October is Mental Health month, and for me, it began with the news that my latest book was voted Jack the Ripper Book of the Year at the Jack the Ripper Crime Conference in London. Many of the 333 suspects described in the book suffered from what we might now call mental health disorders. Then the term was insanity. In 1894 Sir Melville Macnaghten named three suspects as more likely murderers than the lunatic Thomas Cutbush and described them all as insane.
Montague Druitt drowned in the Thames shortly after the murder of Mary Jane Kelly. His suicide note said that he felt he was going to be like his mother, who was in a lunatic asylum. Aaron Kosminski was sent to an asylum after a doctor said that he claimed to know the movements of all mankind and was governed by an instinct that told him to refuse food and eat of out the gutter. Michael Ostrog attempted suicide and was twice sent to a lunatic asylum. A barrister, an immigrant hairdresser, and a Russian conman connected by a policeman’s notes and their mental health.
This unlikely trio are joined by, amongst others, a publican who painted his dog, drunks who falsely confessed to murder, medical students, the East End Poet, and Vincent Van Gogh. Mental Health can affect anyone, and we can all help by raising awareness.