In August, I got round to reading ‘From Grange Hill to Bipolar and Back’ by George Wilson. For those who don’t know, George is my wife Helen’s cousin – although you may know him better as ‘Ziggy’ from Grange Hill and ‘Little Jimmy’ from Brookside.
About eighteen months ago, he called me to ask for my thoughts on some things he’d been writing in a blog that had helped him to explain and overcome the mental health challenges he’s faced over the last 30 years. I immediately encouraged him to see if he could write enough material to turn it into a book and then to get it published. I felt strongly that his story is one that would be of great help to people, whether they suffer from, care for those with, or just feel under-informed about mental health issues.
I’m sure lots of others will have said the same to him but I knew that doing so would force him to confront some very dark memories – including being present at the Hillsborough disaster – and that’s a tough thing to ask of anyone, let alone someone with a history of mental ill-health. There would have been absolutely no shame in deciding that such a task was a step too far for him.
But he didn’t. He wrote the book and, towards the end of 2019, he got it published. In January, he went on ‘This Morning’ with Phil and Holly to publicise it. As the 2020 went on, the already important issue of mental health has become an increasingly hot topic.
On holiday in Italy, I finally read the book. As I expected, it’s unflinchingly honest and details a life of heady highs and shocking lows. I’d heard about a lot of these events before and, as a Grange Hill fan, I recognised the actor ‘George Christopher’ in many of the stories but, for the last 20-odd years, I’ve just known him as ‘George’ (although Helen still calls him “our Georgey”).
Last week, he posted on Facebook that he’d got a reply from Buckingham Palace, thanking him for the copy he sent to the Duke and Duchess (I presume of Cambridge – William and Catherine). He’s offered his assistance to them in their capacities as patrons of charities in the area of mental health.
I’m so proud of him for listening to me and to everyone else who encouraged him to write this book. I can’t begin to describe the admiration I have for him for actually writing it and I think he deserves every bit of recognition due to him as he continues to reduce the stigma of a condition that can affect any of us. The heir to the throne could do a lot, lot worse than enlist his help in some way.
Here’s his post of the letter he received from TRH. If you want a copy of his book, I’m not going to give you an amazon link for it – I’ll encourage you to contact George directly through FB and he’ll point you towards one. If you ask nicely, he might even sign it!