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We seem to have an outbreak of mental health issues throughout the world. Yelling “allah hu akbar “ is not terrorism, apparently it is a mental health issue.

People murdering others, massacres carried out – mental health issues.

There are people whose brains have been addled by drugs and they have mental health issues. Addled by religious zealous or fanatical indoctrination.

When I was a little girl, there was a hospital down the road for people who were mentally unwell. Ravensthorpe. There was also Kingseat, for those who were of a more violent persuasion. One of our neighbours worked at the latter.  We will get in to that a bit later on.

For those of the younger readers here, Mental Institutions were a part of life back when I was younger. They were big, normally old imposing buildings that housed folk who were ,, as Mel Brooks so cleverly said in “ High Anxiety “ places for the terribly, terribly nervous.

The place down the road from me was for those who were nervous but not dangerous. They ran a programme whereby the residents had an active occupational therapy slant. They made soft toys. Back in the days before Chinese imports. These were Kiwi made soft toys for children to enjoy and cuddle. It seems to me in retrospect that it was a lovely way for people who were afraid of the world to stay in touch with life : a soft toy made with love by someone who was somehow unable to directly engage anymore. I suppose these days it would be a care home. Somewhere for the fragile minds damaged by dementia or stress to rest and to stay engaged.

Whatever the reason, these ladies diligently made Teddy Bears and Rabbits and, at the time that I first visited Ravensthorpe, it was a somber and fearful reminder that if one lost one’s mind, one ended up in the “ Looney bin. “

I was about 10 years old. My young cousin wanted a Teddy Bear and my Mum decided that she would get one and it would be a Ravensthorpe Bear. We arrived at the hospital one morning, on our way to school. Mum got out of the car and headed to the administration block to find out how she could acquire one of these precious toys. Within seconds, my brothers and I hit the locks on the car and sat, terrified, alone and fearful of a “looney “ racing out and attacking us.

After what seemed like years, Mum returned.  We unlocked the doors and let Mum in. Our protector was back. Mum announced “ Apparently they are making rabbits this week. No one wants to make a Teddy Bear. “

Damn. It meant, that,. For the next weeks and months, we would have to visit Ravensthorpe and sit in the car and wait until Mum came back and announced that the ladies were back to Bears and off rabbits.

One day, months later, Mum emerged with a bear in her arms. By this time were somewhat accustomed to the fear and had ceased to be quite so terrified. But we were glad to finally pull out of that carpark and leave that place for good. The bear was given to my young cousin and she loved that bear. Our next door neighbor worked as a Nurse at Kingseat Hospital for the terribly terribly terribly nervous. He was killed by a patient who stabbed him with a pair of scissors.

In the “ old “ days, people who suffered from mental illness were popped in to homes like Ravensthorpe and Kingseat and, like it or not, we so called normal people managed to avoid being stabbed or ( as children ) frightened by people who were not what we perceived to be normal.

As the decades have passed, mental illness is now not confined to stark and imposing hospitals, buildings that are almost frightening on their own, no matter who resides within.

Our mentally unwell live within our community these days. Apparently to ease their integration and to ensure that they are not ostracised.

I remember a woman, back in the 70’s who was released back home after she declared that she was Mary Magdalene and she was married to her next door neighbor who was Joseph… she was confined for a few months and then popped back home. She stopped taking her meds and put her hands in to boiling water to rid herself of the sins of people… lost her hands…

Is it not time to reopen some homes for the terribly terribly nervous and start making some Teddy Bears instead of bombs?

Because we are starting to get terribly terribly nervous. With good reason.

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