It's March. The days are getting longer. Spring is just around the corner. A young man's thoughts turn to -- the Mental Health Act...
Son: Daddy, what do you do for a job?
Dad: I’m an AMHP, son.
Son: A lamp? Do you light up?
Dad: No, son, I’m an AMHP. An Approved Mental Health Professional.
Son: An Aluminium Metal Shelf Partition?
Dad: No, an Approved Mental Health Professional. I have the power to detain people in hospital under the Mental Health Act.
Son: Is that a special power?
Dad: I suppose it is.
Son: Like Spiderman – he can climb up the side of buildings and squirt spider webs out of his wrists! Are you like Spiderman?
Dad: I must say, being able to squirt spider webs out of my wrists would be useful sometimes, but no, I can’t do that.
Son: So can you climb up the side of buildings?
Dad: No, but I can get police officers to force open someone’s door with the right warrant. Which is nearly as awesome.
Son: I don’t think so, Daddy. You’re not really like Spiderman at all, are you?
Dad: No, I’m not, son. I only have the powers given me under the Mental Health Act by being approved. I haven’t been bitten by a radioactive spider.
Son: What is the Mental Health Sack, Daddy?
Dad: (Takes deep breath) The Mental Health Act was written by the Government to provide a legal framework for the treatment of people with a mental disorder.
Son: What is a mental disorder, Daddy?
Dad: A mental disorder is when there’s something wrong with your head.
Son: Like a bump, Daddy?
Dad: Not exactly – although a bad bump on the head could give you a mental disorder. It’s more like feeling very, very sad, or having funny thoughts.
Son: Funny thoughts, Daddy? Like jokes? Knock knock!
Dad: Who’s there?
Dad: Peter who?
Son: Peter Bananas!
Dad: Peter Bananas? Peter Bananas?
Son: It’s funny, daddy. It’s a joke.
Dad: No, not like jokes. It’s more like having beliefs that other people find strange.
Son: Like wanting to eat broccoli? Ech! I hate broccoli!
Dad: No, not like that. Like thinking that you’re related to the Queen.
Son: But if you’re Prince Harry, you are related to the Queen. Is Prince Harry mentally disordered?
Dad: Not as far as I know. Like thinking you’re related to the Queen when you aren’t. Or thinking that God is controlling your breathing.
Son: But God does control everything. He’s everywhere and knows everything. Even when you put a bogie on Susan’s back at school.
Dad: Did you do that?
Son: No, no, Daddy. That’s just an example. So what do you do for your job, Daddy?
Dad: Well, let’s see. Here’s a little story.
Son: I like stories, Daddy!
Dad: Once upon a time there was a man called Derek. His doctor was very worried about him, because Derek had been doing strange things.
Son: What sort of strange things, Daddy?
Dad: Erm, well he has been spending lots of money. He has been buying hundreds of plastic ducks and keeps them in his living room, all around the walls. He has told the doctor that the Duck Man wants to take him to Duck Land, where he will have to float around on a lake all day and night.
Son: He’s a funny man, isn’t he?
Dad: Well, the doctor thinks that Derek is mentally disordered and needs to be in hospital. So he asks Daddy to see Derek and arrange for him to go into hospital.
Son: I see! You’re like an ambulance driver! You take people to hospital!
Dad: No, no, son. I’m not like an ambulance driver. Although I do use ambulances sometimes. My job is to go and see people like Derek to see if they’re mentally disordered and to decide whether or not they need to go into hospital. After all, Derek might have a good reason for buying lots of plastic ducks.
Son: He might have a big bath, mightn’t he, Daddy?
Dad: Yes, he might. But he might be mentally disordered. If Derek wants to go to hospital, then there’s no problem. But if I think he needs to go, but Derek doesn’t, then I can section him and make them go into hospital, even if he doesn’t want to.
Son: Do you make people do things they don’t want to do? Like when I don’t want to eat my broccoli? Are you a bad person, Daddy?
Dad: No, I’m not a bad person. Not really. I try not to be. I try to do what is the best for somebody like Derek. Although they don’t always like it.
Son: When they go into hospital, do they make them better?
Dad: They try to. They give them tablets to make the funny thoughts go away.
Son: Do the tablets always work?
Dad: Usually. Often. Sometimes. Look, why don’t I read you a story from one of your story books?
Son: All right. Derek wasn’t a very good story. Can I have Numpty the Sloth Gets Sectioned?
Dad: Not tonight. That’s a bit too much like Derek. How about The Famous Five Appear to be Mentally Disordered in a Public Place?
Son: All right, then.