Words by Harry Throssell
As a lad in the north of England I reached Grandma’s house by walking along the canal, across the park, and over a busy main road.
At this corner there was often a chap of indeterminate age standing silently, almost motionless, alone, dishevelled. He showed no sign of recognising me although our paths had crossed most weeks for years. Nor did he speak to anyone else. He always wore an old raincoat and a flat cap, whatever the weather.
These were the days before welfare institutions became more popular, or perhaps just bigger. People referred to this young man as ‘simple’ – in kindly tones – so we presumed he was eventually taken into a hospital or ‘home’ of some kind.
A lot has changed since I last saw him, and for the better. As mental illness becomes a less stigmatised topic, and as our knowledge grows, we are better equipped than ever to deal with illnesses that approximately one in every five Australians will experience every year. As we learn more about mental illness, the better we can help people and dispel at the myths that many still believe.
The boy’s image has remained with me for half a century. Perhaps my observation of him and thoughts about his life played some part in my decision many years later to train for social work.
If you are struggling with, or know someone experiencing difficulties with their mental health, know there are options available to you.
View the Mental Health Commission site here.
State crisis Numbers
NSW – 1800 011 511 – Mental Health Line
VIC – 1300 651 251 – Suicide Help Line
QLD – 13 43 25 84 – 13 HEALTH
TAS – 1800 332 388 – Mental Health Services Helpline
SA – 13 14 65 – Mental Health Assessment and Crisis Intervention Service
WA – 1800 676 822 – Mental Health Emergency Response Line
NT – (08) 8999 4988 – Top End Mental Health Service
ACT – 1800 629 354 – Mental Health Triage Service