“At one end of the scale we’ve got four-year-olds being tested, at the other end of the scale we’ve got teenagers leaving school and facing the prospect of leaving university with record amounts of debt. Anxiety is the fastest growing illness in under 21s. These things are not a coincidence.”
Child and adolescent hospital admissions for self-harm have doubled in the last four years and more young people than ever are calling ChildLine about exam stress. We are hearing more and more about the detrimental effects of rigorous testing and examination on children’s mental health, but is there a link? If so, what can we do about it? Is a rigorous schooling system merely a symptom of an ever quickening world? What else might be contributing to mental ill health among young people? Lots of questions here, any thoughts are very welcome.
‘I have a suspicion that society, in its heart of hearts, despises depressives because it knows they have a point: the recognition that life is finite and sad and frightening – as well as those more sanctioned outlooks, joyful and exciting and complex and satisfying. There is a secret feeling most people enjoy that everything, at a fundamental level, is basically OK. Depressives suffer the withdrawal of that feeling.’
What does depression really feel like? Tim Lott has a darned good go at describing it. Give it a read and let me know what you think.
‘What does it mean to be crazy? To have a disorder of the mind. But “disorder” can only exist if there is some kind of pre determined “order” set in place. And who decides on order relative to the human mind? Human society. Sane and insane is a judgment based on perspective. And according to many other perspectives within this universe, it is human society that is rampant with disorder. So there is no reason to think of yourself as insane; if the very mindset of the society that determines whether you are sane or insane… is in and of itself insane!’ -Teal Scott
I started this blog because I think it’s really important to talk about those things that either scare us or make us feel uncomfortable or awkward. Especially when real people are involved.
Let’s face it: in most places, it’s still not OK to talk openly about your depression or anxiety, and I dread to imagine the reaction someone with Schizophrenia would face after their workmates found out. I’m generalising here, I’m aware there will be some exceptions. However, I hope we can agree that this is probably true for most places, whether at work or school, in social situations or with the public. This needs to change. Within the general mental health conversation, the phrase ‘people with mental health issues’ is a current favourite and possibly the least offensive reference so far. It’s important to remember, though, that the most important word of those five is ‘people’. Maybe one day that’s the only word we’ll need to use.
It’s quite widely accepted that human beings have inhabited the Earth for around 100,000 years. In that time, there has been every type of person you could imagine and countless social constructs with their own norms and obscurities, likes and dislikes, rituals, beliefs and practices. It just so happens that in our current construct, at this time, people who have experiences and beliefs that fall into a classification system that we invented have become outcast and ridiculed. In some cultures people who hear voices are considered gifted and blessed with an ability to channel other-worldly spirits. In others, people are encouraged to openly express their emotions and share their feelings with other members of their society in order to work through them and connect with other people on a deeper level, rather than being labelled as weak or attention-seeking. You see, the only thing that is constant between cultures is these experiences, not the way they are viewed by the society. So what’s really more acceptable? For me, arbitrary societal perspectives don’t come out very well.
What’s more, human beings seem to value entertainment value over most other things. Whether it’s a hilarious car crash on You’ve Been Framed or a story about a ‘dangerous’ ‘lunatic’ (often seen in the Daily Mail, watch out for it), people can very easily block their empathy glands as long as they are having a laugh. With something like mental health, their ideas and impressions can also be quite heavily influenced by a narrative that still favours a 1950s horror movie portrayal of someone with a mental illness. Unfortunately, though, this dramatised picture is more entertaining over breakfast than an accurate account. Just to be clear, I don’t think the public is to blame for this. News corporations are largely to blame as long as they continue a blatantly skewed reporting of mental illness and I would like to see much more effort and finances be put into mental health awareness. The main message of any public broadcasting platform should be this: though we may all see the world in our own way, we are very much the same. Let’s share what we see and how we think and progress together. I know as well as you how unlikely this is, so instead I suggest that we work on changing our own prejudices about people who have different psychological experiences than us. If every person were to do this, the job would be done. For now, let’s focus on ourselves, on our own views. That’s usually the best place to start.