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Suzy helps Eastenders

Published: 29 May 2009 10:32

Author's guidance with soap storyline

ANYONE following the Eastenders story line involving Stacey Slater"s denial that she is suffering from mental illness and amazed by how real it all seems has Helensburgh woman Suzy Johnston Syrett to thank.

Suzy, who has recently wed her partner Michel Syrett, and published her highly acclaimed second book, The Snowglobe Journals - sound bites from a mental illness, has been one of the team advising the Eastenders writers on the story.

Suzy said this week: 'MDF The BiPolar Organisation is very much involved with the BBC"s Eastenders storyline with two of its characters developing the condition - first Jean and now her daughter, Stacey.

'As a member of the charity I was asked to offer some insight as I developed the condition at the same age as Stacey.'

Suzy, whose illness developed fully while she was studying at St Andrew"s University, has been in and out of hospital care but has still managed to make a name for herself as a campaigner on mental health issues and she is so respected that her new book carries a foreword by the famous psychiatrist Dr Raj Persaud.

He writes: 'Suzy Johnston has accomplished an audacious and rare undertaking in penning an unusually frank account of a psychotic breakdown.

'If that was all she has done the book would still be worth reading - but something much more important is being undertaken here.

'Despite all the research effort that has been invested all over the world, the medical model still struggles to capture the psychotic experience.'

He concludes his foreword: 'It"s only when the wider public and policy makers come to understand how dreadfully difficult managing psychosis sufferers is, that proper resources might at last begin to be diverted to properly treating this serious and common medical emergency.

'This, and for a whole host of other reasons, is why this book is so very important.'

After graduating, her deteriorating health saw her being hospitalised six times and following her recovery, she first became involved in mental health awareness programmes in 1999 when she joined the education team of the Renfrewshire Association for Mental Health. Giving talks to senior secondary pupils, social workers etc and writing about having mental illness for student psychiatric nurses led to the writing of her autobiography "The Naked Bird Watcher" which was first published in the Spring of 2003. "To Walk on Eggshells" by Jean Johnston is the carer"s account of Suzy"s journey of recovery. Spring 2009 saw the publication of "The Snow Globe Journals" - a more probing and searching account of Suzy"s battles with mental illness.

She is involved with the Scottish Executive"s "seeme" Campaign that addresses stigma and discrimination whilst raising awareness.

Suzy has recently married her partner Michel Syrett, an award winning journalist and a well known writer/lecturer on business management and creativity who has a bipolar disorder and who also cared for his father who had manic depression for 15 years.

He is past chairman and founding trustee of MDF The BiPolar Organisation, the UK"s principal national charity representing people with a bipolar diagnosis. The author of some 20 books and reports he has also written and spoken extensively on mental health issues.

l The Snowglobe Journals is available at Bookworms in Helensburgh.

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