‘My Son played Russian Roulette With Cannabis – and Lost’: Patrick and Henry Cockburn Tell Their Story

Award-winning journalist Patrick Cockburn has spent many years working as a foreign correspondent, reporting from the world’s trouble spots from Belfast to Baghdad. Here, however, he tells an intensely personal story – how his son succumbed to schizophrenia

On February 8, 2002, I called my wife Jan from Kabul where I was working as a foreign correspondent. Jan sounded more anxious than I had ever heard her, and I felt a sense of dread as I realised there had been some disaster.

Henry, our 20-year-old son, had nearly died when he swam across the River Ouse estuary at Newhaven, East Sussex, fully clothed and was rescued by fishermen as he left the near-freezing water. The police had been called and decided Henry was a danger to himself. He was now in a psychiatric hospital.

This was the beginning of eight years of mental illness for Henry. During much of that period Jan and I lived with an almost constant sense of dread and disaster.

As Henry started to recover – and this recovery is by no means complete – about three years ago, I began to think we should write about our experiences. Henry is well enough to write but not so distant from his psychosis that it has become ancient history in his mind. I believed we could serve a broader purpose by making mental illness less of a mystery. I ran the idea past Henry and he liked it.

by Patrick and Henry Cockburn, DailyMail

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