Earlier this month, I made up a game to cheer me up during these short, cold January days. I’m not claiming that it will work for everyone, but readers may want to give it a try.
The rules are simple. All you have to do is reward yourself with an imaginary £10 every time you hear the words ‘mental health’ uttered on the radio or TV, or read about them in the media.
I find that even on a rainy day I can scrape together a comfortable 50 or 60 fancy pounds, whereas if Prince Harry, a controversial statue or an internet influencer is in the news, I often make a triple-figure sum.
In fact, those who follow the media can be forgiven for thinking that the majority of the population is incapable of expressing annoyance or sadness about anything from Covid restrictions to price gouging or even sexism in the works of art. Shakespeare, without complaining about the adverse impact of the irritant on his or her mental health.
‘Earlier this month I invented a game to cheer me up during these short and cold January days. If Prince Harry, a controversial statue, or an internet influencer is in the news, I often put down a triple-figure sum,” writes TOM UTLEY.
Eavesdrop on almost any industrial court these days and you’ll hear a fired employee complain that the boss showed him too much affection, or too little, and that this was having a devastating effect on his mental health.
Read any criminal trial report, and the defendant will most likely say that he stole his father’s credit card, or drove 120mph on the M4, high on cocaine, because he suffered from mental health problems.
Ask athletes or sports stars to explain poor performance and they will claim that mental health issues are at the root. It’s a multipurpose get out of jail card. Instant victimization for anyone looking for an excuse.
God knows, it is not part of my intention this week to take genuine mental illness lightly, because I know there is nothing more debilitating. I have a great friend who was so clinically depressed that he couldn’t get out of bed for months and I have met others whose despair was so deep that they took their own lives.
I must also state that I am very proud that one of my sons has decided to dedicate his life to caring for adults with serious disorders. It seems to me that this is one of the most noble and selfless careers imaginable.
Eavesdrop on almost any industrial court these days and you’ll hear a fired employee complain that the boss showed him too much affection, or too little, and that this was having a devastating effect on his mental health (file photo)
No, what I am objecting to is the modern habit of labeling every depression we experience in the course of our daily lives as a mental health problem, as if it were a clinical condition beyond our control.
The most obvious offenders are those misguided college students, often pandered to or actively abetted by academics who should know better, who demand “safe spaces” to protect their mental health from exposure to ideas they’ve been taught not to agree with. agreement.
Tell them that the British Empire wasn’t all bad, for example, or that unrestricted immigration isn’t necessarily a pure good, and they’ll run for cover, complaining that we’re messing with their fragile minds.
Ask students of English literature to read Dickens, Trollope, or Walter Scott, all plagued, it is true, with the casual racism and sexism of their time, and they will lament that we are putting their mental health in grave jeopardy.
At that point, it surely doesn’t help when a respected actress suggests, as Juliet Stevenson did this week, that plays like The Taming of the Shrew and The Merchant of Venice should be ‘buried’ as they portray ‘unacceptable’ attitudes. . Oh how I wish actors and actresses would stick to acting, something some are pretty good at, instead of spouting half-hearted political views seemingly shared by just about everyone in their profession.
But this unhealthy obsession with mental health is by no means limited to left-leaning students, broadcasters, and tweeters. Academics at University College London have even devised a ‘depression index’, which purports to measure the effects of the pandemic on the nation’s mental health, according to a survey of more than 30,000 respondents.
This week, if you’re interested, UCL found that between November 1 and January 3, levels of anxiety and depression in Britain rose 24 percent on the scale, from 5.0 to 6.2. That’s a pretty paltry figure, if you ask me, but misery is all the rage these days.
But whatever the truth, I literally meant it when I described the modern obsession with mental health as unhealthy (Stock Image)
No less grim was this week’s announcement from Oxford University Press that the word chosen by children as their word of the year for 2021 was ‘anxiety’.
This was the conclusion of a survey of 8,000 students, aged between seven and 14, who were asked to select from a short list of ten words the one they would use when talking about wellness and health in the past year (the other contenders were: ‘challenging’, ‘isolating’, ‘well-being’, ‘resilience’, ‘bubble’, ‘kindness’, ‘remote’, ‘cancelled’ and ’empathy’).
I note, by the way, that the children chose anxiety ‘after discussing the words with their teachers’. Call me an old cynic, but this suggests that, in some cases, teachers may have goaded them into choosing it as their word of the year.
I certainly suspect that if left to their own devices, they would have chosen a very different list of words to sum up their interrupted school year. It would possibly have included ‘smartphone’, ‘Xbox’ and ‘pizza’.
But whatever the truth is, I literally meant it when I described the modern obsession with mental health as unhealthy. Let’s face it, we all have our ups and downs throughout life, and I know many of us have really terrible lows from time to time. But I can’t believe it’s good for our well-being to label all those lows as symptoms of mental issues.
I know it’s a terribly old-fashioned thing, but I can’t remember anyone from my parents’ generation complaining about the effects on their mental health of being rained down by Hitler’s bombs, night after night in the Blitz. But ask many of today’s young people how they have been affected by mild teasing or other ‘microaggressions’, and you will never hear the end of their suffering.
I also don’t remember anyone from my own childhood skipping school because of feelings of stress, depression, or anxiety. Measles, mumps or glandular fever, yes. ‘Mental health problems’, no.
Children given to despondency or self-pity were told to cheer up, count their blessings, look on the bright side, and generally cheer their ideas. I can’t help but feel that, even in 2022, there is something to be said for this approach.
I also don’t remember anyone from my own childhood skipping school because of feelings of stress, depression, or anxiety. Measles, mumps or glandular fever, yes. ‘Mental health problems’, no
These days, by contrast, I’m told it’s not unusual for kids to cite mental health reasons for sick leave.
Yes, I know that in many ways it is harder for them than it is for us, given the cruelties of social media and other pressures of modern life.
But how can you improve their well-being by bombarding them daily with activation warnings, helplines to contact if they’ve been ‘affected by any of the issues raised in this program’, and endless media articles about the effects of this or that in the mental health of the nation?
It is almost as if they are being invited to become victims of a mental health pandemic as widespread as Covid.
I don’t have space here to rehearse the many proven ways to banish minor problems, such as getting together with friends, taking up a hobby, or simply looking at the sea. I’ll just say that if all else fails, you can try the little game I mentioned above.
The joy of this is that instead of drowning in sadness every time another mental health story comes up, you’ll think, ‘Kerching! That’s another imaginary ten ten for me!
If you have reached the end of this article, you may notice that I mentioned the words mental health no less than 18 times. It’s £180 already in your fantasy bank. Look at it as a bonus to start.