It is not the ‘mentally unsound’, but the attitudes towards them, which are the real insanity

We may have done away with electroshock therapy and barred windows, commonplace lobotomies and female hysteria, yet the stigma encasing mental health is horrifically prevalent. Self-harm is mocked as a teenage cliché. Admitting to seeing a counsellor or therapist sounds ridiculous. Being ‘fucked up’ is alluring. Strait jackets are Halloween costumes. Akin to feminism, depression, and the entire umbrella of mental health, has become a dirty word.

The dictionary definition of depression reads “a mental state characterised by feelings of continual gloom and inadequacy.” Yet this description of a crippling illness has been disfigured. “I feel depressed”… because of (insert reason here: your text/that movie/the shop not stocking my favourite chocolate) has become commonplace in our language and thus confuses menial sadness/disappointment with genuine melancholy (which is then greeted with the obligatory “you’re being… dramatic/attention seeking/grumpy”).

Ignorance and definition abuse are not the only problem with society’s misconception of mental health. It seems engrained in our culture that physical ailments are far more important and severe than any illness associated with the mind. Are we, as human beings, still stupid enough to believe that if we cannot see it, then something fails to exist? Perhaps I am going too far but I am almost certain that if I went to A&E with a severe case of depression, I would not be treated as fast as the patient with the broken finger. After all, what is more urgent, a fractured digit or suicide? Mental illness, in many cases, can be a life threatening disease, yet is it treated in a similar manner to other terminal illnesses?

The taboo does not stop there, alongside the lacerating symptoms of a mental disorder, there is the shame and isolation which comes only too freely (woo!). Try talking to someone about the hurt and hopelessness you are experiencing, and often you will find awkward squirms, eye rolls with the silent sigh of ‘here she goes again, dramatic rant’ or the opinion that anything can be fixed with a can-do spirit and a plucky attitude: “Just think positively and all this will go away!”

One in four will be affected by a mental health issue in a year. Suicide is the most common killer of men under the age of 35. Over 80% of those with clinical depression are not receiving specific treatment. Society and the economy are ill-equipped to deal with such a disease (and look out – it’s on the rise!). I am well seasoned in doctors, physiatrists, psychotherapists and psychologists; both private and on the NHS. And in both sectors, I have experienced ridiculously long waiting lists, insensitive forms, inaccurate diagnoses and ill-trained staff; “do you mind if I record the session for my supervisor? Can you speak up a little; the camera isn’t detecting your voice?”, “watch your mother cry through a two-way mirror”, “your illness must be due to bereavement, change or relations with those around you.” – (this was then followed by a sense of guilt as the ‘reason’ behind the way I was feeling did not fit into any of those aforementioned boxes). Psychiatry may be a money-making scheme to prey on the vulnerable to fork out 80 pounds an hour to discuss a dream they can analyse themselves (thank you very much). And even if sessions are useful, the fact that demand exceeds supply is still very vivid. Being granted a mere 6 slots of one hour per week will not untangle a harrowing illness, it is a waste of the time for the patient and the professional. This is a long-term illness without a long-term solution. It is vital that the government re-think their approach to mental health. There are more sufferers than there are helpers. A victim of depression may not be able to wait 8 months for aid without causing severe harm, and this needs to end.

I do not mean this to be a long-winded and pessimistic rant of self-pity. But as someone who has been diagnosed, I feel I am entitled to speak my grievances. I do not know if a shorter waiting list would have prevented my dropping out of school. I do not know if an expert psychologist would have thwarted acts of self-harm. If I had not been persistently told that ‘it was all in my head’ or ‘to try harder’ then maybe my self-loathing would have decreased. Perhaps if my friends and family had been understanding, there to listen and to help, and generally educated in mental health, I would still be as disheartened and lost as I am today. But I am sure that the above would have acted as some sort of support or comfort; relieving if only a little bit of the hurt which depression patients find practically inescapable. And that assistance or reassurance can make all the difference.

Depression is not a clichéd, trite, insignificant drain on resources – it is an illness, just because it is inside the cranium does not make it any less cancerous, bloodied or agonising. And if you still think all this is merely off-your-rocker-round-the-bend-foolish-melodramatic-weak-coward-pull-yourself-together-madness, then it is not the ‘mentally unsound’, but the attitudes towards them, which are the real insanity.


Sorry Russ: 5 reasons you need to vote.

5 reasons to vote in May

After recently hearing a story about a girl, in the year below me at school (Year 12), who when faced with the question “who is the current prime minister?” answered, “Tony Blair… Oh, no Gordon Brown” I realised how out of touch people really can be.

What makes this worse is that this unnamed girl (for obvious reasons) was so easily convinced by the people around her that the current prime minister was in fact Ewan McGregor, further demonstrating a serious lack of political knowledge, but also a lack of attention during film classics like ‘Trainspotting’.

This series of events led me to realise just how easily Russell Brand could influence these new generation of voters and whilst I support Brand’s views on drug policies and an elitist political system, I do not support his attempt to convince people not to vote.

Whilst he comes across as the individual we all want to be; attractive, laid back alongside an apparent high intellect due to his ability to speak as though he is writing a follow up to the song ‘Parklife’, his voting ideologies are flawed: encouraging the general public not to vote will not cause the Revolution he prays for but lead to an endless cycle of Tory government. The flaw isn’t mysterious or hard to see; those who benefit from and support the current prime minister, David Cameron, will go out and vote for him on the 7th of May, whilst those who don’t benefit from or support Cameron will not go out and vote, leading to the Tories winning yet another election.

So here I am fighting Russell’s no vote plan with my list of reasons as to why you should vote in May.

  1. It’s your right – whilst this reason sounds cliché, it is not one that should be dismissed, especially if you’re a woman. People died to get you this vote and people are still dying today in countries around the world to earn the right to vote and have a democracy.

  2. It’s a classless act – Very few things in Britain now exist that are ‘classless’ or remain unaffected by class, it doesn’t matter whether you are rich, poor, working class, middle class, upper class, you are able to vote, have your say and make, what is in your eyes, a positive change.

  3. You can righteously complain – We hear many people complain about the way the government runs our lives, yet when questioned further it is discovered that many of them did not vote. Which raises the question, ‘Can they really complain?’, which comes with the answer ‘NO!’. You can not complain about something you had the opportunity to ‘voice your opinion’ in yet chose not to.

  4. It does affect you – No matter how hard you try and pass off that voting/not voting will not change your life you will always be wrong. Almost every aspect of your life is effected by the current government, like how much you get paid or what you learn at school or how much you pay for university. If you boycott the election you are allowing the people with the sense to vote to determine how your life is run.

  5. Nando’s – To quote Nick Clegg when ‘interviewed’ on ’The Last Leg’ “[not voting] is like going to Nando’s and asking someone else (who knows nothing about you) to order for you”

  • p.s. don’t let the fact that this is Nick Clegg put you off, pretend someone cool said it.

If you have read this and thought ‘Okay, I’ll vote next time’ only to find that there are no parties which you agree with or want to vote for, this does not give you an excuse not to vote. Go out and spoil your ballot, draw a penis, cross all the boxes, write some curse words, because spoiling your ballot speaks louder in the turnout statistics than staying at home.

Ollie Marchant (almost eligible to vote).

Depression isn’t cool and pretty like ‘Girl Interrupted’ – it fucking sucks.

I believe that the glamorisation of mental illness/eating disorders/drug abuse etc. by the media has had an extremely damaging effect on the majority of young people, including myself.

A main example of this would be ‘skins’, the now discontinued channel 4 television series. Can I just add in now that I love skins more than any other TV show of that genre or time and if it was still running I would be in Bristol or wherever, begging to become part of the cast; but there is no use in denying that while watching it, we wanted to be the slightly more fucked up characters. We didn’t want to be Michelle, Sid or Pandora, we wanted to be Cassie, Effy and Cook.

Over summer, my 14 year old sister came asking me to do her eyeliner, so she could ‘be more like Effy’. And whilst I’d hope she meant it as wanting to be a bit more femme fatale or just the make-up, it worries me that young girls are potentially aspiring to be the tragic girl, the doe-eyed Marilyn. And this is not even just a British problem. In October, I went to Argentina for three weeks and the first thing most of the girls spoke to me about was ‘skins’ and how much they wanted ‘to be Effy or Cassie’. They wanted to be them, not just the parties and the clothes but their tragedy and vulnerability, and I know they wanted this because as a fifteen year old, I wanted it as well. I wanted to be ‘stressed, depressed but well-dressed’. I wanted to wear all black and talk to psychiatrists, hell I’m pretty sure I even wanted to get institutionalised. And why? Because the generation before us, made it look cool.

This isn’t even just restricted to ‘skins’ or girls. When Stephen Chbosky’s ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ came out on film in 2012, it was showing the benefits of not having any friends and being on your own from the title of the book. Boys wanted to be Charlie because he got to kiss Emma Watson and girls wanted to be friends with him because Logan Lerman is attractive, whereas, honestly, in reality, I doubt anyone would even try talking to Charlie, the ‘socially awkward teen’ if he went to their school. Why are we continuing to idolise characters’ mental illnesses whilst still holding such a strong stigma against it?  We are part of a generation that is glamorising wanting to kill yourself and we’re not even addressing it.

As much as I used to love Tumblr, I doubt I’ve ever gone a minute on the site without seeing a post about being a ‘sad girl’ or ‘brxken’ or having an anorexic girl as their thinspo or a poetry written by an artsy teenager about how sad they are. And it becomes cool. If a tumblr famuz or American Apparel model reposts something about killing your lungs or being depressed or not eating and you already venerate them, you’re going to copy them and smoke more or act moody or upset more often or skip more meals.

Then when you feel happy, you feel guilty or uncool, like it’s cooler to be sad so you put yourself into the mind-set of feeling like shit which leads to actually feeling like shit. And sometimes you can get out of your rut easily, but sometimes you can’t.

I know first-hand what it’s like to suffer from something like this, so I don’t think I’m talking out of my arse too much, but yeah I used to think it was quite cool and then when I was diagnosed, it felt quite fucked up as I was thinking that it was my fault because I wanted to be like this and that was just another problem on top of everything else I was feeling at the time. It’s also really difficult to talk to people about how you feel when you’ve got depression anyway, so I always feel like a bit of a dick when I say ‘I’m depressed’ – like even writing that down just then made me feel like a twat – because due to this manipulation of mental illnesses by TV and films and social media, it’s appropriated these illnesses away from the fact that they are actually serious issues that aren’t being dealt with. This makes it harder to acknowledge that you’ve got something ‘wrong’ with you because, for me, I’m still pretty stuck in the idea that it’s not even real and I’m just being pathetic but yh idk.

And talking to psychiatrists and emotionally and mentally breaking down in front of teachers, school nurses and loved ones is not fun. It is not like ‘girl, interrupted’ or ‘the bell jar’. It fucking sucks. However, having said that, if I hadn’t have told anyone about how I was feeling, I am almost certain that I would be dead now. And I’d prefer to be struggling but kind of getting better than dead (so yeah if you feel like total shite, seriously, I sound like a safeguarding staff, but just go to a nurse or a teacher and tell them, it’s probably the hardest thing you will ever have to do but it is worth it in the long run).

And if you’re reading this thinking, which I really hope you’re not, ‘wow this girl’s amazing for being able to go through all that and still go to school and be nice to people, I wish I was like her’, then you obviously haven’t read the last 800 or so words properly. Just because I am relatively capable of conducting myself in a manner that makes it look like I’m coping with this and I’m still managing to turn up to barely half of my lessons, does not mean that I feel empowered or cool or proud or even happy for being able to cope with it. I will tell you again, reader: this is not something that we should be aspiring to be so stop it.

But yeah, in case you hadn’t noticed, because of my many digressions and little opening up sesh, the moral of the story is that: it’s so ok to be happy, it’s cool to be happy, please just start thinking more happy than sad and as feeling crap is crap and feeling great is great woooooooooo

Ruby Streek (@burlybosoms) is a 16 year old girl currently in year 12. She’s an absolute lass/mess.

What is this affinity I feel with 70s/80s politics?


I miss Tony Benn! I miss Michael Foot! I miss idealism and reverent committal. Where have all the best characters gone in British politics? Dennis Skinner MP won’t be alive forever, and it seems there are few to take his place. Owen Jones is, after all, unlikely to join the House of Commons – and personally I’d rather he was separate from even that form of the establishment.

Politics back then seems to me more ‘real’. ‘Real’ in that people held immovable beliefs, whether it was Tony Benn for the importance of workers’ activism, or Michael Foot for the freedom to wear duffle coats to outdoor Armistice events – or indeed Thatcher for New Right ideologies. The Tories as a whole were still conformist, but their leaders were not; even Harold Macmillan felt incredibly strongly about the need for equality (having originally almost joined the Labour Party).

Future Labour leader Neil Kinnock ‘beat the shit out of’ a Benn-supporter who attacked him at the Labour Party Conference in 1981. I find it hard to imagine Cameron throwing a punch at someone due to a minor right-wing ideological difference. He’s too busy being smarmy and not wearing Donkey coats. But he’s just like us – he listens to The Smiths!

The Tory party always seemed to hold it together. Labour had already been through the Bevan-Gaitskell split of the 1950s – only resolved by the main two helpfully dying to allow Wilson to become PM, but the Conservatives have never suffered such bitter internal fighting. Maybe the answer lies in that they are largely careerists, who don’t have the same cemented and specific ideological drive for equality and justness that the left typically do. Or, it could be explained by their ability to work as a team (which Tony Benn certainly couldn’t), uniting for common purpose and practicality: beating Labour.

Even extremely aggressive tactics couldn’t cause much disruption. Thatcher herself nastily spat at the liberals (the sane) in her Party, condemning them to be ‘wets’ which caused much upset. Yet, the ‘wets’ never split away. They held on to what rather futile personal power they had – treatment I doubt Labour members would have continued their support under.

It worked in terms of Thatcher’s plans, and the party remained in tact – for 18 bloody years. To be fair, they dropped her quite outrageously after a decade or so from typical-wet quibbling fear and replaced her with the formidable John Major. Apparently, the cabinet were pissed off upon discovering Major’s propensity to ask everyone’s opinions, seriously increasing meeting lengths. Under Thatcher, she’d just had to tell them what to do and they’d accordingly adjusted their ‘life long held’ beliefs. Damn democracy.

Nowadays it rather seems ALL politicians are greasy, manipulative and grey – spending their days scuttling around the commons (or not, in many cases) and then dashing between their two expense-paid excessively furnished houses. Not just the Tories, but Labour too.

Greasiness is never more  nausea-invoking than in their campaigning. Thatcher introduced the use of heavy PR in British politics – her acclaimed advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi famously ripped Labour to shreds by exploiting Thatcher’s very dubious ‘housewifeness’ and giving the leader extreme media training – literally lowering the level of her voice in order to project a sense of togetherness.

Likewise, Blair became known as a “presidential” PM, spending millions on a polished campaign and image. This was all part of New Labour, but has become central to the whole spectrum of modern British politics: spin over policy.

I think that New Labour killed everyday radicalism. Or rather, it killed the legitimacy of socialism. A party that had to reject its founding socialist principles in order to get elected pretty much shits all over the idea of being yourself or fighting for what you believe in. New Labour undermined the idea that society could ever be equal by sending a message to the population that Old Labour had it wrong. Old Labour stood for nationalisation, protection of workers rights through unions and unilateral disarmament – peace. New Labour told us these values were not correct. Or actually, who cares what’s ‘correct’ – let’s take the fast track route to glory! New Labour told us that you couldn’t be idealistic, that you couldn’t dream of a society of a high minimum wage, of a mansion tax and of the freedom for politicians to wear duffel coats on cold days. It told us that all parties must befriend Rupert Murdoch in order to gain power – but also the power of celebrity; Blair invited Oasis etc. to celebrate his victory at #10 in an especially smarmy move to exaggerate his interest in youth (YOUNG PEOPLE) and culture (BRITPOP) and in doing so reinforced links between all sorts of manifestations of the establishment. Ironically, Blair was further from “the people” than ever.

New Labour has left society more apathetic than before – “they’re all the same” etc.

Yes, Cameron wouldn’t punch someone who opposed him. But I don’t really think there are many people in Britain who would bother to beat Cameron up in a toilet, not to the point of ‘blood’ and ‘vomit’ anyway. Kinnock wasn’t even leader in ’81 – so the analogy should really be using Boris Johnson or Theresa May as an example, making the situation even less likely to arise.

And there are plenty of good arguments in favour of New Labour as a party – they saved the left, people say… Maybe, but the left has become unrecognisable thanks to it. And it’s harder and harder to find leaders who fully believe what they shout across the benches.


It’s important to realise that saying, “they’re all the same” is lazy. Yes, the leaders may all have similar backgrounds, yes there are policy cross-overs and establishment ties across the board – but our generation could be the change; we can develop personal ideals and project them; we can go on marches (and there is plenty of evidence that young people are the most politically active in this respect) – we can join political parties, we can VOTE, we can canvass, we can be unafraid in our political beliefs, we can wear badges, we can sign petitions on, we can heckle – we can fight 2 r rite 2 party + SAB!

And just have a look at the back benches of the Commons… Angela Eagle, Gloria De Piero – there are still MPs in it for the fight, they just need more people behind them.

@lucykenningham – what is the affinity (me being pretentious?)

What’s the essence of adolescence?

When I was younger, my parents always told me to always ‘be myself’.

At the time I had no idea what they were on about. I looked like myself, didn’t I? It made little sense to me -I shrugged it off, because how could I possibly be anyone else?

But now, at 16, there are trends I’m expected to follow, and people I need to impress; thus ‘being myself’ became forgotten and much less important in the grand scheme of things. Generally it seems, once you hit 11 years old, the awkward self-consciousness settles in, and the way others perceive you becomes the most important thing. If you somehow manage to miss out on this ridiculous rite-of-passage-of-sorts, you’re lucky, because it is possibly the worst thing ever. Society is excellent at leading you to believe that you have to look and act a certain way to be accepted, which is totally untrue.

Eventually though, most of us understand that there are so many things bigger than popularity and fitting in – like doing well in exams and being happy. However, it is difficult to achieve these theoretically simple goals, when we are forced to over-think everything we do. Even leaving the house to get milk becomes a nightmare, as we are scared of the possibility of being judged incessantly as appearance seems to be of paramount importance.

And don’t get me started on school. Theoretically, school is great; we learn important stuff, make friends and eventually get to vaguely understand the way the world works. There can be the struggle of unnecessarily hurtful ‘jokes’ and worrying about looking good enough to everyone else, but that’s sort of expected. Then comes exams, which in theory are fine as well. Except we have to work really hard, and deal with lots of stress, (and aren’t teens meant to be lazy, wild and irresponsible?) Anyway, amidst this stress there are still people entering the exam halls looking pristine and seeming to be effortless in their successes. On top of exams causing short-term panics, their importance in the long-term also casts a shadow of doubt, pressure and responsibility over the 2014 adolescent. The way we are shepherded into exam halls to label our papers with numbers hardly encourages you to really try and “be you”.

We aren’t made to break out of our shells or encouraged to do our own thing so being ‘true’ to ourselves only becomes harder. And that’s unfortunately just the beginning, because the balance between your social life and also working ridiculously hard at school is frustratingly difficult. Which, of course, leads me on to another struggle us teenagers face – working out our futures.

At the age of 14, I was forced in front of a school computer screen and made to take a quiz, which would work out the perfect future career for me. This sounds fine of course; everyone appreciates a bit of guidance, especially when they are completely lost at what to do after they turn 18. The quiz told me I would be an excellent nail beautician. Unfortunately, it didn’t question my tolerance of the smell of nail varnish, nor other people’s feet! There is, of course, nothing wrong with deciding to become a nail beautician. I guess this could make sense if I had received a suggestion that suited me a tad better. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure doing people’s nails all day is super fun, but clearly it’s just not for me.

The point is we’re expected to decide our futures way before even thinking about buying alcohol or driving a car. Apparently we are not responsible and grown up enough to do these things, but we are mature enough to decide what we are going to spend the rest of our lives doing. That’s pretty illogical, is it not? However, logic isn’t at the centre of adolescence – pressure over grades, looks and “being yourself” is constant. Staying sane is a challenge on a good day, and hellish on a bad one. Adolescence is far less about living, and far more about surviving.

Eden Bo Dower, 16

Travelling South America on a budget

leaving chile hitch

Travelling South America has been one of the most eye opening and interesting things I have ever done, and I have realised it is the way you travel which dictates the experiences you have. We are an Australian couple, who studied and lived in Valparaiso, Chile for a year and a half, and then hitch-hiked, camped and volunteered through Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Perú, Ecuador and Colombia for the next year.  One thing which really allowed us to make contact with the culture and people was to learn the language, absolutely vital. Learning a language also shows you a different way to look at expressions, concepts, thoughts and ideas, can make you think about your own language too and why it is the way it is.

While here in South America we have learnt A LOT… about the culture, the history, the food and the people; especially how some people can be absolutely open and kind, while others can be completely and utterly unconscious of the pain their actions have caused. We have had people we met hitch-hiking buy us food, give us money, let us stay in their houses, take us to restaurants, leave us somewhere and pick us up in the morning, among other amazingly kind hearted things. We have also witnessed and experienced acid water being sprayed on us and other innocent people by the government forces. One day particularly will stick with me forever; in Valparaiso, Chile a protest (one of the many) for free education. Some people were dancing and playing musical instruments when all of a sudden, completely unprovoked, a dark green tank like a-war machine comes round the corner and sprays these people with a gas and water that burns your face and body for days after, also preventing you from seeing, guess that’s why it’s called tear gas. Then, behind us we asked some navy personnel if they didn’t want free education for their children and they just laughed, we figured it was a complete and utter lack of consciousness, and they were well too far gone to be reasoned with.

Thanks to us learning the language we were really able to connect with the culture, but even more so by hitch-hiking, Couchsurfing (using and volunteering in various different environments. Here in South America, we have learnt the meaning of inequality where some people don’t have clean drinking water, but some have mansions and 3 cars. We have now realised how very lucky we are to have been born in Australia, to have the opportunities to learn, to travel, to see our world. We have been lucky enough to see glaciers, deserts, mountains, lakes in mountains, volcanoes… volcanoes exploding, rainforests, amazing beaches, waterfalls, the Amazon, the Amazon River, and many more amazing things. Living and travelling in so many different climates really allows you to see the varied and unique beauty of our world, and makes you appreciate them so much, each for what they are. Allows you to appreciate having a house and routine as well as having all your possessions on your back, passing through unknown places you will never see again, it’s all experience, just different.  We have also been blessed to be able to just observe the world go by, not having any real ‘work’ as such to distract us from nature going on around us, watching birds, ants, monkeys, butterflies, the moon and sun just going about their day. This idleness really enables you to start to see yourself in the big picture, the big context of the world and its varied species, the planet, the stars and the sun, the people and the cultures. So if you take anything from this, it is learn a new language, travel, volunteer, study abroad and take notice, pay attention to the world going on around you, stop rushing around and slow down and watch the world go about its days, because it’s going on like that whether you’re watching or not.

With Peace and Love,

Nathan and Olivia


A Really Short Review of… Things Can Only Get Better

O’Farrell describes the book as ‘eighteen miserable years in the life of a Labour supporter’ – accurate TBH (so accurate, I’m not sure why I need to write this review – is it possible to be MORE persuasive than that?) The focus remains political throughout, but the feel is consistently autobiographical. This makes it much more accessible, less boring – and humorous as well (O’Farrell being a satirist).

I read it because I’m studying 1951-2007 Britain ATM – incorporated is lots about Britain’s political system (at a local level), and obv recent+relevant political history. It’s not overly nostalgic, yet for me, the descriptions of the seventies, eighties and nineties were very vivid.

Most importantly (IMO), O’Farrell ensures he is self-deprecating – and that he occasionally mildly insults the Labour Party – which prevents the tone from becoming self-righteous (yuck) and dilutes the earnestness of his political feelings. Overall, TCOGB is a weirdly light-hearted, yet tangible political memoir.

It’s emotional – utterly miserable, obviously, but also heart-breaking (see the 1992 general election) and almost stupidly joyful (guess which election that was). And, obviously, funny. Always funny.

@lucykenningham (more of these dreadful, well written about years 2 come unless you vote LABOUR)