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Health News - Diagnosed with a personality disorder in 2005, Paul is now training staff who cared for him

Koestler Award winner reaches out to homeless

Published: 19 September, 2011

IT has been six years since Paul Ashton was featured in the New Journal, when a painting by the former homeless man, sectioned to a secure mental hospital after being diagnosed with a personality disorder, won a prestigious Koestler Award.

A print of the striking image of Tony Blair entering Downing Street wearing a hoodie was sent to the former Prime Minister’s home.

“It was around the time that they were attacking people who wear hoodies and I just thought the whole thing was stupid,” Mr Ashton recalled. “I wear a hooded top sometimes. I thought I’d send him [Mr Blair] a painting of him in one.”

Mr Ashton was released from section in the Tony Hillis Unit in Lambeth Hospital in 2007.

He was taken there in 2005 after a diagnosis of personality disorder, one of the most controversial of psychiatric diagnosis.

Now 46 years old, Mr Ashton said: “Getting the actual diagnosis in 2005 was a real relief for me. It gave me a base to work from.

“I’ve learnt that it’s partly genetic and partly environmental.

“It’s to do with the emotional regulator in the brain – I have difficulty regulating my emotions.”

He added: “There are a lot of schools of thought and research is being done into a possible cure, but it’s early days.”

After two decades on the street, Mr Ashton has found a home and got his life on track.

He has trained as an adviser and is working with staff in hospitals, prisons and secure units, raising awareness about his mental health condition.

He said: “Since my time at the Tony Hillis Unit I have achieved so much.

“I was homeless myself for 20 years and now I want to go on to help other homeless people, the vast majority of whom suffer with some form of mental health problem.

“I want to let people know that we aren’t all just a bunch of loons, not like the way the general public and the media perceive us”.

He added: “I now have a place of my own and I deliver training to the very same staff who looked after me when I was a patient.

“I have also co-written a paper with one of the people I did my training with.”

Mr Ashton had his paintings displayed in a gallery in central London earlier this year and one portrait sold for £600.

All of the art on show at the UK Koestler Exhibition of Art displays art by men and women held in prisons, young offender institutions and other secure units, ranging from Broadmoor to Holloway.

This year’s three-month Koestler Awards art exhibition opens on September 21 at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, SE1.


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