By way of introduction
My name is Lol Benson, I am scouse and a middle aged white man who works at Manchester Uni as a senior lecturer in healthcare management. I first developed depression in 2010, triggered by the bereavement of my mum Kathy Benson and then over the following three years I began to behave more and more oddly. I was taken by my wife one evening down to my local mental health crisis service in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. This was the one of the most disturbing evenings of my life which I will never forget. I was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder by the on duty consultant psychiatrist who was doubly trained in psychotherapy. The choice he presented to me was he could either section me and admit me to an in patient unit or take a prescription, go to Boots and then in the morning be visited by a CPN from the crisis team. I thought my professional and personal life had just ended. In the 1980s I used to work for the NHS as a planner contributing to the closure of the big ‘loony bin’ Storthes Hall Hospital in the countryside five miles from Huddersfield. Now I was officially given a label of having bipolar disorder and in the 1980s I might have been sectioned and lost in Storthes Hall which at its height had a population of 3,000.
Spin this forward to 2020 and I still every morning I wake up and think I am mentally ill and it can’t be reversed. I also know that people with long term mental health conditions live on average 10 to 15 years less than people not afflicted. I know that if you take your meds, have a health lifestyle etc that the odds are that you can live just as long as the national average for a man in the U.K. of between 79 to 80 years and perhaps longer.
So as I now always take my meds I am pretty stable but living through a pandemic is just as unsettling to me as the pandemic of AIDS in the UK of 1980s. Though there was obviously no national lockdown like now. The lockdown and the enormity of it does trigger some mania in me though adjusting my meds seems to work. I have it very lucky though as I said as I am a middle calls white man with a hugely supportive wife. I joined via Zoom a wonderfully powerful talk from Gary Younge the Guardian journalist. The talk had been arranged by my union the UCU. He had just been appointed professor of sociology at Manchester Uni. One of a handful of BAME senior professors. His talk was about his mum who had been a nurse who travelled to the U.K. in 1962 from Jamaica. This was to help the NHS as their was a shortage of nurses then as there is now. She was part of the Windrush generation who were treated appallingly the Tories. He talked a lot about how BAME key workers from working class backgrounds are falling ill and dying in disproportion to the rest of the population. It was a powerful and humbling hour and I thought of the likely rise in the mental illness for people from BAME backgrounds. I don’t know if there are any figures on this yet but I will keep an eye on this over the next few weeks and I look forward to to making another contribution to.
If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, please consider donating to our Hardship Fund for people with a mental health condition who are in financial need during COVID19. Mad Covid is an entirely unfunded group.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. We ask that you seek our permission before you use any of our material – this includes researchers who want to harvest our data for analysis!