As the year draws to a close I want to write a short tribute to Julian who killed himself a while ago now, leaping from the North Bridge. He is not the first of my mentally ill friends to commit suicide in the past four years – he is the fourth. I am friends with many mentally ill people because a seminal experience in my life was being in a mental ward, as a patient, after a harrowing experience. I was there for a long time, and it’s something of a blur now but I got to know many extraordinary people. That was where I found out why I have never been able to cope as easily with some fairly innocuous things as other people do – a really sad thing sent me over the edge and I was diagnosed (finally) in my late thirties with clinical depression and it was a huge relief.
The result of all that, some 15/20 years ago now, is that I am probably mentally healthier than most people I know, being aware of triggers and able to spot the beginnings of trouble and take action long before problems arise. I have not needed to return to the ward once. They did an astonishingly good job of putting me back together. Julian was not a depressive, his disorder was more intractable. He was a paranoid schizophrenic. All the suicides took their fear and turmoil out on themselves, not on society, and certainly not on small children. They were good people and kindly, and had a lot to deal with – more than “normal” people can guess.
My friend Julian was a talented artist, and had got as far as exhibiting at the School of Art here in Edinburgh. I have a picture he made for me and my baby (at the time) hanging on my wall. I am one of the few people to posess one of his original works though many from his exhibition were sold as prints. He used to babysit for us as any friend would. We trusted him that much, alien invasion and all. He’s gone now, and I miss him.
While the time in hospital was excellent for me, and the time directly afterwards too in the days when aftercare services actually existed, the time recently for mentally ill people has been apalling. “Care in the Community” is more aptly called “Neglect in the Community.” Some people that just can’t do it are simply left to sink or swim as best they can. And they sink.
So what? Well society as I wrote is slowly degrading around a nexus of lending and debt, and one of the degradations is the losing of good people whether they are well or ill for the sake of some specious cost-cutting. In this case also there is also the loss of a superb (if not great) artist. Loss to me personally is just that someone I liked has moved on, is gone. leaving a gap, a space, a … where once there was a person. I do not wish to live alone surrounded only by moneygrubbers and dullness. I want to be with people who know there is more, far more to life than money.
Julian was one such.