A Fascination with the Darker Side of Mental Illness Treatment.

This is a well-known story that has been doing the Facebook rounds for some time now, but nevertheless it remains astounding.

What happened when there was a further ‘undercover’ experiment in the 1970’s led by Psychologist Dr  David Rosenhan?


Here are some intriguing true stories:

Bedlam: The Real Horror Story Asylum

Do we explore these stories for the same reason we enjoy reading crime thriller fiction or watching scary films? If that’s your sort of book then try: A Justifiable Madness

Imagine what might happen if Nellie Bly or David Rosenhan repeated their experiment today? Those of us who have worked within Mental Health Services have an unusual perspective and personal insight into what it’s like to need support and treatment for mental illness and sometimes fiction is a powerful tool in raising awareness.

Whose turn is it to shake up mental health services?





and there are many more ….


Clumsy or Left-handed?

Left-Handers day was back in August, but as I’m having an uncoordinated day today, I began to wonder if it was due to being a leftie.

According to the world of research, #left-handers are more creative generally and stronger on the use of words than our right-handed counterparts. Good news for us left-handed writers!

Apparently we make up about 10% of the total population and our brains are wired somewhat differently to the righties. This may account for why we are at higher risk for ADHD, psychosis and dyslexia, and why we’re more affected by fear (British Psychological Society), get angrier and worry more. We are also three times more likely to become alcoholics. (I’m undertaking some research involving cider to test this theory).

But surely it can’t all be bad?

It isn’t: we are better at multitasking, thinking in 3D, surviving in hostile environments, make excellent sportsmen and women, especially tennis, fencing, boxing. We are well represented in the sport of swimming. Could this be because lefties adjust to seeing underwater quicker than righties?

And here’s one for the #writers …

  • On a QWERTY keyboard there are 1447 English words typed solely with the left hand, whilst only 187 are typed with the right hand.

Other boffins have identified that we are ‘less likely’to develop arthritis and ulcers.

‘From scissors and smudged ink, spiral-bound notebooks to impossible-to-use tin openers, the lefties’ struggle is real,’ so there has to be some compensation.

Here’s one last fact for you: Sinistrophobia is the fear of left-handers.

Don’t be afraid, we’re lovely really.

We’re not clumsy, we merely appear to be so in a right handed world.

This means it’s my age then …

Source: Left-Handers Day: 13 facts about the wonderful left

Writing. In the beginning came the words…then the performance.

As a new author I’ve tried to soak up the wise words of my fellow published writers. They speak the truth. Writing the book is the easy part.


I read with interest what Louise Jensen had to say recently, about her battle with nerves when asked to speak in public and how she overcame the hurdles. For authors it has become a necessity to be able to stand in front of an audience, read to and answer questions from eager listeners. Book promotion is as much about the author as it is about the product, it seems.

Through good fortune and friendships, I was asked to take part in a monthly performance event run by the #London Writers’ Eclective at a branch of #Waterstones in Tottenham Court Rd. I was thrilled and accepted straight away, having no idea what it would entail other than the request for ‘A short reading from your book, about ten minutes max.’

A performance event: what was that? 

Flash poets, would-be novelists, potential stand-up comedians, short story writers, script writers, creative writers – they were all there,on Friday evening, in the audience and the taking their turn to perform. There was some great talent in the room. Phew, I thought. It was a good job I’d paid attention and taken advice. Here are the top tips I followed:

  1. Choose your passage wisely. No spoilers, it has to entertain and make sense as a piece.
  2. If it’s not right, change it.
  3. Edit the passage if necessary to make it more acceptable to a listening audience.
  4. Read it aloud and time it. (see number 2). Practise: Get your granny/mother round for tea and make her listen to your excerpt until she begs you to stop.
  5. Record yourself and listen back. (see number 2)
  6. Print it out in large font, underline or highlight narration in different colours, put big spaces in for pauses, like a script.
  7. You’ll know the piece, you wrote it, so give it life, speak up and take your time when reading.
  8. Give your audience eye contact.
  9. Enjoy the experience.
  10. Thank people for listening.

How did it go?


I loved it! Everyone was so welcoming and positive. After a glowing introduction of #A Justifiable Madness as my debut novel, I was let loose on an unsuspecting audience. To my relief, the like-minded people in the room reacted with smiles, laughs and a round of applause.

I’m one of the lucky ones, I enjoy a bit of the dramatic and with experience of public speaking throughout my nursing career was prepared for the nerves which inevitably arise, no matter how confident you are. It’s adrenalin, and harnessed- when that’s possible- can make you sharper.  Thanks go to the organisers, Lindsey and Connor, who work so hard to give people the opportunity to perform in welcoming surroundings. They have invited me back in February when, thanks to Bloodhound Books, I will have a further two novels to share and read from.

Before then I’ll be more local …The Robin Hood, Clifton Reynes December 6th 6.30pm onwards for a fun literary evening. More reading and performing. Ta-dah!

Simple marketing cock ups for beginners

 It seemed like a good idea at the time …After a local book launch in The Cock public House in Pavenham where friends and neighbours gave their enthusiastic support to the new author in their midst, I looked for the next opportunity to publicise the book that I had spent months writing.

I’ve heard other writers say that publicity and marketing are the hard parts of the journey for any author, especially a debut novel in a crowded field of players. I’m lucky, I’m with the amazing independent publisher Bloodhound Books whose team do most of the online publicity, but I have to do my bit. It’s my work after all.

I set up a small stall next to my husband’s at the Classic Motorcycle show in Stafford, a magnet for motorbike enthusiasts from across Europe and beyond. Not the most obvious place to sell a psychological thriller. That much is plainly  borne out by the fact that I made one sale. Yes, just the one, to a fellow mental health nurse at that. Bikers tinker with bikes and they were not expecting to buy a book from someone not called Guy Martin, Casey Stoner or Michael Dunlop.

Undeterred, I had lots of conversations with passers by, and handed out dozens of book marks. The chance to people-watch was a gift for researching my ‘work in progress’, book number four.

What else could I do to make the best of a bad situation?

Photographs and Facebook. That was the answer. I sent husband Andy on a mission to see his mate, Ken Fox, proprietor of the Wall of Death  who more than willingly had his picture taken with his family reading my debut novel. He’s a keen reader and I’m waiting nervously for his opinion.

That was last weekend.

Yesterday I went to see the manager at the local bookshop, – sorry, that should be ‘bookstore’ apparently – I had emailed several times, with no response. I telephoned, ‘What email address did you send it to? …yes that’s the right one.’

I emailed again with a polite enquiry about local authors and then, with no response forthcoming whatsoever, I decided to introduce myself personally. Not being replied to may result in some people giving up. Not me. I think it’s quite rude.   With respectful determination I entered the store, found the manager behind the counter and managed to persuade him to stock A Justifiable Madness. Only five copies to begin with, but I felt I’d succeeded. The truth of the matter is that the manager had to find a way of ending our conversation. There was no escape as I had cut off his only exit.

I don’t think he was too enthusiastic, but then he didn’t spend hours writing, rewriting, editing, proof reading, nervously waiting and risking public humiliation when the birth of a first book arrived. I feel no shame in cornering the poor man. In fact, I’ll be doing it again. I like a challenge.


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


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


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


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

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