Be depressed, be very depressed

Posted: August 18, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

After the tragic suicide of Robin Williams, and this Guardian article:

it seems mental health is headline news right now. As the vast majority of the population have suffered or will suffer from some form of depression or mental illness at some time in their lives, it seems bizarre that it is not dealt with by both the national media and health service more effectively.

But then, whenever I read a story examining the scale of the problem, I feel as if a parade of elephants is making the room particularly cramped. The first elephant is class. If I read a headline on mental illness on the front cover of the Daily Mail/Telegraph/Times talking of ‘people suffering from mental health issues’, it can be loosely translated as ‘middle-class people’ suffering. I somehow fail to see that the long-term unemployed with clinical depression would be viewed by the ruthlessly unsympathetic mainstream media as ‘suffering’, unless they happen to be former doctors or middle manager desk jockeys in the midst of some spectacular spiral from self-congratulatory grace.

The second elephant lurking is tangibility. The mainstream media, whether we like it or not, appeals to base instincts, mob rule and lowest common denominator folk demons, but they all need to take the some form of easily depicted caricature. Mental illness is a lot like climate change in this respect, in that because it cannot be seen or easily distinguished, it is implied to be open to interpretation, or fabricated.

Of course, the notion that certain people can dismiss mental illness as exaggerated or en vogue is ridiculous. We do not exist in some ubiquitous courtroom, where visual exhibits and evidence must be provide for each and every claim, and curiously this same logic never seems to be applied to the institutional deisms. But going back to the idea of discrediting mental illness, the agenda for doing so is much the same as attempting to ‘debunk’ climate change: money.

Our third elephant is corporatism. In a world where everyone with mental health problems had adequate treatment and time off, corporate profits, in the short term, would most likely plummet. A working environment where people feel safe and cared for is not part of Big Business 101. What it demands is dog-eat-dog. Competition. ‘Flexible labour markets’ for the employer only. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, cos there’s ten budding chefs waiting to take your place for lower wages. Absence rates, particularly in skilled and highly-stressed positions, would rocket in the short term, and suddenly employers, particularly big business, would see the country turn into an employee’s market; unheard of in Britain since the late 70s.

So expect plenty of lip service from the national media and Establishment, but nothing remotely helpful will ever be done under this suffocating squeeze of corporate smother. At least we can always go shopping.


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