By Mark Harnden
Key Themes: mental health services, manic depression, fiction
In The Dark Backyard is informative, harrowing and yet comic. It is the story of a young man who becomes afflicted with manic depression, a young man who survives to tell the tale.
With the benefit of hindsight, the author is able to question the behaviour that saw him propelled into psychiatric care. He also offers a social commentary regarding the mental health system that will resonate with those who have been through it too.
In The Dark Backyard begins the week before the authorís first admission into a psychiatric hospital. Late on a Saturday night, he and his friends are leaving the house for a forest party in deepest, darkest Northumbria. He has no idea that within a few days he is to become an in-patient on an acute ward but there are signs that this is where fate is taking him.
A rollercoaster journey ensues, full of highs and lows of the most clinical sort. The author eventually completes an arduous, revolving door phase and emerges into care in the community as an out-patient. This is where the fun really startsÖ..
About the Author
Mark was born in Aldershot in 1973. At the age of sixteen he won a sixth-form leadership scholarship to Malvern College, in Worcestershire, before going up to the University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne to read politics and history.
Three years later, however, when Mark should have been sitting the final exams of his degree, he found himself admitted into psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with manic-depressive psychosis. Learning to cope with manic depression has proven achievable but remains, nonetheless, an endeavour fraught with difficulties and seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Mark is proud to have graduated from the Open University with BA (Hons) in politics and philosophy and MA in philosophy.
From 2004 to 2006 Mark was employed as Public Relations Officer for MDF the Bipolar Organisation Wales. Since 2006, Mark has worked free-lance in mental health education. His clients have included the United Kingdom Psychiatric Pharmacy Group, AstraZeneca Neuroscience, Bath University and Manchester Mental Health Service Trust.
Mark has published his Masterís dissertation with chipmunka, a political philosophy of mental illness, along with In The Dark Backyard, a quirky and entertaining look back at some acutely chaotic times.
At the back door, Jenny hugged me nervously before
watching Helen and I take the rear seat of the small car
parked in the alley beyond the gate. Alan started the engine
as David, in the passenger seat, dealt with the stereo and
got some tunes playing. Jenny was now crying but I didnít
know why. It was just another all-nighter. She rarely came
with us and wasnít my other half anyway. Nor was Helen;
she and Alan were together and I was no more than a
mutual friend in the house we all shared.
The drive to the secret destination was well underway. The
boys were navigating confidently, freeing me to corner Helen
with the strange behaviour I was beginning to favour. I
rhapsodised about the symbolic significance of eating
chocolate and forced upon her a melting Mars bar, cajoling
her to thrust it all into her mouth in one go as I led the way
with another. I sounded like a conviction preacher.
This product was added to our catalog on Thursday 10 December, 2009.