I first met Norman – not his real name – a couple of years before he killed himself. Coming home to my flat one evening, I heard a yelp at the other end of the dimly lit corridor. I approached the sound and found a short, middle-aged man, trying to unlock his front door. He was sweating.
The key wouldn’t turn – I tried too and failed. Then I noticed a look of sudden terror cross his face. “I’m mentally ill,” he said gently. “I’ve got a mental illness. I’m very frightened.”
“Well,” I said, in what I hoped was a reassuring tone, “don’t worry, OK? The guys at the front desk will be able to help you. They’ve got spare keys for most of these flats. Go and speak to them. Down in reception.”
I suppose I was in a rush or something. I didn’t have time to help him myself. Maybe this was a daily occurrence. Besides, we weren’t really neighbours – he lived right at the other end of the corridor.
We only had one more conversation, not long before it happened. He knocked on the door one weekend and announced, wide-eyed, that he was having a panic attack. Then he launched into telling me his medical history.
I learnt that his name was Norman. He had been in and out of a mental hospital. He’d been to his GP recently. But no one seemed to understand how serious it was. “Do you have friends or family that you can talk to about it?” I asked. It turned out his partner was on the way.
How to continue reading…
This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week
The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection