A Portstewart poet and mental health campaigner has presented a prestigious film award to a local doctor’s surgery as a thank you for their support and as a tribute to a young man who lost his life through suicide.
Carol Kelly, who suffers from bipolar disorder and catatonic schizophrenia, picked up the joint Artistic Film Award- along with filmmaker Patrick Trolan - for the film Considering Carol at the seventh Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival last month.
When it seemed that Carol would be unable to attend the ceremony, Dr James Harley and his wife Celine generously stepped in to fund her trip to Edinburgh for the ceremony after hearing some of Carol’s poems at a recent event in Portstewart Library.
But the couple, who run Portstewart Family Practice, have deeper, personal reasons to be empathetic to Carol’s health struggles and her inspirational poetry.
The Harleys lost their son Seamus - a budding poet and writer - 16 years ago to suicide.
Seamus was 19 and had battled bipolar disorder for several years.
Following Seamus’s death his parents published a book featuring the best of his prodigious prose.
Expressing thanks to the Harleys for funding her trip to Scotland and for their support over the years, Carol said: “I knew Seamus as a fellow sufferer as we both had a shared experience of mental illness and also a love of poetry, so in a way I felt I was accepting this award for him as well.
“I am very lucky; I am a surviving schizophrenic poet but not everyone is so fortunate.”
Carol has exhibited an obvious talent for poetry having produced two books - Champagne from a Teacup andSchizo As it Was - both reflecting on her battles with schizophrenia.
She has held readings not just in Portstewart but also on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and is keen advocate of sufferers from mental health issues to get the help they need.
Mrs Celine Harley said: “We are delighted that Carol has given us the award which is sitting proudly in the reception.
“Carol has gone through an awful lot over the years and really this is her story, not ours. It’s a lovely recognition for Carol.”