Recently the media has presented disturbing and heart-rending images of the drought and famine in Africa. The public has responded with great generosity and rightly so. While I do not wish to detract in any way from this most worthy cause, I do feel a sense of shock and shame that we, as a society, continue to turn our backs on another third world community closer to home - the third and forgotten world of the long-stay psychiatric patient.
Like most people I didn't know what mental illness was until it came into my home. I thought it was just a case of "pulling yourself together." But six years ago my son had a nervous breakdown and since then, he has been in and out of psychiatric hospital and was diagnosed a schizophrenic. These six years have been hell on earth for him, and for us, his family.
I don't know much about psychiatry or nursing or how the welfare is organised, but I do know that not enough is being done for my son and the thousands like him in Northern Ireland. Nor is enough being done for their relatives, for mental illness does not strike the individual alone - it turns families upside down. And I have spoken to hundreds of patients and relatives who feel the same.
For years now I have thought and worried and moaned about the whole thing. Now, with the help of God, I have decided to stop moaning and try to do something about it. What exactly this will be I don't know. I need the help and support of all relatives, friends and ex-patients who feel that psychiatric patients are a neglected group in our society. If you would like to add your voice to mine, please contact me at the address below.
4 Linkview Park