I’ve just finished watching BBCThree’s “Don’t Call Me Crazy”, a documentary looking at the inside of one of the few adolescent psychiatric units in the country. My reactions were numerous, but the main, resounding one was the same one I get every time I set foot on a mental health unit. “We’ve got to shine in here”.
They are dark places. There is little that can be done about the fact that they are places characterised by the fear and suffering of those who inhabit them. But there is so much to be done about our attitudes towards them. So much to be done to get the light and unfailing hope we have in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, into these wards. I’m not talking about a fluffy christian ‘joy’ which ignores the pain and suffering.I’m talking about the hope and comfort found as Thomas the disciple touched the scars on Jesus’ palms. I’m talking about the wonder of the men on their journey to Emmaus who thought hope had died.
The driving force behind ThinkTwice began on a very dark night of the soul on a psychiatric ward. I never want to forget that, and I never want that to cease being part of my motivation. Because that cry for light in the darkness changed everything. The bravery of the young people who agreed to be part of the documentary, and spoke so eloquently of their daily battles are an inspiration. I hope that one day, documentaries such as this won’t be necessary, because there won’t be a stigma. The ethics of showing the acute suffering of some so young is a topic for another day because today – I think our focus should be on how we help.
You might offer to get the shopping, or feed the dog for a friend with a broken leg – what about doing the same for someone with mental illness? My heart breaks for those broken my mental illness – not just those with a diagnosis – but those who struggle to navigate another’s darkness often with little or no support themselves. Let’s break the silence. For the sufferers and for those who suffer alongside them.
This article was first written for ThinkTwice.