|A yacht powering it's way along the River Humber last night back to the back to the marina in the late evening sun|
Ironically, I was brought up in a household as a child with a loving grandfather who had dementia and as I recall that never bothered me at all. He was an extremely old man (born in 1886), a World War 1 veteran (who lost a leg in battle) and who was blind. He used to ask me to do tasks for him as both my parents were working and I spent more time with him during the day.
He used to talk to himself a lot, conversations with long lost friends and comrades, expressing opinions and showing emotions as if they were happening right there with those imaginary people - real in his mind. He wasn't violent, he was mild, funny and very undemanding really in the scheme of things given his age and disabilities. I guess his physical disabilities, his lack of eyesight for example (I can still see his glass eye sat in a cup in a cupboard - to be brought out on special occasions) and his lack of one leg are pretty obvious and are easier to cope with although it did cause problems.
His talking to himself wasn't much of an issue either I suppose because when called for he was lucid in conversation with us in the real world. I never pitied him either - as an impressionable youngster ( I was probably around 16 when he died) I thought this probably happened to all old people. I never looked at it as a 'mental illness' at the time.
Stephen Fry suffers with bipolar disorder which the BBC helpfully describes as someone who has has manic depression and severe mood swings - periods of depression where they feel low and lethargic - and mania where they feel very high and overactive.
His public acknowledgement of his condition and his reaction to his attempt suicide is interesting and I think he is brave to confront it and to acknowledge it which could potentially help others who are suffering or who may think they are suffering so they can get the appropriate help. It raises the profile of this very debilitating disorder.
I think what I find distasteful is the nasty reaction by a minority of people to it and the staggering ignorance when I hear the accusation (and I paraphrase) 'with all he's got, what has he got to be depressed about' is just extraordinary. Do we not live in the 21st century?
In the UK, the saddest thing of all is that we have to protect those with disabilities by the need to introduce a law - the Equality Act 2010 to stop mindless discrimination and unfair treatment of those with disability, including mental illness.
I don't shy away from it although I admit to avoiding confronting it when I can, particularly with strangers mostly, but it's something that has to be acknowledged, certainly by those who don't think they have mental illness and who bizarrely castigate and criticise those who do.
Mental illness at whatever level from 'mild depression' through to conditions like bipolar is a serious issue for our society as a whole. In a former profession I saw the devastating effects of suicide on countless tragic occasions, not all through mental illness admittedly, but a large proportion of them were.
I haven't really explored why mental illness frightens me and I must address it. It's not my mental state or the possibility of getting a mental illness but my interaction and communication or relationship with those who have more serious and obvious mental illness that worries me.
If you have ideas why I am like I am or if you feel the same way or can give me pointers or perhaps you have a story of interest to our readers, please feel free to leave a constructive comment.
Have a great weekend