Jason Pegler appeared as a guest speaker on Radio 5 Live’s Shelagh Fogerty show today. Pegler, CEO of Chipmunka Publishing, was discussing drug driving. He can claim first-hand knowledge of this subject, having written extensively about over-indulgence in cannabis wrecking his life. As a youth in Gloucestershire he got caned regularly, only to develop severe psychosis, eventually ending up in psychiatric hospital. This
experience formed the backbone of his highly acclaimed debut novel, ‘A Can of Madness’.
“A Can of Madness does what it says on the .. er, can. A brilliant memoir of mania; all the pain, humour, fear and despair is chronicled here in prose of clarity and distinction. Unforgettable and important”.
“This book will help people to understand one of the great issue of our time, how to treat those who are mentally disturbed, as human beings”.
Right Hon Tony Benn
A positive outcome of Jason’s experience was it proved to be cathartic. He decided to devote his life to encouraging mental health issues to be viewed in a positive light. He established Chipmunka Publishing to encourage anyone who had experienced depression, schizophrenia or other mental issues to communicate their stories, in fiction, biography, poetry or music. Sharing these traumatic events was ultimately life-affirming. Crucially, it helped people to empathise with the sufferers, in order to confront the ridiculous stigma still facing mental health issues.
Jason encouraged me to write ‘BrainBomb’ which was published as a paperback and e-book download by
Chipmunka Publishing in 2009. This is the story of bipolar episodes I suffered as a young man. It highlights the dark thoughts, the delusions and the paranoia. It’s totally honest about the mistaken belief that temporary highs cure life’s ills. There is canned madness, undoubtedly; but also a clear view of the light at the tunnel’s end.
Excerpt from BrainBomb
I had colleagues who were hoovering as much drink and recreational drugs as myself, indulging in as many one-night stands, gaining as little sleep. But that was irrelevant. That fine line between mental health and ill-health was governed by minute chemical imbalances in the brain not tallies of pints, joints, lines or tabs. That was what partitioned those that could handle incinerating that fabled candle at both ends, and those who couldn’t.
Running from 22-28 April 2012, Depression Awareness Week is organised by the Depression Alliance, and is all about ending the stigma associated with depression. This is a condition that affects 1 in 4 adults in the UK (with recent studies showing that 4% of children under 16 are suffering).
The stigma is a difficult nut to crack. Sufferers will put on a brave face rather than admit to negative feelings. Any sort of mental illness can be seen as a weakness. Which, of course, is ridiculous. Why should mental health be treated differently to any other health issues? Diabetics aren’t stigmatized. Neither are people with cancer. So why the hang-ups about mental health?
It's down to 'being different.' People with these issues are seen to be 'other.' Like those from a religious or ethnic minority, or someone whose sexual orientation doesn't fall in the 'majority' classification, they are singled-out by the intellectually-challenged who perceive mental illness as odd, a weakness, something to be feared. What these bigots should most fear about mental illness is very real possibility that it will affect them or someone close to them at some point.
In choosing a name for my novel I googled 'Brainbomb'. There were a lot of results, ranging from underground dance music to soundtracks. I first heard the expression back in 1979, when a mate raved about a punk record he'd just bought in Bruce's in Rose Street by a Newcastle band named Punishment of Luxury (brilliant name that, itself taken from an 1891 painting by Giovanni Segantini in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool). The single was called 'Secrets', but the b-side, 'Brainbomb', was a fantastic, blistering 2 ½ minute rock n roll thrash about telepathy.