Interview with Eamon Shanley

Why the name Pure Mental?
I’ve lived in Glasgow for 10 years and learned some wonderful colloquial expressions. Unfortunately many have no simple English equivalents, for example, the description of a person as a being a ‘ numty’ (I would need to write a thesis to get close to its meanings) or in talking about the weather as being dreich. This one’s easier to translate. Dreich captures in one emotive word the damp, dreary, overcast, drizzling, threatening to rain, looks like it will stay like this for week’s weather that frequently blankets Scotland. ‘Pure mental’ is probably easier to understand. An example is, ‘watch oot fer him, he's pure mental’.
I see the title Pure Mental as referring to the staff not the inmates. Secondly it captures the extremes to which people will go. For example the character Connolly was pure mental. He would stop at nothing. I’ve come across many Connolly’s in the mental health field.
What about yourself? What led up to you writing Pure Mental?
Well I suppose it goes way back to my beginnings. I was born in Duleek Co Meath Ireland. At that time its population was 300. Since then it has grown to approx. 3,000. I was 7th of 13 children. I grew up as an invisible child feeling that if I disappeared nobody would notice. I hated school with a vengeance particularly learning Irish language. I left school at 15 years.
After 3 years of working in an office training to be an accountant I went into nursing firstly as learning disability and later in psychiatric/mental health nursing.
I studies social psychology at Sussex University and did a masters of nurse education and PhD at Edinburgh University
A period of teaching followed in Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow before heading to Australia to become a professor of mental health nursing. I was, and still am, passionate about changing the lot of people who have mental health concerns. I feel that they are the invisible ones.
In my career I have written academic papers dry as chalk and gave conference papers as exciting as mouse droppings to a disinterested world. I’ve worked with people whose prime motivation in their work was self- interest – not unlike some of the characters in the book. After years of frustration I have turned to story-telling and hopefully Pure Mental will reach a wider audience and maybe provoke some discussion and maybe change.
If there was one message you wanted to get across in Pure Mental what would that be?
Well, I suppose Pure Mental is primarily about the abuse of power. In the absence of accountability there will inevitably be an abuse of power in children’s homes, prisons, hospitals armed forces and in this case mental health services. Depending on individual’s sense of right and wrong is a poor protection against abuse. The book shows, in a microcosm, the abuse of power in a mental asylum where individuals were not held accountable.
Many of the attitudes of the 1970s shown in the book still exist today among carers. Perhaps in a more diluted form. Recently I heard of a senior clinician in a multidisciplinary team meeting describe a patient as a ‘fuckwit’. Nobody present protested. Other less extreme and more covertly derogatory terms are frequently used to describe a patient’s attempts to cope as being manipulative, attention seeking and treatment resistant. Perhaps these words are a more subversively dehumanising form of abuse in that they are more difficult to challenge. The one message I would like to get across is that failure of the system to hold individuals accountable will result in neglect and ill-treatment.
Published 2014-10-29.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Pure Mental
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 104,210. Language: English. Published: October 31, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » European
Set in the 1970s behind the high walls of a large London mental asylum, the story follows the journey of a naive young Irishman training as a psychiatric nurse. One world of intimidation and violence towards inmates juxtaposed against another world of mateship, laughter and camaraderie. At first it was easy to take sides and become one of the boys. However meeting Nick changed everything...