I was privileged to attend a talk between Hope Daniels (Author of Hackney Child) and Dr Tanya Byron (The Skeleton Cupboard), as part of the Highbury and Islington Literary Festival on Monday 15th September 2014.
Hope’s story is harrowing; at the tender age of 9 she walked into a police station with her two younger brothers and asked to be taken into care. During the talk, it was clear that writing her story was part of her recovery.
The book is written in fragments of memory and also made up of her care notes that she had access to when she was 18. A harrowing tale of extreme poverty, alcoholism and the care system, this woman wanted no pity but to get her story out there.
Born to alcoholic parents who were also in care, Hope has been in recovery now for 5 years and determined not to let the cycle continue.
Dr Byron has been a clinical psychologist for 25 years and her book is also a fascinating read, giving an insight into what it is like to treat a number of patients and adolescents with mental health problems. She could not hide her disgust with how mental illness is being dealt with in this country, describing it as the poor cousin of illness.
From personal experience I know how underfunded and understaffed the services are. Each time the Crisis Team came to my flat, they were apologising that they could not come sooner – they are constantly inundated with others in crisis.
Some interesting discussions are to be had following the talk:
- Why, in such a developed country, do we have a third world health system?
- Why are beds closing when more help is needed?
- Why are mental health services so fractured?
- Why is there no aftercare when you leave the care system at 16,17,18 years old?
Something needs to be done, but I’m not feeling very hopeful…