For a day job I work for a mental health hospital. Today I read one of the descriptions of the services the hospital offers and wondered about the way the fear and stigma of mental illness has affected treatment, to the extent that it’s not the done thing to even talk about it. We can and do happily discuss mental health but it’s not really on to talk about mental illness. It’s frightening. It’s a total loss of control.

Out on the primal veldt if you break your leg the lions might get you sooner, but at least you can make a plan. Light a fire, sharpen a stick, do something to put it off. And maybe, maybe you’ll get through. But when your mind isn’t very well you’re the most vulnerable you can possibly be and still be alive. Your plan is going to be about as good as the lions’s and they’ve got much bigger teeth than you.

Watch a cat with another cat that just came back from the vet and acts woozy from the anaesthetic. That would be my fear of what would happen, that frightened people would lash out, as frightened people do. Unless you’re lucky. Unless you can get help.

The service description got me thinking of how sanitised the language of therapy has become. Maybe it’s a good thing. I honestly don’t know. In one way it helps by reminding people, maybe unintentionally, the thinness of the tightrope we all walk. I see people who’ve missed their footing every day. It’s a terrifyingly long way down.



Treatment for psychotic symptoms, including hearing voices and seeing things others do not, feeling paranoid or mistrustful, believing in an ability to read other people’s minds, feeling confused, irritable and depressed, not thinking clearly, feeling that bad things may happen to self or others, believing in one’s special powers or fame are classic symptoms of a psychotic episode.


The factsheet told me the symptoms are common

And extensively varied including hearing voices,

Or seeing things that other people don’t see and hear.

And it’s true. I hear voices that other people don’t.

Other people don’t share my memories

And I hear your voice still telling me it’ll be ok.

Feeling paranoid or mistrustful.

I used to think paranoid meant thinking

Everyone was out to get you

But in the end, one person’s quite enough

Especially when they don’t want to get you at all

But the opposite. They want to un-get you.

For good. And mistrust.

Where would I be without a healthy dose of that?

Signed up to share my bank account with a Nigerian prince

Who suddenly needs to get the money belonging to his uncle

Who sadly died in a plane crash out of the country.

If I’d only share my details half of it can be mine.

And I can tick another box now. I could read his mind

This prince with a distinctly un-royal address.

But maybe things are different there.

Where nobody is confused or irritable or depressed

Where everyone thinks clearly all the time,

Where the words psychosis and mental health

Or service user are hardly ever used,

Unlike American Express or bank account details.

It’s my attitude, isn’t it?

It’s all in my head, as if I could think anywhere else

And shift this feeling that bad things might happen to me

And they will without any question at all

Because nobody gets out of this alive.

Do I believe in my special powers? It depends.

Right now only my special power to survive

Unlike the tens of billions who went before me

Dying and being born, a flash and dust

Under an eternal flame

So yes. Hands up. Me sir! Me sir! Sir! Sir!

That’s my special fame.




This is not the thing I wanted to write about mental health treatment. It just came out that way. As some people seem to have problems, oops, sorry, I meant issues reading this and thinking ‘Is he?’ You know, is he like that?’ the answer is no. Not diagnosed, anyway.

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