There comes a time in a man’s life when he should embark on a pilgrimage – so says Satish Kumar. In actual fact he suggests that when a man reaches middle age he should be off on his second jolly.
He is a Jain monk – I, on the other hand, am an atheistic, bald ex senior social worker carrying more weight than he would like, with a mental health problem.
On April 6th this year I will begin a tour of the UK where I will circumnavigate this fair island on foot, relying solely on the kindness of other people for food, water, shelter and compassion.
The reason for the date is simple – it’s the 34th anniversary of my mum’s death. She died of cervical cancer when I was 12. My dad, devastated by this, turned to alcohol, often leaving my brother, 1 year older than me, and I to fend for ourselves.
This is not the story of my slide into the world of mental health problems – I’ll blog that up in bitesized chunks for easy digestion. Hopefully it illustrates that a combination of crazy events and a touch of faulty brain wiring can lead to the normaility of mental health difficulties.
I will be looking for sponsorship for my three chosen charities – I will post the links up for these later and how folk can donate.
This particular journey is not so much about me – it’s about the people I visit on my way, their beauty and kindness and the the beauty of this lovely island that we share. I want to hear and share the stories of anyone who feels they have felt the squeeze of prejudice or where they felt their words were unheard.
My motivation comes through the feelings of isolation and prejudice I have experienced because of my condition, and my knowledge of the discrimination felt by so many users of social work services – Older people, people with a physical disability, people with mental health problems, people with a learning disability, people from minority ethnic groups, people who choose a different god and people who choose to live their lives in different ways.
But not just them. I want to hear the voice of the middle classes – the tax payers – the majority who feel they are unheard.
This is a reaction against the mainstream press who portray a divided and scared Britain – a dangerous Britain full of individuals who look after themselves – a Britain where there is no society, let alone a big one.
Go to any of the mainstream newspaper websites – ok, The Mirror is the exception – type in any of the following words or phrases into that papers’ search engine and look at the stories they generate –
“Mentally ill” ; “Benefits”; “Travellers” or “Travelling People”; “Hindus”; or “Immigrants”
There are many more I’m sure, but you’ll get the picture.
Help me to prove them wrong – show that although we are divided we are not yet conquered
Walk a mile in my shoes.