I met Graeme from the super sensational soaraway Sun at the Ferry Port in Largs.
Given the long term reportage I felt came from the paper and other red tops about people with a mental health malady I felt a little like I was shaking hands with the devil.
He was friendly, warm, interesting and…not surprisingly…interested in my story.
This meeting had come about through contacts of a friend of a friend.
We’d vaguely agreed that he’d observe me for a full day of the ramble to get a flavour if what it was about.
We met the photographer a little further down the line.
Again, he was friendly and personable.
Hmmm…maybe I was being led into trap?
I’d had friends I’d spoken to who had expressed concerns that the Sun was looking for a story and that story might not be in the interest of Walk a Mile.
Others recognised this as a great opportunity to get a positive story of folk with mental health problems out into a public domain.
A number of years ago, in my other life as a social worker, part of my job involved working with people with mental health issues.
A small, yet significant, part of this group were people with a Borderline Personality Disorder.
When a referral came in for such a person there was often a collective sigh, wry smiles as it was acknowledged that this person was likely to be DIFFICULT.
When I was diagnosed with BPD I found a social group of fellow sufferers who met regularly in Edinburgh.
My psychiatrist warned me against meeting up with them – saying these were very ill people…
Me, being me, went along to the groups and found some of the best help and advice that I’d received.
Professionals don’t always recognise the reasons behind the seemingly challenging behaviour.
A sufferer can lie to avoid potentially triggering situations or conversations – they may say ‘I’m fine’ and go home an self harm.
Very often the primary motivation is to stay away from potentially emotionally volatile or difficult situations.
This can stem from a childhood of abuse, of neglect or some other trauma.
It can stem from faulty brain wiring.
It has been described, more accurately I feel, as a normal response to abnormal circumstances.
As I’ve rambled through Scotland I’ve often seen a sign that reads ‘MO7S’. What on earth can it mean?
Before meeting Graeme I read through a number of reports from The Scottish Sun that mentioned folk with mental health problems.
It might be due to my current Pollyanna outlook on the world – but it would appear there is a sea change a-happening.
The stories of mad person ate my dog/ wife/ hamster are more rare.
Compassionate stories about sports people with mental maladies are beginning to seep through…
Sun reporters have been sent on mental health awareness courses.
Their features writer, Graeme Donohoe, walked 9 miles in my shoes and wrote an understanding and positive account of his day…
We talked about the naked rambler – the pros and cons…
We talked about whether or not I should put my phone number on the article…
“You don’t want to do that, you’ll get loads of calls from nutters…”
the photographer said.
“That’s EXACTLY what I want,” I came back.
He meant malicious callers…
This felt like the meeting of 2 worlds…
My story was story enough for Graeme.
My lack of knowledge about him as a reporter – as a person – led to prejudice on my part.
Shaking hands with the devil?
I think not.
I’ll post a link to the piece when it appears online – you can make your own decision.
If you can’t wait message me with your email address and I’ll send you the PDF.
As for the professionals and other individuals who make judgements about folk with mental health problems…?
The information is there…and the situation is improving.
It’s written on roads all around Scotland.
If seen from the right perspective it reads…
It all comes clear if you look at it from the right angle…
Walk a mile