‘As a Black British man I believe it is vital that I tell this story. It may be just one account from the perspective of a person of colour who has experienced this system, but it may be enough to potentially change an opinion or, more importantly, stop someone else from spinning completely out of control.’ – David Harewood
When David Harewood was twenty-three, just as his acting career was taking off after leaving RADA, he had what he now understands to be a case of psychosis, and ended up being sectioned under the Mental Health Act. He was physically restrained by six police officers, sedated, then hospitalised and transferred to a locked ward where he was force fed sedatives such as Diazepam.
David Harewood was born on December 8, 1965 in Birmingham, England. His parents are originally from Barbados in the Caribbean and they moved to England in the 50s and 60s. He grew up in Small Heath and is an avid Birmingham City FC fan. Maybe I Don’t Belong Here is his first book.
This memoir (as it states on the cover) of race, identity, breakdown and recovery is fantastically raw, vulnerable and open account of precisely that. Looking chronologically across Harewood’s childhood and upbringing in a Britain that was still singing “There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack” we are introduced to key moments that would inevitably lead to a psychotic breakdown; at times it is amazing to think it didn’t happen sooner.
What was it that caused this breakdown and how did David recover to become the critically-acclaimed actor that we have all seen in Homeland? In this breathtakingly honest memoir, he explores the extent to which his psychosis and subsequent treatment was rooted in race, racism, two identities (Black and British) and mental health stigma. Since making an award-winning documentary about his experiences for the BBC after a tweet that opened up formidable avenues about mental health, David has delved into some shocking statistics – such as how Black people four times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act than white people – and witnessed how sharing his experience has given him freedom to look at his entire life with new perspective.
It’s notable that however honest and open the documentary Psychosis and Me was, this feels more intimate, having read the notes from his time in the psychiatric ward before thrashing out this memoir during lockdown. His writing is frank and level, which means that yes, there may well be tears in the reading of this brutal memoir but his resilience and fight for recovery is apparent the whole way through.
Maybe I Don’t Belong Here is not only a powerful and provocative account, it has moments of being life-affirming too. It’s significance in its rallying cry to examine the systems and biases that continue to shape our society is what make it an imperative read, and despite the triggering content, I urge you do.
Maybe I Don’t Belong Here is available now, published by Bluebird