I wish it could be Mental Health Awareness Week every week

(With apologies to Roy Wood)

by Rick Johansen

Good afternoon. Do you know what week it is? It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, that’s what week it is. I wasn’t aware of it – yes, that old ‘joke’ again – until I was listening to BBC Radio 6 Music’s ‘Slow Sunday‘ yesterday, where, according to the blurb,  “you can enjoy a soothing run of programmes and a day of chilled out music to help you unwind.” And it just so happened that it did, briefly, help me unwind and escape the worries of my mind and the wider world. I’m not sure that many other people are aware of Mental Health Awareness week.

This year the theme is Movement: moving more for your mental health. The website is full of excellent ideas, too, of what to do and how to do it. I am certain that moving around, any kind of moving around, is better for you physically and mentally, than, say, no kind of moving around. But for some of us, there is a slight problem with this. If you have certain mental health conditions, it is very hard to motivate yourself to do anything at all. And just about impossible if there is literally no NHS treatment available beyond being referred to a couple of websites.

I am not surprised that the government has not bothered to acknowledge what should be a very important week, at least to the mentally ill. I use the words mentally ill deliberately because mental illness is a form of illness. The clue is in the term mental illness. Unfortunately, our so called leaders don’t quite see it like this.

I’ve been high on anger since Rishi Sunak railed against our “sick note culture“, adding, as he did, that there is a risk of “over-medicalising” normal worries by diagnosing them as mental health conditions. Know nothing DWP Secretary Mel Stride claimed that too often doctors “label or medicalise” conditions which in the past were seen as “the ups and downs of life”. Instead of doctors, who of course know nothing about illness and how to treat it, Sunak wants “work and health professionals” to issue fit notes instead. Who better than someone who knows nothing about medicine to tell people who are ill whether they can work or not?

How very dare they attack and belittle people with mental health conditions and insult doctors by saying that they “label or medicalise” conditions rather than actually diagnosing conditions?

My loyal reader may well be sick to the back teeth of blogs about mental health, but let me repeat a few of my greatest hits. I’ve had poor mental health of one kind or another for well over 50 years. I’ve been on antidepressants for around half of that time. For the other half I should have been, but that’s another story. When I was a young mental person, from around 12 years old, I spent a year or so seeing a psychiatrist, to help rid me of panic attacks and night terrors. This blighted my school years. As a grown up, in years anyway, I saw more psychiatrists and once, in my thirties, saw an actual Mister, a consultant psychiatrist. These days? Well, things have changed and not for the better.

When I had my mental breakdown in 2017, there was next to nothing. Six weeks of basic counselling and some more drugs. “Isn’t there anyone else I could see?” I would ask a random GP on-line. “Don’t be silly,” they might as well have said. “It’s just the ups and downs of life.”

One thing that’s true is that people are more open about their mental health these days. When I was seeing a psychiatrist, or attending Off The Record, as I did for years, I thought I was the only loony in town. More and more I now realise I am far from alone.

In fact, I come across more and more people in my life who have struggled or are struggling with depression, anxiety and stress. Only last week I met a dear friend who had succumbed to severe stress, from where every road led to tears. It’s as real as real can be.

Of course, we mental people know that movement is good. But sometimes, I repeat, we are just too ill to move. We stay at home, avoiding people unless it suits us, locking ourselves away in our own personal space, where we feel safe,  or less unsafe, perhaps.

The ups and downs of life” are not just what make us ill. And that loathsome toad Mel Stride knows it, too. Mental health is real and bad mental health feels as bad as anything else when you’ve got it. And having the likes of Stride and that piece of human excrement Sunak tell us to suck it up and get back to work because poor mental health isn’t real makes everything ten times worse.

Mental Health Awareness Week should be one of the biggest weeks on our calendar but it isn’t because politicians think us mental folk are all faking it and the media portrays us as wasters and scroungers. And so people suffer, sometimes until they feel they can suffer no more.

I’ve had a little walk this morning and I’ll have another this afternoon and all the while, I know, I’ll just want to be at home and close the door again. That, to some extent or another, is how it has always been and how it will always be.

At least for some people, for just one week, it will be their week, their mental health awareness week. Next week, we’re not aware anymore. I wish it could be Mental Health Awareness week every week, as Roy Wood might have said. As it is, we make do with one out of 52. Keep moving, if you can.

You may also like