Stigma: Want to fight it? Then Write it! (World Mental Health Day)

This is the first year I can recall that I’ve  been in a position to give personal time to World Mental Health Day. ‘Well, that’s an appalling confession for someone who has worked in mental health services in the NHS for twenty years,’ I hear you shouting.

Really? Working in the NHS frontline mental health services can mean non-stop exhausting days where a lunch break is seen as a bonus. Don’t get me wrong. Teams of people from services and service user groups will  be out there in the public eye raising awareness and doing a fabulous job on World Mental Health Day.

Here comes the “but” …

But, having helped dozens of people and their families over the years, and done battle to advocate for the rights of patients under my care as a Registered Mental Health Nurse, I can honestly say that I have reached more people and managed to galvanise debate and conversation about mental illness, treatment and care by writing a book (a fictional story at that), than I ever did in my day job.

We love to read about mental illness. It’s fascinating. A Justifiable Madness is a snap-shot. A cleaned up, polished version of life on an acute psychiatric ward. A story. Total accuracy would have been chaotic and sensationalist. However, it makes you think about the main issues long after you’ve finished reading it. Good.

We expect to read books with flawed characters, depressed detectives, ( I’m thinking Shoestring, Wallander) and we can’t have psychological thrillers without psychopaths, now can we? This is great, when we write about mental health problems we are talking about it. Fact or fiction, it doesn’t matter. Remember though, mental illness is not the same as being eccentric, potty, a bit bonkers or daft as a brush. After all, when not desperate to fit in, we all aspire to be different. That’s life.

We can’t all be mad though, can we? Can we?

Notice how much more relaxed we are when talking about mental health as opposed to mental illness. When you have a mental illness then it’s just that; an illness, a problem, a difficulty. If it causes harm and distress then it’s a problem. People need understanding to identify the problem and to get the right help.

If you really want to know what it’s like to have a severe mental illness there are several first hand accounts. My friend Clive Travis has written Looking For Prince Charles’s Dog, his own very detailed personal story. Not an easy read , granted, but it is honest. He doesn’t shy away from talking about mental illness, treatment and care (yes, he’s still angry  …) or his recovery. He speaks to groups all over the UK and abroad, working tirelessly to inform and educate others. The proceeds of his book, published by Wymer, go to charity. Have a look, it’s on Amazon.

I wrote A Justifiable Madness …not for him, but because of him.

Mental Health. If you have it, then keep it. Look after it like you do your physical health. Go walking, eat well, sleep well, socialise, keep active and laugh.

If your mental health is not as good as it should be, ask for help just like you would if you had a physical health problem.

Must go. Writing to do. Messages to get across without preaching.

 

 

 

Mental Health and Fiction.

When I sat down to write #A Justifiable Madness  it was not with the intention of sending a political message or jumping on a sensationalist band waggon of a hot topic. I wrote about what I know. Having been a Registered Mental Health Nurse for twenty years it was impossible not to.

I wanted to focus on power and control. Why? Well, because ‘patient choice’ is a phrase that has been rammed down our throats for years, but the reality for many is that the choice is in the hands of others. Sometimes for good reason. In writing a book where suspense and psychological thrills are key components, there was also a drive to ask the question ‘have there been improvements in treatment and in patient care for those with serious mental health conditions?’

What I didn’t want to do was to use the story as a way of belittling patients, ex-patients, or service users. I wanted to tell a story that included their perspective without doing a disservice to them or to mental health professionals.

A fiction book is a form of entertainment, of escapism and expression, but it can also help to raise awareness, inform and ask difficult questions.

Judging by the reviews and contacts from readers so far, I did alright …

‘What is really creepy about this book is that whilst it is something that should never happen in modern society, it is equally something that could happen.’ from  Life of Cri.me

‘I enjoyed the clever plot and it definitely made me think about the whole subject of psychiatry from diagnosis through to the treatment. A Justifiable Madness is part thriller, drama and suspense all rolled into one making a fantastic combination.’ From a review by Rea Reads

There are more reviews on Amazon A Justifiable Madness

Books

Cracking the Mysteries of Social Media

It is exactly a week ago that A Justifiable Madness was officially published. I now realise how ill equipped I was for dealing with the social media requirements of an author. Debut novel. Lots of support from my Publishers Bloodhound Books. Heaps of tweets and posts, retweets and likes later and yet I remained mystified.

Undeterred, I set about learning. YouTube to the rescue. How on earth do I get a post from my website to Facebook and Twitter? Please don’t laugh. I’m a fifty something who has been self-taught on computers and only stepped into Facebook and Twitter because I had to.

I started my quest at 0900hrs and this post is being born at 1415hrs. It may not make it, but I’m hopeful. Verdict: Must do better.

What a ride.

I am now on day three of the book launch Blog Blitz. I never even knew what one was until I joined Bloodhound Books. I say  ‘joined’ but what I actually mean is – was invited to be a part of.

Since Thursday at the crack of dawn, I have spent hours in front of the computer wrestling with Facebook and Twitter, desperate not to offend anyone and making sure I have said ‘thank you’ to all the amazing reviewers and bloggers out there in social media book land.

The response has been astounding and although I’m smiling like an idiot I also feel humbled by the unexpected level of praise received.

When I wrote the story of A Justifiable Madness, I never imagined the amount of work that Bloodhound Books would put into marketing their authors and the novels we write. My biggest thanks go to them and to my fellow authors who encourage each other. Great team.

Review from Books from Dusk till Dawn

HERE ARE MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW

There is even criteria to meet before you are admitted into a psychiatric hospital and for some people they have to wait months and months before they can get help. So when Mark Randall gave an outstanding performance of Jesus, while completely naked and on the busy early morning train station platform, he was soon arrested. In fact he was a dead ringer for Robert Powell when he played the part, if anyone could mange to lift theirs eyes and look him in the face. Yep The criteria had been meet, a quick fast track ticket into the nearest local establishment to help the mentally disturbed. The thing is can the part of a sane man be played as easily in order to get out?

My first thought was there some sort of initiation going on, I mean it was September and the universities would be starting back up soon, or was it a dare or prank? Only time would tell. Mark was very sane and knew exactly what he was doing and now he played mute so perhaps I thought a bet to see which ‘idiot’, using the term loosely here, could survive the longest before been detected? Due to his now mute behaviour the staff gave him a name, he was known as Jesus Trainman.

I was in my element here it was like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I didn’t know which were in need of locking up the most the patients or the staff! The inmates were much wiser than the doctors where Jesus Trainman was concerned just like the old saying goes, “It takes one to know one.” This story really gave me food for thought as it is very dark and disturbing, especially with the more vulnerable members of society that don’t have a voice.

This is the debut novel of Alison Morgan and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a psychological thriller mixed in with some real events and gives a refreshing read from an unusual place, as it is mainly acted out behind closed, locked and bolted doors. There is an insight into the running of the place and the voice of the staff and patients. What drowns them all though is Dr. Giles Sharman.

There is some wicked humour in this book, with descriptions of Mark’s friends while the over all story really played with my mind and gave me a lot to think about. Very different and extremely well told.

 

Review from Susan Hampson

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Please see the link above for a really lovely review I received today.

My nerves are still jangling , but my confidence has improved.

Publication Day

From  the review by Bookstormer – Alexina Golding 21  September 2017 

My Thoughts

A B Morgan has written one of the best opening scenes to a book I have ever read. It drew me in and kept my curious mind needing to read on.

Mark was such a conundrum to work out, but a genuinely likeable character.

An extremely interesting insight in to the possibilities of power being in the wrong hands.

Having worked a short stint in one of my previous careers in a Hospital I found the descriptive nature of writing transporting me back there.

I found Emma and Monica’s working relationship and friendship brought so much personality and credibility to the story.

With such a powerful storyline and being filled with dread for Mark, A.B.Morgan peppered it with humour making this a fantastic read, especially if like me you love “people watching” and trying to work out the human mind.

An extremely well crafted debut novel, with a storyline that I found original and powerful. With atinge of what if and sadness, I thoroughly enjoyed this read for various reasons and impressed with the style of A B Morgan’s debut novel

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One day to go

The official launch is tomorrow, 21st September 2017, The paperback was released on 10th September, but Amazon jumped the gun on the ebook version and for a week or so the kindle  book  was also available.

I’ve had three good Amazon reviews so far and can breathe a little. The response was really positive.

A local book launch has been arranged for 11th October in the village pub, The Cock, in Pavenham, with a fellow author John Lewes, and I hope that will be an enjoyable social event for friends and villagers alike.

Book available on Amazon

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1912175592/ref=tsm_1_fb_lk

A Justifiable Madness is now being advertised on Amazon, earlier than I thought!

Friends, family and neighbours are boosting sales with their supportive orders and now I wait with trepidation for the first review …

Launch at Waterstones

https://www.facebook.com/londonwriterseclective/

A big thank you to the London Writers Eclective ( see link above) who have invited me to one of their monthly events to launch A Justifiable Madness. 

So, on 10th November I will be off to the bright lights of Waterstones in Tottenham Court Rd, London, to read from my book and to meet lots of other writers. How exciting!

I have to thank my brother Simon -who seems to know an awful lot of people- for introducing me to his friend Lindsay who helps to organise these events.

 

I haven’t lost the local touch and will be organising something for friends and neighbours in Pavenham and in Burnham on Crouch…as promised.