Introduction Foreword Writing Together Coping Within The System Coping On My Own Coping With Teenagers Coping With Relationships Live Performance

Ross and Peter Wilson

Peter: Going back over when I realised something was not right - there wasn't one moment. Ross was at University, and you do strange things at that age anyway. There was a gradual dawning, and then at one point Ross was showing me his journals and I thought this has gone over the boundary of what's 'normal'. And then you start to notice more and more things. But the trouble is it's cyclic - so he could be completely normal for a while, then start being strange. Then he got rid of all his friends, which was when I realised I would have to do something. He decided he would go to New York, and become homeless on the streets.

Ross: I didn't actually believe I had a mental health problem in the first place. So the only real sign I got was that everyone around me, like my parents and friends and mental health team professionals were having strange talks with me. There was a rationale behind the things I did, and behind going to New York, but I don't remember it that clearly. I'd read a book by Eckhart Tolle, a sort of spiritual guide to life, where he described sitting on a bench for two years. And I thought I'd follow the path.

Peter: It was brought to a decision point when he decided he wanted to go to America, and started to sell all his stuff. He'd booked his flight, got rid of all his friends, and there was one evening when he was squatting in the corner in the lounge and I was asking why he'd deleted all his friends from his phone, and he was having trouble working out why. But he had to go to New York. And at that point I thought I have to do something. So I went to see the GP with a load of evidence and she took one look and said, "God, we've got to get him help quick, this is serious."

He did end up in New York, living with a tramp under a bridge in New Orleans. We couldn't stop him going to America, he's an adult, he has his own passport. But my wife Gillian organised everything to try to make it as safe as possible. There was a lot of work going on behind the scenes.
But the amount of stress was phenomenal. I had several mini-breakdowns myself. I was in Stafford one day doing a training course and when I finished, I'd forgotten how to drive. I just switched off. Fortunately, I was able to phone a friend, as it were, and she did CONTROL ALT DELETE and rebooted me so I could drive home.

Ross: Through the time of the illness I just felt very judged and labelled by my parents and everyone around me. I did hate them quite a lot at the time. I was angry about what they had done and how they were judging me.

Peter: I didn't blame him at all. He was ill. I felt guilty in a way, because I was impinging on someone's liberty. We did section him at one point. You have your son, on one hand, who needs his liberty, but on the other hand, a bit fragile mentally, so you have to make some decisions you wouldn't otherwise make, and I found that quite hard.

Ross: My problems were brought on by drug use, cannabis in my case. The current situation is that I'm up and down, but OK. I get a bit depressed or confused now and again, but most of the time I can deal with life and having to work and so on, not too bad. When I was last on the radio, I was still smoking cannabis, which had caused it, but I've stopped now. My dad found out at that point I was still smoking and he got very upset, and he ended up finding my stash and binning it, and then I couldn't be bothered getting any more. Sometimes I do worry I will slip back into psychosis again, but I know the people around me will do everything they can to get me back. I'm being treated now with anti-psychotic medication, and that's keeping me on the level. The things I would do were completely off the wall. I would hide the computer keyboards to stop people working on the computers, and I remember putting my dad's science fiction book in the sink and soaking it cause I thought he was addicted to them - which he probably is. I thought he was denying his emotions. It was very rationalised psychology stuff, which I was trying to impose on others. I did have a reason behind it, but I was ill.

Peter: Ross is now teaching guitar, and doing comedy courses, and being creative. It's just nice to have my son back.


Ross and his dad Peter spoke on BBC Radio Berkshire about their journey through Ross's cannabis use and mental health issues. This is an edit of their story, which they shared with Andrew Peach on Radio Berkshire's Breakfast Show.