Friday 7 October 2011


Interesting report here on the Hafal young people's web-site about a discussion between our Young People's Information Hub lead John Gilheany and the Health Minister. I won't repeat the whole thing (go look!) but I admire her straightforward honesty about how young people can behave. And I mean as we behaved as young people too - this is not one of those fogyish "These young people today!" remarks. She said "If we can educate our young people who tend to be a bit crueller when they're faced with someone a little bit different, that will really help".

Of course young people can be as compassionate as anybody else but I think the Minister is alluding to that phenomenon of children following the herd. Even the nice kids get caught up in the cruelty. Unless you were very brave I suspect that like me you will remember joining in a group to tease a victim towards whom you would have been sympathetic one-to-one.

Adults too can be hostile to difference even when it is completely harmless. I'm reminded of Edward Lear's curious limerick...

There was an Old Man of Whitehaven,
Who danced a quadrille with a raven;
But they said, 'It's absurd
To encourage this bird!'
So they smashed that Old Man of Whitehaven.

The last line is startling as it seems such an over-reaction. But Lear was a thoughtful man and this poem illustrates the deep-seated resentment people have towards eccentric behaviour - it's almost as though they feel they are being made a fool of and this is subtly, I think, at the root of some of the hostility towards people with a mental illness: at some subconscious level people think that the person behaving oddly because of their mental illness is actually mocking them.