Eat My Heart Out - Zoe Pilger
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P - Adele Waldman
Eat My Heart Out - Zoe Pilger
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P - Adele Waldman
If this has, amazingly, pesuaded you then you can apply easily on Labour’s website for just ONE POUND A YEAR.
– you get a cool, really old looking (*retro*) membership card too
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.
Ollie Marchant (almost eligible to vote).
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.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ‘REAL’ AND TRULY IDEOLOGICAL 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.
IS THERE ANY HOPE?
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 change.org, we can heckle – we can fight 2 r rite 2 party + SAB!
@lucykenningham – what is the affinity (me being pretentious?)
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