Old joke alert:
Q. Did you know Piers Morgan has had an arsehole transplant?
A. Yes, it rejected him.
It’s not very funny, but in a country where we currently have a surfeit of village idiots, Piers Morgan is near the top of the tree. Just look at his comments on mental health among men: “I’m not convinced by this new trend of male public soul-bearing. Time for our gender to get a grip, methinks. Life’s tough – man up.” There is so much wrong with this on so many levels, I hardly know where to begin.
Does he mean me, as former newspaper editor Derek Jamieson almost said? He surely does. Little old me, in the business of “male public soul-bearing”. I need to “get a grip” and “man up”, adds Morgan, “Life’s tough.”
Firstly, most experts in the field say that being honest and talking about your mental health is “A Good Thing”. I think it is, although I say so with a few qualifications. In the last decade or so, I have decided to “come out” as a clinical depressive, with added anxieties. My loyal reader will know I have had therapy and counselling at some point throughout the last 48 years and I have taken enough drugs to stock a small pharmacist shop.
My qualifications about “coming out”, something recently echoed by Ruby Wax, include telling your employer or potential employer. In recent times, I have told my employer of my health issues and if anything attitudes changed for the worse. The sheer ignorance, the continued stigma in the most unlikely of places has startled me. It was as if whole swathes of the country gained their mental health education by listening to Piers Morgan.
Is there any way in can be explained to Morgan and people like him, of whom there appear to be many, that I do not need to “man up”, whatever that is supposed to mean, perhaps expressing a greater amount of machismo and just deciding to not be depressed any more? Oh for fuck’s sake.
Morgan, it must be said, does divide opinion. Some people think he’s an arsehole and others think he is a complete arsehole. I don’t know anyone who actually likes or respects him, but I suppose people with little taste and too much time on their hands must tune into breakfast television to get their fix of ignorance. If they get off on his brand of ignorance, I feel very sorry for them.
Is Morgan urging to get a grip by abandoning what little mental health care is available and become mentally strong, as Tommy Cooper put it “just like that”, in which case why didn’t I think of it before? Morgan seems to think I should just snap out of my frequent low moods, self-loathing and inability to consume facts or information by the simple process of getting a grip.
I do not wish to belittle other people’s illnesses, but would Morgan say the same thing to someone with a serious physical disease? “You’ve got cancer? Get a grip, life’s tough, man up!” Quite rightly, even Piers Morgan probably wouldn’t go that far and nor should he. How could a supposedly intelligent man show such sheer crass ignorance to a life-destroying medical condition? Would he say the same to those with chronic bi-polar conditions or OCD? I fear he probably would.
It is not so much that Morgan really seems to believe that having a life ruined by poor mental health is somehow a life choice, it is the affect he could have on both those whose lives are being ruined by poor mental health and those who read the comments of this prominent broadcaster as he reinforces the very stigmas we are trying to remove.
I would give almost anything to not have these wretched demons. I did not decide as a young child to endure night terrors and anxiety attacks, I didn’t wake up one day in late adolescence and choose to be clinically depressed. But it all happened and I find it sad and distressing that some people still seem to think mental illness is just being fed up.
For all the encouraging media talk on mental health, I am not sure anything is changing, if anything things are getting worse. Since 2010, government spending on mental health has been slashed to the bone and we know that all the fine words from here today, gone tomorrow politicians like Theresa May are just that: words.
As Piers Morgan reminds us, be careful who you tell about your depression or anxieties. Don’t, whatever you do, keep it to yourself, but there are more people like Morgan than you might have imagined and many are in the most surprising places. You can trust your GP and your family and friends will hopefully have a less prehistoric attitude than a tinpot TV presenter.
Piers Morgan makes me angry, but more than that, attitudes like his, which remain deeply rooted in much of the public consciousness, are still common. And I find it literally depressing.