Tag Archives: recovery

Community Mental Health – Belfast 2013

Mental illness knows no borders and crosses all divides. Whether you are a Protestant from the Shankill Road or a Catholic from the Falls Road, mental illness doesn’t discriminate.

Mental and emotional ‘defence mechanisms’ do not prevent psychiatric illness from happening and peace walls don’t protect from mental illness.

Mental illness is an unseen enemy because of the stigma that plagues sufferers. Mental illness is like a cancer in our communities. Depression, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder (to name but a few) are our hidden ‘troubles’. People who are mentally unwell, their families, their loved ones, carers, friends, psychiatric professionals, are battling against a society that still wants to brush mental health issues under the carpet. Rich, poor; young, old; educated, uneducated; employed, unemployed; all can be affected by mental illness and stigma (or know someone who is afflicted).

So what can be done to fight this blight that is affecting one in four people in the North, South, East and West of this city? Help is available. If you feel that life is not worth living or the pain you experience feels unbearable; if you are constantly weepy and weary and don’t know what is happening to you, or you’re at the end of your tether and you can’t cope, then it’s crucial to speak to someone you can trust. You may wish to visit your G.P. Whatever you do don’t let things drag on. Seek helpful, informed advice from reliable sources. Chances are someone you know can direct you to those who give specialised help.

Mental illness ought not to be the ‘end of the road’ – whether you’re from the Shankill Road or the Falls Road.

May a common humanity, common sense and common concern prevail.

And remember: there is no shame in having a mental illness. Recovery is possible. (The writer of this article has a serious mental illness but is in full-time, permanent employment and enjoys friendships, hobbies, etc).

There is hope. Look forward. There is hope for you. Asking for help may be a good place to start…


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Recovery as reality

Mental illness knows no borders and crosses all divides.  Mental illness is no respecter of persons.  Mental illness affects the crude and the cultured; the employed and the unemployed; the educated and the uneducated. Mental illness affects young and old; the rich and the poor; the religious and the irreligious.

Mental illness is torment – as every sufferer knows.  Mental illness is a cruel form of pain that not only disables the sufferer but puts great strain on family, friends, carers, loved ones, resources, etc.

And mental illness isolates.  Loneliness can be an unwelcome effect of suffering from mental ill health.

What do service users need in order to arm ourselves in the constant battle to better manage mental illness?  Medication is usually essential; as are doctors; social workers; nurses; occupational therapists; support workers; other professionals; family and friends, etc.  Service users must think and reflect on our feelings and thoughts about why we are ill, in addition to taking prescribed medication. Also, we need to express our thoughts and feelings in a safe environment.  But what use is a voice if no-one seems to be listening? To be listened to is to be valued.  Those who give time to listen provide an invaluable service – be they a trusted friend; a family member; G.P. or psychiatric professional, etc.

Thus, recovery is very much linked to service users having a voice and as stated above, our voice needs to be heard.  On-going recovery is therefore a partnership and a process.  One might never be fully well; (I have been taking psychiatric medication for 29 years but am able to work, socialise, study, enjoy holidays and hobbies, etc).  Recovery, I suggest, is about managing your symptoms to the best of your ability with as much or as little support that you need to achieve your goal/s.

Be encouraged!  There is hope!  I never thought I could drive a car; enjoy friendships or do many of the things  others (might) take for granted.

My hope for you is that you might stop and think and reflect on your own personal situation/plight.  Talk to someone you can trust.  Make of today an opportunity for change.  The road ahead will most certainly be challenging but with the right help you can meet each difficulty and move on.

Remember: you are not a mentally ill person – you are a person who has a mental illness.

I wish you well in your on-going recovery.  Asking for help may be a good place to start…

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Blog 2nd August 2012

Poetry – its part in my downfall! Prior to the onset of mental illness I was in a long-term relationship but straining with every fibre in my body to write poems. Riches and fame were the goal. In the end the relationship broke up and I broke down! In an effort to make a fresh start/a clean slate, I destroyed those poems – all of them. To this day I have no regrets about that decision. Those poems were not good.

To my amazement in 2003 I had the urge to write and a poem was formed, entitled ‘Sound and vision’. My writing ‘career’ had begun!

Sound and vision

Higher than snowy mountain peaks the eagle flies.

By Alpine sunny fountains ibex drink.

Through undergrowth the python slithers;

while out on the dales a lamb is born.

Under leaves a hedgehog huddles.

In cold river waters trout swim.

Up-stream salmon leap;

deep underground a rabbit feeds her young.

Mist is settling over the lough where midges swarm.

The sun is setting;

the still night air is broken by a blackbird’s song.

And on a sofa a man is slumped, one eye half-closed,

half-watching T.V.

I believe that ‘Sound and vision’ and my subsequent poems are a gift to be shared. Thus, may my poems be of help and encouragement to you. Poetry – its part in my healing…


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In the beginning

Mental illness knows no borders and crosses all divides. I came to realise this about one month before my 25th birthday when, as a voluntary patient, I was admitted to a large psychiatric hospital in Belfast. Rathlin ward was a cross-community affair – alcoholics; a sick doctor: criminals; a retired police officer; men and women – some who wanted to die; some who wanted to live. It didn’t matter whether you were a Catholic or a Protestant – like it or not, we were all ‘in this together’. Such was our plight.

Twenty-eight years on (and with a diagnosis of schizo-affective disorder) I work, rest and play by the grace of God; the support of family and friends; and with the help of psychiatric medication.

What about my poetry? What part do my poems play in my recovery? I’ll share this with you on another day …


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