BMHUK Magazine | October/November 2011 www.blackmentalhealth.org.uk
I wasn’t ever mad By Staff writer
In an exclusive interview with BMH UK’s The Solution magazine Dominic Makuvachuma Walker looks back at what led to him entering the system. He is clear that he should not have been detained and treated on a psychiatric ward.
balaclava,’ Walker recalls. The police later found Nazi paraphernalia in the arsonists his home and while there were no fatalities from this at- tack this man’s action left Walker in a state of shock, and with trauma but with no means of accessing the support he needed.
‘As a black man who has felt unbridled racism of an apartheid system in Rhodesia before it be- came Zimbabwe this incident triggered a level of rage and I knew I needed help, but not from a mental health system,’ Walker said.
qualified book keeper and actor Walker worked as an accounts assistant in Zimbabwe until the opportunity arose to peruse
his passion for acting in the UK with an all expenses paid trip to London. After signing a contract with Warner Brothers, an enthusiastic 25-year-old Walker arrived in London back in 1991, to work on the film ‘The Power of One’.
Although he has over 13 productions in both film and theatre both here and in Zimbabwe under his belt, this is a side of Walker that is now very rarely seen. ‘I also went to drama school and managed a video store to support myself. At weekends I used to enjoy going to reggae dances and often worked on the door checking who was coming into the parties,’ Walker said. On the 17th July 1994 as Walker was manning the door of a house party in east London an arsonists in a balaclava with a toy machine gun came up the building and firebombed the house. ‘He waited until I had turned my back, then when I turned around again all I could see was a man with a gun in a
The ordeal of being a witness in the case also took it’s toll. Walker’s anxieties increased as he saw how this case was handled. With this incident occurring not far from where Stephen Laurence was murdered in 1993, there were attempts to play down the racist elements of this arsonist attack Walker told BMH UK’s The Solution magazine.
‘I have never seen myself as mentally ill, everything I had to go through was managed through the mental health system, but this was due to social not mental health problems.’
‘The way the case was dealt with in court was also a source of distress, coming from Zimba- bwe where as oppressed as black people had have had to fight for liberation. I saw prosecu- tors play down the fact that the police had found evidence of Nazi literature in the flat of the guy responsible for the fire. This disturbed me greatly and also undermined my trust in the system.’
Walker became concerned if police had caught the right person, while at the same time endur-
ing flashbacks and nightmares with no one to turn to for support. ‘Every time I was walking down the street I felt paranoid that they had got the wrong guy. I had decided to stay in this country on the basis that the white people are nice – but the arsonist attack and racism I saw in the courts was a wakeup call,’
As the court case went on Walker was faced with increasing challenges in other areas of his life with no one to turn to for support things hit crisis point. He found himself on a mental health ward being diagnosed as mentally ill. ‘I wasn’t insane, I was angry and traumatised, but to get the kind of support I needed people needed to believe that I was mad. This is a dangerous game to play as it can destroy you.’ I needed social support and someone to talk to, I needed to heal from my trauma a pain, but not with pills.’
Walker was also shocked at how many black people he saw on the wards. ‘I saw so many black people in the system I was thinking then why are there so many black people in the system who were so mashed?.’ Now years later with a degree in Health Services Management, Walker works as the deputy director of service user involvement at the national mental health charity, Together. His focus is now on support- ing others who have found themselves in the system.
Looking back on his journey Walker is clear, ‘I have never seen myself as mentally ill – everything I had to go through were managed through the mental health system but they were social problems. It often makes me won- der, how many other people have had to go through the same thing.’
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