Today is a big day for me. I stood, quite unashamed, in W.H Smiths browsing through a magazine. I was surprised to be allowed to stand there for so long, right under the watchful eyes of the cashier, but with the Christmas rush upon her and an elderly lady trying to use a voucher in the wrong shop she may have had enough to do. In any event I eventually went up and paid for the magazine I been thumbing through so eagerly. The December issue of Family Tree.
Now this post is by way of a ‘thank you’ to you as a reader really. When I first published the post ‘An Unsound Mind – bringing a family history into the open’ about the generations in my family experiencing mental health issues, I was concerned about the response I would get. I wanted to raise the subject of mental ill-health, and having studied my family history for some time I knew I had to make a connection between the two. There is still such a stigma attached to mental health issues, and the only way to deal with the discrimination that attaches to the subject is to keep raising it and make sure people understand that it is something that one in four of us in the UK will experience in our lifetimes.
However, I needn’t have worried. I had so many great comments from so many lovely people who had gone through similar experiences with depression and anxiety and such support, especially from Linda Jones who publicised it on her mental health blog carnival, that I felt confident enough to pitch the story to a family history magazine. They really liked the idea and were also intrigued at how many of my readers identified with the connections I had made through studying family history. So I was commissioned to develop the blog post into an article (called ‘A Shadowy Past’) for the wonderful Family Tree magazine. This isn’t the first time I have had an article published and I hope it won’t be the last but I doubt I will ever write one that is so intensely personal and which means so much.
I am going to find out a lot more about the Hardiman side of my family; they are an intriguing lot (as the earlier post suggests) and at this point I must blow the twitter trumpet, if there is such a thing. In just the past few weeks I have met some wonderful people from tweeting on that branch of the phenomenon that is social networking and have learned so much, especially from genealogists Luke Mouland at Kith and Kin Research, Rosemary Morgan at London Roots Research and Mike Kostiuk at Family Tree Folk . All of them really understand the importance not only of family history, but of social history too and how learning about our past can help us make sense of our feelings in the present. If you want to give someone a Christmas present with a difference then have a look at what they offer by way of a personal version of ‘Who do you think you are?’!
So it would be great if you could have another, or a first, read of ‘An Unsound Mind’ and look at the comments to see just how important it is to understand how mental ill health affects people. The charity Mind has some great resources on all aspects of mental health and I would also heartily recommend a copy of this month’s Family Tree as there are some fascinating articles in it; from finding neighbours, to Victorian prisons and finding clues in Scottish names. There is also a great one called ‘A Shadowy Past’ by one Suzie Grogan. Who does she think she is?…….