Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Please Don't Look The Other Way

Greetings friends. The following is an article that I submitted to the Talkbank Times. I thought I would share it with you. Maybe some of you can relate to my experiences. We need to eliminate the stigma attached to mental health issues. You, the media and myself can do our bit to challenge the stereotyping that revolves around mental health concerns. I thank you.

I live in a small town. Living in a small town, when your life is falling apart, word soon gets around. Due to series of overwhelming negative circumstances, I broke down. The onslaught of my mental illness, caused me to end up in a psychiatric unit, very close to this small town.
A visitor to the hospital noticed me and couldn't wait to spread the word. When I returned home, I was subjected to ridicule. "Hey nutter, out of the nut house" they would say, as they laughed. I ignored them, it caused me anxiety but I tried to move on to a better life.
The years rolled by. Yet even now, when I see someone who knows about my past, they become very uncomfortable. I will be in a shop, I smile at them, they blank me. It is very sad, do I scare them? How can I convince them that I am a harmless man? I have committed no crime. Maybe just maybe, they worry that the 'mental guy' might be having a bad day. Do they fear for their safety? Or do they fear that what they perceive about me, might happen to them?
People in this small town, who do not know about my past, are kind to me. I have a great laugh with them. Oh they might think of me being somewhat unconventional in my attitude towards life, yet I detect no fear. They relate to a guy who has the ability to make people happy. That is all I want to do, bring to people's lives a bit of joy. If only those who would pass judgement could understand that, yes I am ill, but I challenge my negative world.
Those that feel awkward around me are aware of the stereotypes that surround mental health issues. They are aware of the negative sensationalism that the media has often portrayed. So wouldn't it be nice if they could read a story about someone who has mental health issues, yet remained undaunted in seeking positivity? Wouldn't it be nice that they read a story about a lonely, desperate man who was determined to get better? What if they read it and realised the story was about that 'nutter' who causes them such anxiety? What if they started to understand? Now that would be sensational.
Please don't look the other way, I extend my hand of friendship. There is nothing to fear.
Gary Pennick.


  1. Hey Gary - good to read that again - thanks.

    I'm also convinced that I saw a guy who looks just like you this evening - even down to the Vancouver baseball cap! ;-)


  2. Hey Leigh,
    Thanks for the comment. So you think you saw some guy who looks like me wearing a Vancouver baseball cap? Yikes I pity the poor guy:-)
    Nice seeing you Leigh. Sorry I was only briefly in your neighbourhood. Hope to see you soon.
    Gary. (Happy birthday to me)

  3. Hi Gary,
    I am reminded of recently being in a large local store. I was aware of someone close by shouting quite loudly, I came across a man and woman, she was going about what people do when shopping, he was shouting, waving his arms about ...... like a child.
    I guess it was something that we are all familiar with, a carer, and a person with learning disabilities. All around the shoppers staring, comments, "shouldn't be out", "you would think that T***o would do something about it". Yet the carer shopped, put things in the trolley, asked "is this what you like?", "do you want?", and the person with her replied. Frightening to some but it was just a conversation.

    I wonder what made people react in such a negative way, fear of catching it, fear of the person becoming violent towards them, I don't know. I remembered back to my wife being pregnant with our children, people would ask "what do you want, a boy or a girl?", and we would reply, "don't care so long as it's normal".
    Perhaps that is it, a case of there but for the grace of god, may be they had uttered that phrase. The inverse being, "God, let someone else have the" whatever.
    I guess it applies to all afflictions whether man or god made. We secretly cross ourselves and give thanks that it fell on someone else, kinda like wishing it on an other.
    Use the spells of ridicule, hate, jokes on you, to ward of the evil.
    I think that sometimes even the hardest ba---rd, feels ashamed to look it in the eye.

    Great work Gary, by the way just realised that I forgot your birthday.
    A Belated

    Your friend


  4. Hello Philip,
    Thank you so much for your wonderful, thought-provoking response.
    The way you articulated your comment on this blog and my preceding blog, demonstrates to me what a good writer you are. I hope that you will do another blog soon Philip. You have much to offer the world.
    When I came on tonight and read your comments, it made me feel so much better. As you know I am struggling with the fact I have been trying so hard to social network and have felt very ignored and alone lately. So thank you, my friend, I'm not as lonely now.
    Best wishes Gary.

  5. Thanks for your comment on my comment, I think that you see something in my writing that I don't. Thought "perhaps I need to take more notice of what others say", I'll think on it.


  6. I think the stigma is harder than the illness itself. For all those people who stare, they are to scared to look within themselves. Perhaps they identify with more than they'd like too. Thanks for joining my facebook cause.

  7. Greetings brony,
    Thank you very much for taking the time to comment on my blog. It is much appreciated.
    It is our ongoing challenge and goal to remove the unfair stigma, the label, that is attached to mental health issues. Your words are wise.
    It is worth noting that the cause in question on 'Facebook' is called: 'Eliminate the Stigma of Mental Illness'. Thanks brony, you have my full support.
    Warm wishes klahanie aka Gary.

  8. Klahanie,
    It's October now and we're well past your birthday. Days when a bit of cool air stirs, find that light-weight jacket, maybe a blanket and go outside to read in the sun! I can smell the leaves beginning to turn. And YOUR blog makes me feel good enough to take on the day. You are an exceptional writer. Please write on. dcrelief

  9. Hi dcrelief. I don't normally backtrack though my blog archives but through the wonders of technology, I was aware you had left your very nice comment.
    If you visit this blog again, I just wanted you know that your comments are greatly appreciated.
    I hope that folks who kindly read my blog will visit yours and see how wonderful it is.
    Right then, must go out and check the beauty of the changing colour leaves in my English country garden.


I do try to comment back to each commenter individually. However, I might have to shorten my replies or give a group thank you. That way, I can spend more time commenting on your blogs. Thank you and peace, my friend.