Opinion

Friday 22 September 2017

The illness that still dares not speak its name

A new documentary looks at the issue of mental health in Ireland, a problem of society as much as of the individual

What can I do to get into hospital: The question posed by Spike Milligan.
What can I do to get into hospital: The question posed by Spike Milligan.
Carol Hunt

Carol Hunt

When Spike Milligan decided that if he didn't get committed to a psychiatric unit he may be "like this" for the rest of his life, he thought, "what can I do to get into a hospital?". The answer? "I got a potato knife and I went to kill Peter Sellers".

So began the first episode of TG4's extraordinary new series Ar Intinn Eile (An Irish State of Mind). If you haven't seen it yet, I urge you not to miss the third and last episode which airs on Wednesday, because this is public service broadcasting at its best.

I've often rattled off - as proof of our refusal to tolerate difference - the statistics that show us how, as a nation, we used to incarcerate more of our people per head of population, than any other nation in the world (including the old USSR). Between Magdalene Laundries, industrial schools, mother and baby homes and of course, the local asylum, we Irish would seem to have been gung-ho about locking up anyone even slightly mad, bad or dangerous.

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