Too Close to what?

I have my early school reports, from Redland High School for Girls, Bristol. Nothing too memorable, I imagine. I was never either top or bottom of any class, but two statements have stayed with me until now. At five and a quarter this was said: `Deborah is still rather slow in the cloakroom. Her number work is improving. Above all, Deborah enjoys listening to stories.` Of me in the sixth form, an English teacher wrote: `Deborah tries too hard to be original.` That really was a horrible thing for a teacher to say!

But the story thing – nothing has changed. It was the fact that it was on for three consecutive nights that made me want to watch Too Close, although after the first episode, I already had some reservations. The story is about a `patient` Connie, played by Denise Gough, who is treated by a Forensic Psychiatrist Emma, ( Emily Watson.) Connie drove her car into a river on a dark and story night, but by some miracle neither she nor the two children in the back were killed.

The three episodes were slow, dark, and contained all the required components of a TV thriller of our time. The Psychiatrist had to assess whether Connie was some kind of unredeemable psychopath, evil by nature, a danger for all time to innocent children. Or whether she was mentally ill.

Turned out she had been in the grip of psychosis, and that there was a clear path she had trodden. Already vulnerable, taking various pills, she lost her mother, and discovered that her best friend and her husband were having a passionate affair. It wasn`t clear whether she had a previous diagnosis of a psychiatric condition, or not.

But the denouement of the story evoked in me feelings both of nostalgia and of anger. In the nineteen eighties I was a Psychiatric Social Worker, and for a few years was part of a multi-disciplinary team at a teaching hospital in Manchester. Fact is, if the psychiatrist had only been part of some multi-disciplinary team (which in real life she almost certainly would be,) then there would be this personage, a Psychiatric Social Worker, who would have skilfully and carefully researched and written what we used to call a Social History. People are vulnerable, and people suffering from mental illness or life traumas are not well enough protected and supported by society. They never were, and they still aren`t.