicide maybe then things will change. One thing is for certain and that is that the current strategy of pretending that there is no problem simply cannot continue, although I would wager that it will. the NHS has been gutted for the last six or seven years as efficiency has become the name of the game and each one of these overpaid, over-privileged Eton boys competes to see who can be the most brutal and macho minister. Who pays the price for this ludicrous, criminal egotism? They do not, that is for sure.

Mental illness is a global pandemic and I for one have had enough of being used as expendable political capital by ministers who could not care less about the lives of ordinary people who suffer extraordinary problems. I write to my MP, nothing happens. I write to other politicians and none of them reply. I pluck up the courage to attend assessment and treatment sessions and nothing happens for months (this is not the fault of NHS), during which time I could well have taken matters into my own hands. We disclose our illnesses and we are subjected to vitriol and abuse from those who wish to taunt us online for the crime of being sick. We live openly as mentally ill and we are attacked in the street. We run into the police and they murder us. We tell our families and they ostracise and disown us. Parents throw us out of the family home, and we go to the state for help and are told that we must help ourselves. We go to friends and they tell us that we are making it up for attention. We tell colleagues and we are ostracised and scarlet lettered at work. We inform our bosses and we lose our jobs. We have a bad day and we are advised to ‘keep taking the medication’, or to ‘go quietly when the men in white coats come’. We live undiagnosed and governments use us. We ask for help and they sterilise us. We live through times of warfare and are exterminated. We post online and Facebook experiments on us. We eventually become so desperate and lost that we sometimes kill ourselves and society blames us and says that we are selfish. We did not do this to ourselves and we are not going to go away. Not now, not EVER.

You tell me folks; what are we supposed to do?