Christmas can make mental illness worse

This Is Wiltshire: Paul Taylor, who suffers with schizophrenia, says Christmas time can be very isolating for people with mental health issues Paul Taylor, who suffers with schizophrenia, says Christmas time can be very isolating for people with mental health issues

CHRISTMAS can be a tricky time of year for anyone, but for some of those suffering with mental health issues, it is even worse.

Paul Taylor, 48, of Elborough Road, was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1997 shortly after a breakdown triggered by stress and overwork and was institutionalised as a result of it.

Paul said: “At first it was quite shocking.

“I felt quite upset to think I had been diagnosed schizophrenic. At the time I thought of it as a label and I thought I would be discriminated against because of it.

“I said, ‘I am not psychotic’.

“The way it presents itself is in the form of hallucinations, meaning sometimes I hear things and see things that aren’t really there.

“And sometimes something happens and it’s not particularly realistic so I doubt it but I still wonder if it’s actually real.

“It’s like being on LSD sometimes.”

In July Paul was dismissed from the mental health register a month before he began a one-man campaign to fight back against what he thought was a spate of black graffiti by painting walls and bus stops white in Haydon Wick, baffling residents.

In October Paul admitted to ten counts of criminal damage, and his sentence was deferred until January to allow the mental health team to assess his condition.

Meanwhile, Paul, like many people with mental health conditions, has to get through the Christmas and New Year period, which can be one of the most difficult and lonely times of the year.

Paul, who has little family and will spend the time alone, said: “If you’ve got family that’s all right.

“Someone can come up and see you and remind you the shops are shut.

“Everything is closed up over the holiday.”

Paul feels that there is not enough support out there for people who suffer poor mental health over the festive season, as he said people with his condition are more likely to suffer hallucinations when stuck at home.

He said: “Everybody presents at some stage. If you’re stuck inside it can really affect you. I get claustrophobic and I present. “There needs to be a lot more support for people. I think we have to have some sort of support during holiday times.”

Now, Paul, who is an unemployed graphic and media designer and has also been an electrician, is now looking for part time work to help him get back into the community, but says it is not that easy.

He said: “If I could go back to work then I would. If I were able to get some part time work I would do it.”

For more information and support about mental health issues visit www. swindonmind.org

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