Warning: contains recycled material.
I must admit, I was unaware it was Mental Health Awareness Week until Lauren Laverne interrupted her excellent BBC 6 Music show on Monday morning to play a little jingle, featuring Prince William, Kate Middleton, David Tennant, Anthony Joshua and various other well-meaning folk. Apparently, hundreds of other radio stations did the same thing. This year’s theme is #beingkind.
I know that this coronavirus malarkey has seen an increase – an explosion, perhaps – of mental illness. It’s bound to have. This is not life as we know it. I don’t wish to sound unkind but the feeling I have with Mental Health Awareness Week is that it seems to be a more of an add-on to real life than an essential part of it
In some ways, things are better than they used to be, certainly when compared to my childhood days when mental illness did not exist, except of course it did. You were either fed up and needed to snap out of it, you suffered from ‘bad nerves’ or you were an inpatient at Barrow Gurney, home of Adge Cutler’s brother Ernie. They kept all the ‘mental cases’ up there. You didn’t want to be a mental case.
Kindly Facebook users post the phone number of the Samaritans in case we basket cases become unable to ask Mr Google ourselves. I’m not quite sure things are that bad yet. I feel a bit like Tony in After Life, who feels like ending it all but can’t do so because his dog won’t be able to cope alone. My ‘dog’ is my family and friends. Unlike Tony’s dog, they would probably cope all right, but I don’t think ending it all would greatly improve their lives. I’ve always been well enough, and self-aware enough, to put a stop to those thoughts long before they become a clear and present danger.
If I’m struggling with the semi-lockdown, God alone knows how people with far worse problems than me are feeling. I would think that there are plenty of people up and down the land who are facing the prospect of visiting a Jobcentre for the first time in their lives, the job they thought would last for life taken away as an unwanted extra to the coronavirus. For those younger than me, having a young family perhaps and a hefty mortgage, these must be grim times, even if the furlough money is still rolling in. Or maybe it’s a distant thought, causing minor anxiety, but you know, everything will be all right in the end.
The thing about Mental Health Awareness Week is what the fuck are we meant to do about it? I can’t see a doctor to tell her/him how shit I am feeling, although I can get a ten minute telephone consultation with a GP I have never seen before. That’s always an easy one, to explain half a century’s poor mental health in a very short space of time. And do you know just how hard it is to tell a doctor you’re extremely depressed when they’re got a day full of advising desperate patients who think they are about to die of Covid-19? I keep thinking to myself that I’d be wasting the doctor’s time. Anyway, what could they do?
Take a few more tablets? I suppose that might suppress the symptoms. It’s good to talk? Who with? The last time I had a major meltdown, in 2017, thanks to those bullying bastards at the British Red Cross, it took 15 months before I was given access to therapy and even then I had to drive halfway across town to get it. I’ll bet the best they could offer me would be telephone therapy. You’d never treat cancer with a phone call, would you, so why try to treat clinical depression with added anxiety down the line? I certainly don’t want a Skype consultation, in case I have to look a picture of myself, a picture I currently hate with a passion.
I’m trying to be kind, though. I’m saying a sincere thank you to shop staff when I get my bits and bobs, I am trying not to pick so many fights on social networks (not always successful) and I am always telling my family and friends how much I love them. I don’t think I always did enough of that. I reckon if there is a God – spoiler alert: there isn’t -when I pop my clogs he’ll welcome me into that great boozer in the Sky with open arms and pour me a foaming pint of Tanglefoot before packing me off to meet up with a few virgins. They’re not confined to islam, are they? What I mean is, I think I’ve been a good person, who hates liars and hypocrites.
I’m just grateful for small mercies, like the love of my family and friends and, of course, Prince William, who is doing a show on the telly next week all about mental health. Yes, I know he’s a royal and lives in a strange existence of luxury and patronage but he also lost his mother, when he was ever so young, in a way that could destroy a lesser person. I think he’s a good ‘un and I am thrilled he has chosen to devote some of his energies to basket cases like me. I’d rather William said a few words on the subject than Boris Johnson, Iain Duncan Smith or Michael Fucking Gove. Not that any of those toe rags would give a toss about the subject.
Still, let’s celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week before it slips away back into the ether and the newspapers move on to something far more important, like who some woman from Love Island is shagging and Boris Johnson lying to me. Again.
I could barely get out of my chair today, never mind take some exercise, which experts and indeed non experts tell me I should to in order to improve my mental health. Well, it’s like this. Because my mental health was so rubbish today, I wasn’t able to take any exercise. If I was to start running every day (perish the thought) or cycle to the back of beyond, I wouldn’t be ill in the first place, would I? They forget this bit, don’t they, the TV experts who advise us exercise is the great cure, that it can lead you out of depression. Of course it can’t, unless you weren’t really depressed in the first place.
I’m so sorry if poor mental health is visiting you for the first time. Do something about it, for sure, even if it is just some antidepressants. If we ever get back to something like normal, maybe we can all get some proper treatment. But if this is the new normal, I might have to stay in bed. Even during Mental Health Awareness Week. If I’m well enough to know it actually is.