Spike Milligan was one of the best loved, most influential and least predictable of British comedians, not least because he experienced the highs and lows of manic depression which, on several occasions, led to his hospitalisation.
As a prolific writer Milligan often wrote about mental health and the book, The Essential Spike Milligan, has several of his sketches and poems on the topic.
The book also contains a gem of a letter that Milligan wrote to a student magazine where he expounds upon the difficulty of maintaining one’s mental health in the modern world in his trademark scattershot style.
To the Editor, Rag Mag, Gloucester College of Education, 1968
You say your mag is in aid of mental health! Dear Lad, there’s no such thing, if there was anybody in a position of power with any semblance of mental health do you think the world would be in this bloody mess? Young minds at risk is different. Anyone with a young mind is taking a risk – young means fresh – unsullied, ready to be gobbled up in an adult world bringing the young into the visionless world of adults, like all our leaders. Their world is dead – dead – dead, and my God, that’s why it stinks! They look at youth in horror – and say ‘They are having a revolution’, but what do they want? I say they don’t know what they want, but they know what they don’t want, and that is, the repetition of past mistakes, towards which the adult old order is still heading. War – armistice – building up to pre-war standards – capitalism – labour – crisis – war and so on. I digress.
Mental Health. I have had five nervous breakdowns – and all the medics gave me was medicine – tablets – but no love or any attempt at involvement, in this respect I might well have been a fish in a bowl. The mentally ill need LOVE, UNDERSTANDING – TOLERANCE, as yet unobtainable on the N.H.S. or the private world of psychiatry, but tablets, yes, and a bill for ¬£5 5. 0. a visit – if they know who you are it’s ¬£10 10. 0. – the increased fee has an immediate depressing effect – so you come out worse than you went in.
As yet, I have not been cured, patched up via chemicals, yes. Letter unfinished, but I’ve run out of time – sorry!
Link to details of The Essential Spike Milligan.