Frank Bruno mental illness fight


Frank Bruno’s fight with mental illness has been a very public battle, much as Paul Gascoine’s battle with alcohol. But anything that raises public awareness of issues such as these are always welcome in my opinion.

Frank is often heard stating that his battle with his mental health has been the hardest battle of his life. To help him win this battle he certainly needs more help, and he took steps to raise the awareness by visiting the Houses of Parliament and the health minister Norman Lamb. Mr Lamb had invited Frank along to hear first hand, all about his battle so far.

It’s been a while since Frank boxed, 17 years to be precise, but since then he has fought his battle with mental illness and in 2003 he was sectioned. Frank was again sectioned twice more, when his family became concerned about him last year.

Thankfully Frank pulled through but now he is eager to get his point across and help alter the way the NHS treat people with mental health issues. And this is why he is talking to the health minister.

Firstly, he talks about the 13th April last year, which was when he was taken into Basildon Hospital in Essex.

Excerpts from The Mirror’s “Frank Bruno: Mental illness was my toughest fight”

“I opened my door and standing in front of me were seven police officers and three marked police cars,” he tells Mr Lamb. “If I was a robber or a ­murderer I could understand it. But I wasn’t. I wasn’t being violent. It was so ­undignified. I feel I lost my dignity.”

As he speaks, concern sweeps across Mr Lamb’s face. “I agree,” he tells Frank. “Just ­because you are being ­sectioned doesn’t mean you should be treated with a lack of dignity. It is something we must be more aware of when ­dealing with ­patients with mental illness.”

After he was sectioned last year, Frank spent five days at Basildon ­Hospital before a medical board ruled he should be released. But within weeks he was ­sectioned again and spent more than a month in St Andrew’s Hospital in ­Northampton. He says being in ­hospital made his condition worse.

He tells Mr Lamb: “I was not treated well. In Basildon I nearly got stabbed. I am sad to say that too many staff didn’t give a ­monkey’s.

“Many of the staff were excellent, but some were no good enough. Most of the time people were in their room all day pumped full of medication and only went outside for an hour or so a day. I would exercise a lot, doing hundreds of press-ups a day and walking round and round in the yard. But nobody was encouraged to be active.”

Now Frank takes medication to help control his mental illness. “I feel I am being used a bit like a guinea pig,” he says. “A lot of the time I feel like a ­zombie. All too often I think doctors are ­dishing out pills to people without thinking too much about the other options. ­Sectioning someone and then locking them away is the easy option and I feel it often happens without much thought going into other choices available.”

And this is where I agree with Frank completely. We are a pill popping nation and it is all too easy to prescribe without exploring other options. But I guess therapy costs money, that’s pretty obvious, and I only wish that there were bigger budgets for talk therapies, so they can be more available to vulnerable people who are not so well off financially.

Treating anyone without respect is bad enough, but treating a person who is suffering from mental health issues without dignity is simply not good enough and I truly hope Mr Lamb takes note of this, by all accounts he was very touched by Frank Bruno’s story, as indeed was I. This kind of story may be a familiar one across the country, so lets hope things begin to improve in this sector.