Last monday the dreary old Western Mail posed this question in the traditional NHS manner of blaming patients and the public. There are two main points of view, of course,
11. everyone who complains of depression just needs a kick up the pants and to be told to “Pull yourself together !” and –
2 2. mental illness affects approximately one in five of us at some point and just like any other sick person they need sympathetic help and, perhaps some treatment.
The greatest enemy in the struggle against mental illness is stigmatism, which does manifest itself in many forms – some are deep rooted prejudices, belonging in the pre-Victorian days when you were considered either to be a danger to everyone, a whimpering odd-looking stranger, or a person possessed by the Devil. Also, you have only to possess and demonstrate some minor idiosyncrasy such as a stutter or a neurological spasm or twitch to be perceived as being ‘off your rocker’. When I think of the many people I have seen with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, dementia or Parkinson’s disease, I become very sad to think that they are often regarded as figures of ridicule who must be ‘mental’ to cause such physical peculiarities.
The causes for this ill health may lie in some some genetic aberration, or a major traumatic event, such as losing your job, a divorce, the death of a loved one or – simply – being unable to cope with the rigours of life, because of constantly being poor, or unemployed and unable to provide adequately for your family. After suffering my own anxiety depression, I know how prolonged feelings of sadness, or failing to get a job can become so stressful that you don’t want to eat and sleeping becomes extremely difficult. That’s when you need most help, you’re too frightened to talk to anybody because of stigma ( no. 1 mostly ). You feel that just mentioning your problems will instantly have you branded as ‘mentally unstable’ – a brand that becomes an indelible stain on your character.
In my opinion, being unable to take up a normal role in society shows the failings of our government that thinks it knows what’s best for us, so doesn’t give us any say in any of the extraneous factors affecting our lives. Our government is useless, for what is the point of having elected representatives if they’re too afraid to represent your interests for fear of losing their jobs ? Our councillors and assembly members are moral cowards who won’t follow any issue through to a successful conclusion that satisfies the electorate.
G.P.s prescribe anti-depressants to the 60% of people who aren’t psychiatrically assessed. Cuts in hospital beds or treatment centres mean that primary services will go on administering a mental cosh make up for the lack of proper mental health services.
When you look at the standard of living in Wales, it’s no wonder that most of us are dependent on anti-depressants. R. W.