“You can buy a used car from me…”

For no obvious reason, I am coming out of a bout of depression that appears to have turned up for no obvious reason. Weeks of fractured sleep, with lashings of anxiety dreams as a kind of Brucie bonus (one for the kids, there), replaced by the deepest of deep sleeps and today the black dog is slightly smaller. For all that, I’m mad, in the angry sense. Too many people still don’t take this stuff seriously.

In recent years, I have been offered or suggested various kinds of ‘treatment’ for my illness and let’s deal with this bit here and now: depression, anxiety, OCD and many other conditions are illnesses. They are illnesses that require medical treatment.

There was a time – to some people there still is – when mental illness was regarded as a figment of your imagination. If you were depressed, all you needed to do was “snap out of it”. It wasn’t the same as a physical illness. In the wake of this, hucksters and shaman crawled out of the woodwork, offering non-medical solutions. Mental health became something you could make money from.

I’ve been offered hypnotherapy by people who do this stuff for a living, once by a man who had literally no medical qualifications at all. I’ve had it suggested that I attend, at great expense, an event held for corporate types by an “inspirational speaker” who, yes, you guessed it, had no medical qualifications at all. I’m just waiting for someone to offer me homeopathy or, worse still, aromatherapy, described memorably by Billy Connolly as “smell yourself better”. And there are “life coaches”. Yes, really. I’ve come across a few in my time on this earth and the ones I’ve met are simply better at bullshit than the rest of us. Incredibly, I was offered the opportunity of learning to be a “life coach” in six months. I mean, honestly! If this stuff works, then why not apply it to people with physical conditions?

I have never heard an “inspirational speaker” tell us how she or he overcame cancer simply by will power. No one ever smelled themselves better with tea-tree oil or lavender. No one’s tumours disappeared as a result of hypnosis. And why? Because – and here’s the main point – physical illnesses are, rightly, treated seriously and conventional, scientifically proven medicines and treatments are used. Mental illness is for some an opportunity, open to exploitation by cynics whose only aim is to make money.

I function, on some days better than others, because of the techniques I have learned through half a century of treatment, drugs and a strong supportive family. I reject “alternative” methods of treatment in the same way a cancer victim would reject chemotherapy, preferring to take a chance with an inspirational speaker.

Until we take mental health seriously in this country, the opportunity for people to steal a living on the basis of a false prospectus will always be here. And we should only believe what’s true, and not what hucksters pretend is true.