I was in the local shop today when some women burst in saying ‘wig-witch, you know that wigwitch, that woman with the long straggly blonde hair who sits at the bus stop all day, you know that weird one. She just walked down Queen Street in her pyjamas and nothing on her feet with a kitchen knife in her hand.’
I found this distressing. I found it primarily distressing that the woman had a particularly nasty nickname that other people were aware of and used. Wig witch. I was hoping that nothing bad happened, I was hoping she was safe and being cared for. One reason that a vulnerable person might take a knife outside with them is because they are scared. Another is because they are vulnerable.
It might seem that I’m being a little bit daft in my thinking, but I’ve been in mental health services most of my life and I have met so many people. There have been virtually none that I felt afraid of or that I believed would harm someone, and I have met far more ‘sane’ non-service users that have given me reason to be afraid of them. Mostly, you hear about mental illness in the papers when someone gets killed or commits a crime but that gives a misleading representation of people with severe enduring mental health problems because I am sure that there are as many if not more people commiting crimes without having mental health problems.
I see the lady the women were talking about, all the time. She sits in a bench near the bus stop in the centre of town, she talks to people, she has a bag of chips, she smokes her roll-ups and she wears bright clothes. I know her as someone with mental health problems. She brings something to the town, she is colourful and eccentric and must be going through it to have gone out in her pyjamas this morning. I feel protective of her. We’re all in this together. That’s how I see it. It’s sad that she will have been gossiped about all over town today and that the name wig-witch will stick.