Ged Melling has suffered with mental health problems throughout his life.
Despite suffering two brief breakdowns in his 20s, he still managed to carve out a successful career, first as an art teacher and secondly, as a cartoonist.
To the outside world the artist, who regularly sees his cartoons published in The Times, Oldie, and Private Eye, has everything, but, following the death of his brother and sister, Ged, of Wendover Road, Bromley, had another breakdown six years ago.
The cartoonist, who suffers from Bipolar Disorder (manic depression), found people’s thoughts on the subject had not really changed in 40 years and it remains a taboo.
The 70-year-old said: “People don’t realise it could happen to them. After my brother and sister died I felt alone and confused about my own mortality, which just pushed me over the edge.
“Although they no longer lock you up and put you in a straight jacket there is still a stigma attached to mental illness.” Although his health was affected, Ged’s love of art was not and it was this urge to draw which helped him back into society.
He said: “It’s not an exaggeration to say art gave me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. After my episode, art gave me a reason to join the human race again.” Now with five trouble-free years behind him Ged still attends Bromley Mind’s support centre Stepping Stones, in Masons Hill, Bromley. He also teaches art to other users there.
His work, and the work of three of his pupils, has recently been chosen for a special arts exhibition — something he feels very proud of.
He said: “It is nice to sing in the bath but it is great to sing at a concert.
“I think the mental illness aspect might scare some people, but it shouldn’t, because the art is quite something.” After overcoming his own problems and achieving such success, Ged’s message to the public is simple — do not count us out.
He said: “I want to tell people, just because we have mental health problems we are not daft and we have a tremendous contribution to make to society.
“Like a physical disability, mental illness affects you but it needn’t write you off.” Ged’s work is currently on display at the Art Works in Mental Health exhibition, being held at the Royal College of Art, in Kensington Gore, London, until Sunday.