We have just seen a campaign for Mental Health Week, which will surely be a help and a support to anyone experiencing the affliction of depression, or of conditions like bi-polar disorder. These illnesses can be treated, and there should be no cause for shame or stigma.
But sometimes such campaigns fail to distinguish between depression and seriously dangerous conditions such as paranoid schizophrenia. All ‘mental health’ should not be lumped together in one category.
In 2009, Nick Waterlow, a London friend of mine who had gone to Sydney as an art expert, was stabbed to death – along with his daughter Chloe – by his paranoid schizophrenic son. Nick, a gentle, wry man, had a Catholic wife, who sadly died of breast cancer. Their son Anthony developed paranoid schizophrenia and, despite many pleas to the health authorities from the family, the young man was never detained in a psychiatric unit.
Nick’s family came to believe that the health authorities had such a liberal approach to mental illness that they allowed Anthony free rein: his condition drove him to kill.
Similarly, in Birmingham earlier this month, a court heard how a schoolgirl, aged 16, Christina Edkins, had been fatally stabbed on a bus by a paranoid schizophrenic, Phillip Simelane: he had a history of mental illness and violence, but was freed from a psychiatric unit without any supervision.
People afflicted with a severe mental illness deserve compassion, surely: and many with a schizophrenic condition can live good lives, if medication and proper supervisory checks are put in place. But an illness such as paranoid schizophrenia will not be restrained simply by being told to ‘mind yourself’.
Yet one of the most effective ways of preventing schizophrenia is virtually ignored: that is, to discourage the use of marijuana, which has been established, beyond doubt, to be a trigger for developing schizophrenia. Read Patrick and Henry Cockburn’s book Henry’s Demons: Living with Schizophrenia: A Father and Son’s Story. Cork-born Patrick Cockburn explains how his son Henry “played Russian roulette with cannabis” – and thus developed schizophrenia.
In the otherwise worthy campaign for mental health, I saw no reference to the dangers of liberalising or legalising marijuana being the most beneficial way to halt this terrible form of mental illness.
Marilyn’s sad parable
Speaking on BBC Radio 2 recently, Fr Brian D’Arcy surprised his listeners by quoting Marilyn Monroe on the Pause for Thought religious spot. “Stay in control of your life,” he told his audience. “Remember no one can take away your pain so don’t let anyone take away your joy. I think Marilyn Monroe got it absolutely right when she said ‘It’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than to be absolutely boring’.”
Marilyn Monroe was a beguiling screen actress – unforgettable in Some Like it Hot – but her life story makes for a rather sad parable. She was an unhappy and vulnerable person whose loveless childhood haunted her relationships.
It was reported that she had 12 abortions – often prompted by the studio bosses – and then broke her heart because her subsequent pregnancies miscarried. She was apparently used by the Kennedys and she was addicted to pharmaceutical drugs, which she eventually employed to kill herself.
Tragically for Marilyn, she was the last person to ‘stay in control’ of her life.
She was herself controlled by the Hollywood moguls, by agents, producers, shrinks, lawyers, and, it has recently emerged, cosmetic surgeons who reconstructed her facial contours with a chin implant. Marilyn was a disempowered, victimised and manipulated woman, alas.
Devotion of yesteryear
Brendan O'Carrollís Mrs Brownís Boys is as popular in Britain as it is in Ireland (and much more popular than Love/Hate, which isnít well known at all in Britain). I guess itís harmless entertainment, slightly in the juvenile tradition, and apparently Brendan OíCarroll is a man of charitable activities.
What intrigues me, though, is the old-fashionedness of its Irishness and Catholicism. The fictional Mrs Brown is a very old-style 'Mammy' – and only older Irish people, these days, call their mothers 'Mammy'.
And on Mrs Brown's wall hangs a somewhat garish representation of the Sacred Heart – so over-the-top in its design and presentation it is clearly 'ironic'.
In the frequently repeated Father Ted every image and adornment is both over-the-top and pre-Vatican II. Itís wall-to-wall kitsch holy pictures, every priest in a cassock and every bishop in the full canonicals.
Is there an 'ironic' nostaglic yearning for the devotional simplicity of yesteryear?
PS: I am debating (against) euthanasia on RT… 1's The God Slot on Friday October 18 at 10pm, supported by media student David Hollywood. Arguing in favour of the 'right to die' are Tom Curran of Exit International and media student Claire Whelan.