The story

Skunk Album Sectioning guitar psychosis BBC interview Back on stage


Smoked dope for a while, but then tried to give up following some scary symptoms. Wrote “Blame Marijuana”, prescient, but sadly too late...


“Yet to be named” was the last thing Ross achieved before crashing. Re-released with new band as “Consumed in self”.


A picture from Ross’ journals that, along with scary words and behaviour, triggered my attempt to get him sectioned to stop him going to the USA...

If you are intelligent, well spoken and articulate, but don’t think you are ill - you are so screwed... (under current interpretation of Mental health Act)

“He’s very ill, but he held it together so we can’t section him. Do not let him go the USA... You must wait until he is too far gone to keep control. By the way, the longer he goes without treatment, the less chance of recovery.”

I had a mini breakdown. Ross was not sectioned until nearly a year later...

Ross 2009: “Why didn’t they section me? It has cost me 2 years of my life - and I’m still not right.”

No-one had any doubts that he was seriously ill. It was moral and bureaucratic cowardice. The system must be changed (and it would also save money).


Killed his guitar in the woods on new years night, videoed himself painting his room red and dark green, and put up signs like these everywhere.


Lucid moments that gave false hope...

BBC interview

Having failed to persuade the NHS to do the right thing, in desperation I told them I’d go to the media to help my son. Nothing. But an hour after Andrew Peach interviewed me, I got a call from a very senior person saying it had all been a huge misunderstanding. It hadn't. They had been embarrassed into agreeing to let Ross remain in the best place. I went off to have a mini-breakdown. I owe Andrew and the BBC a huge debt of gratitude.

Radio Berkshire >>

Back on stage

First time back on stage post hospitalisation, singing about depression and suicidal thoughts - but briefly on form and in control. It gave us hope...

“I gave my wife a vasectomy for Christmas….”* The first line of my first stand-up gig in a pub in Eton (May 2010). I was there because Ross had just completed a comedy course in London and had encouraged me to give it a go. “You think you’re funny, dad…”. In the end, both Ross and Owen implied that I hadn’t been totally embarrassing – quite a compliment from sons…

Ross went on too. When I watched him on show, the very publicness of it made me feel as though a pawl had just dropped over the next tooth of a ratchet that had tightened his grip on sanity. I bought everyone a drink to celebrate. Two years previously, he’d been in hospital, drugged against his will, a shambling shadow of himself – and I was in Stafford, in my parked car, having forgotten how to drive…

“Dad” runs through me, like a stick of seaside rock. We’re a family of 4 (and a much missed ex-cat) that survived a serious psychotic episode in our eldest son – probably brought on by skunk disguised as marijuana.

Episodes like this are very much family events – there were several occasions when stress turned me temporarily absolutely as mad as Ross. We’ve been released back into the wild as Ross recovers. So here’s to hope…

*Completely true! My Christmas present to her was a vasectomy appointment card in a festive envelope (following a nasty ectopic pregnancy).

It’s personal
This is my personal story (presentations, website, fledgling book) and therapy. I find that I have a real need to gain something positive from the experience and a deep desire to change attitudes. If I’m honest, I’m also fuelled by a well of keenly felt anger augured by the worst kind of bureaucratic bullshit. Whilst some of the help we got was exemplary, we also encountered mindless “committees” (dark, bureaucratic black holes from which no hint of responsibility can ever escape), with a side order of trite (and, as it turned out, completely meaningless) quotes and mission statements about “patient centred care”. They nearly broke me.

I also feel the need to speak for some of the remarkable people I met on the trip. People who quietly care for members of their families or for friends. Because I can. Because I’m not awed by authority (I’ve had considerable experience of duelling with patronising doctors on my own account). Because I was bolshy (and desperate) enough to get myself interviewed on BBC radio to strong-arm the NHS to do right by my son – from “there’s absolutely nothing we can do” to “it’s all been a misunderstanding that’s now been resolved” in just 4 minutes of public broadcasting. The power of publicity – Andrew Peach and Fiona of BBC radio Berkshire, I still owe you a pint…

There’s also the reaction I’ve had from carers and others when I’ve talked in public. It’s as though the very fact of my being prepared to give our story a public airing has helped others to “come out” to remember, to talk and to refute the social stigma.

But maybe it’s also because I have two sons who write words and music from personal experience that have the power to rearrange your head and which could, just perhaps, help to promote the changes that are necessary.

The Book of the Story of the Song of the Show…
I wrote a poem for my best friend when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She told me I have a talent for writing and should do more. I considered whether she was just being my supportive friend (Ross was on the road to recovery at the time), but quickly decided that I might just as well go along with her opinion – particularly as it was what I wanted to do anyway (that’s confirmatory bias for you…).

Apart from being therapeutic for me, I don’t even have to write it all myself. Ross is a talented writer and wrote compulsively during his illness and he still writes now. I also wrote at the time and we have recordings and video of some of the events and traumas plus emails, letters and texts.

Based on the reactions to the live presentations Ross and I have given, I thought that it should be possible to bring all of this material together to create a digital multi-media book. A story that combines mine and Ross’ words when ill, during recovery and his comments on my words both then and now. A story that attempts to turn all these alternative viewpoints into an experience that provides a visceral experience of what it is really like for a family to go through a psychotic episode, to show how we coped and what we’ve learned.

Methinks my reach exceeds my grasp. But what’s the worst that can happen? Some embarrassment perhaps. On the other hand, someone, somewhere may just relate to a shared experience and be reassured (as I was when I met other sufferers) that someone else felt the same way. And perhaps the example of Ross’ remarkable courage and supremely healthy attitude to his traumatic psychotic episode (I was ill – of course I was weird! I couldn’t help the way I behaved, so why should I feel coy or stigmatised by it?) that’s allowed him to make his experiences public may help others to face down unwarranted attempts to stigmatise.

Take a look at the 1st draft chapters of “Hugging Barbed Wire”. Do I ever need the help of an editor to cull the weaker baby seals in my first attempt…