Due to my recent sabbatical from all things PhD I’ve decided to take a back seat and not get too involved in stuff. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself and others. The past few weeks have been a real eye opener to state the very least. The reason? I’ve strayed into the world of Mental Health.
I know I’ve shared this before but please take a bit of time to consider how you would react if this was a family member or friend.
It only needs fifty seven more signatures and there are more than that number who read this blog if the stats are correct. I must stress that I do not speak for Hugh’s Mum, my views here are my own and I may not always get the facts straight. But, I do think I listen enough and read between the lines to get the general gist of things.
Over the past few weeks, via Helping Hands Belfast, I’ve managed to introduce Margaret to few support and action groups in Belfast. During these meetings my heart has been torn to bits in by the simplicity of Hugh’s story. His death was due to smoking morphine patches legally prescribed. Yes, they are legal, but is it legal to give them or sell them to young people? Hugh had suffered from mental illness most of his young life, as had Margaret and at the age of… (so not saying) she is only coming to terms with it now. Hugh did not want to stay in hostel that held sex offenders as he was in jail for attacking someone he believed to be an abuser. So, he done a bunk.
My own personal discoveries of late have allowed me to realise that I was suffering from some shape or form of depression for most of my adult life. Was this…Is this a direct result of growing up during The Troubles? Something to be explored later.
At one of these recent meetings we met with a group of parents whose sons or daughters have been going off the rails, involved in crime, been in prison (Hydebank Young Offenders Centre) and taking drugs. What jumped off the page at me was that the stories were all similar. The names of mental health providers already in place were all mentioned (some less favourably than others) and all the drugs being mentioned were prescription drugs. Not once was heroin or cocaine mentioned. This would be a totally different conversation in some other major cities across the UK but I do believe that prescription drug misuse is becoming more prevalent in society as whole.
In 2012 I read this article –
I was still in prison, made enquiries and wrote to Judge Francis in Texas. He graciously replied and pointed me in the direction of people who might be able to assist. His statement “I am getting the biggest bang possible for taxpayers’ bucks while achieving something positive for society” should be bouncing round all our corridors of power now, today. My life got caught up in Master’s, University and coping with life after prison and I was only able to pursue this sporadically.
This article appeared just before Christmas as I graduated from Queens and research was again put on hold as I explored the idea of PhD and started compiling proposals. I think I may have missed the boat here as a proposal is staring me right in the face –
Then, this article appears on Sunday and coincides with my listening to the stories of mothers and fathers of young people and young adults who are killing themselves, self harming and going to jail as direct result of prescription drug abuse.
In a brief exchange with the Justice Minister he pointed out that it was not a secret and that he’d spoken to Judge Crichton two years ago.
I’ve also spoken to another Judge who has been researching this in America and the UK and who is willing to come over here and speak to MLA’s and Judges. None of this is a secret as I’ve been harping on about it since reading the 2012 Guardian article. Further research and communication with Professor Martine-Herzog Evans in France has introduced me to the benefits of these courts and that they are not an American idea.
My issue is not with the Justice Minister. I do however intend to follow this up by trying to find out what is being done to try and implement this in our jurisdiction. Is Northern Ireland not the perfect place to implement and measure the affects of such a court? We have 1.8M people to measure and much smaller than any major city in the UK. We are unique in that we are moving on from conflict and that significant number of our population suffer from some sort of mental instability due to the fact the we have been bombarded by death and murder for thirty odd years. So, again, my message is simple, it’s not rocket science and is about creating awareness. Let us be aware that our prison system cost ‘US’ and absolute fortune and over half the people in it are suffering from some sort of mental illness and have drug related crime in their portfolio. Margaret has two more sons. One has just been released from Hydebank and one is due for release in two years. When she spoke quietly and said “I don’t want to loose another son” my heart broke.
When Hugh attended his GP the GP sent him away saying “It’s all in your head.” Hopefully this will get in your head and you will realise that human beings like Hugh might still be alive if we as society reacted to what’s in our head.