Referring to the article: A physicist’s experience of the mental-health system
A while ago, my counsellor asked me to write something to give to a psychiatric researcher she knew from her work at a mental health hospital. She felt strongly that the things I was talking about in our sessions needed to be heard.
I obliged. I wrote a sort of manuscript looking thing. At that time I didn’t have the energy to write it in any sort of structure to help the reader. All I could do was splurge what was in my head onto paper. I cleaned it up as much as I could, then sent it off to her.
Despite the researcher saying they would be interested in reading it, we heard nothing back. I was undeterred though. Despite being y’know, mentally ill, I was sure that what I had written was good. I “cold-emailed” a few psychiatric researchers I thought might be empathetic toward my cause. Still nothing. I suppose they probably never gave it even a cursory glance. But I didn’t stop there. I emailed scientific magazines I thought would be interested in publishing the article. At least I got rejections this time! (One within 2 minutes of me sending it).
I expected this. I have learned in my decade long war with mental illness that, unfortunately, not many care1. There are a few that do, but apart from a couple of counsellors and family, verbal (usually private) support was where most drew the line.
I much prefer having verbal support than none at all, or like many places in the world, the opposite. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t get frustrated by the lack of action.
I know that to act is inherently scary. There is always some risk to the individual in some form or other. I have discovered, however, that in most situations I have decided to act, I have grossly overestimated the risk. The default position of human opinion is “meh”.
Anyway, one day, out of the blue, I received an email from Matin, the editor of Physics World magazine. He decided to take the “action” route. He told me he was really interested in publishing what I had written. This manuscript that was by no means close to a format, structure or length to go into a physics magazine. Also as an anonymous author, he had no idea who I was or what I did. I was a complete nobody.
I sat there perplexed for a minute or so, wondering what dark magic was used to conjure this email and fool me into a false sense of hope. When I realised it was not in fact the dark arts and an actual real-life show of support, I lept out of my chair, walked around in excitement for a couple of hours. Before remembering that the time from acceptance to publication was generally, absolutely ages.
Six months later it was published. An actual feature article, in a proper magazine. Due to the hard work of Matin and his team, it makes some narrative sense and doesn’t take five years to read. I cannot thank him enough for being courageous enough to publish something not normally seen in a physics magazine.
Perhaps there are more people out there willing to act. Maybe people do care.