As regular readers of my novels and my blogs will know, I have a deep interest in mental health, and especially in the attitudes and stigmas which surround it.
Earlier this month was World Mental Health Day and I was delighted to volunteer to help out with my local county council's display at the city library where I live. We had four people to man the stand; three professionals and me, prominent signage and a table brimming with questionnaires and leaflets. And over the course of the day, we had pretty much no interest at all from the general public!
By contrast, around the same time, the UK's two biggest supermarkets; Tesco and Asda, were forced to remove Halloween costumes from their stores depicting 'mental patients'. One of the biggest newspapers, The Sun had a drooling front page headline (incorrectly) claiming that 1,200 persons in the UK had been killed by 'mental patients.'
In this 21st Century, it seems that many of us have precisely the same fears, stigmas and prejudices as our Victorian forbears did and that these are fed, naively or cynically, by our media and peers. Yet ironically, some 1-in-4 of us will experience mental health issues which will require medical intervention, no matter how 'mentally strong' we might consider ourselves to be. I have required such intervention personally and may well require it again in the future, as may you!
I have produced two novels to date, published by Thames River Press and featuring the Victorian husband and wife investigative partnership Atticus & Lucie Fox. Atticus I have shown to be highly logical and methodical and Lucie, insightful, aware and sensitive, (as might well befit a retired nurse). In my current work-in-progress, I am now describing Atticus' time as a medium-term 'inmate' of the West Riding of Yorkshire Pauper Lunatic Asylum in the 1870s and how he was nursed back to health by his nurse Lucie.
Many of you might know Atticus Fox by now:
A murderous, swivel-eyed, drooling cleaver-wielding monster? Of course not. No more than you or I.