With a career in the military and a distance learning course in Awareness of Mental Health Problems under his belt, 64 year old John Munro certainly knows a thing or two about PTSD. Having a keen interest in writing, John was inclined to put pen to paper and create a poem about the struggles of PTSD. His poem, entitled ‘The Gift’ was spotted by a London theatre group, and was performed there as a short play on 17th December. Receiving widespread critical acclaim, ‘The Gift’ is now being considered to be made into a short film and an advert.

But how did this all come about? John was inspired to write ‘The Gift’ after completing his distance learning course with West College Scotland. He chose to study Awareness of Mental Health Problems as he admits to previously having “a lack of knowledge” on the subject.

All elements of the course were very interesting, informative and illuminating.

Despite the fact that John has never set foot on campus, he highly recommends West College Scotland’s distance learning courses to others. He found some elements of the course “quite difficult due to the emotive nature” of mental health, but is glad to have completed it.

John has long been an avid writer and, in early 2017, set up The Gorbals Writing Group. Later that year, John was invited to a Get Creative event at the BBC studios in Glasgow. John used this event to advertise his writing group, recruit writers and network with other like-minded people. Being invited to return to the event the following year was an honour for John, and he was also asked to speak to attendees about his experience as a writer. He used this opportunity to promote his work online and to advocate Director’s Cut, a theatre company which tells emotive, passionate and compelling stories from their own experience and the experience of others. It is this theatre company which took on ‘The Gift’ and turned it into a short play.

John is delighted to have had his work featured on the London stage and is excited at the opportunities which have arisen following this. John would like to thank West College Scotland, the BBC Writers’ Room, Director’s Cut, Simon Fisher (Director) and Shane Noone (Actor) Thriving Places and Gorbals Library, without whom none of this would be possible.

The team at West College Scotland are thrilled that John’s work is being seen by so many, and are excited to see his work as a writer expand.

In order to find out more about, or apply for, our Distance Learning courses, click here.


Mark looked at his tattooed arm
The Regimental crest,his good luck charm
His children’s names he gave a stroke
What happened to that army bloke
He washed himself from head to toe
He had to be quick, so no one would know
He used various toilets for the disabled
People like him, were quickly labelled
Dossers, Tossers, homeless scum
Vagrants, Tramps and even a bum
He’d served his country with courage and pride
No one knew, how he felt inside
For two years he’d slept beneath the sky
As angry people passed him by
Pointing, shouting, hurling abuse
All his baggy clothing hanging loose
His muscles were almost worn away
Though he tried to exercise each day
But people mocked and moved him on
Street living’s no fun, down in London
That Christmas Eve he hunkered down
In his alley he saw the McDonalds clown
Cardboard boxes ‘neath his clothes
Above him snow, was landing on his nose
His balaclava covered his face
But in his eyes he had disgrace
How had he succumbed to PTSD
Was this “Gods” way of testing me?
He felt himself drift into sleep
The snow now lying, inches deep
The tremors ran throughout his skin
This happens when you’re really thin
He heard a crunch upon the snow
And a voice “I’ve got one here to go”
He felt himself rise from the floor
There was five figures, maybe more
He felt himself move into light
“So” he thought, “I die tonight”
Voices swirled, inside his head
Something about “ Big Red”
Hours later he awoke
He was in a bed, “is this a joke!”
A room so warm and clean
This was different from his normal routine
He slowly raised his body up
Saw a kettle, coffee and a cup
An envelope with MARK was plain to see
Who was sending mail to me
He opened it up and read it fast
And then again, to make it last
“We are the Secret Santa Society,
Who’ve all suffered pain and PTSD”
“You’re in a hotel, for the week,
Reception will call us if you want to speak
You are under no obligation
To speak to us about your situation”
“We’d love to help, as others helped us,
You probably don’t want to cause a fuss
We can help you, but it’s up to you,
So what, would you like to do?”
Mark started crying, tears hit the page
He felt like he’d been released from a cage
Time to get back on my feet
Time not to wallow in defeat
He looked out the window, the world was all white
The world had turned to day from night
Today was a new start, he knew what to do
The phone was answered with “How can I help you?”