By making light of public meltdowns, we make things worse for those struggling with mental health difficulties.
It’s always horrible to watch someone having a meltdown in public. It’s uncomfortable and challenging. In some cases it can be frightening, as I’m sure it was for the passengers of JetBlue flight 191 yesterday. Having your pilot marching up and down the plane claiming that the flight was going to fall prey to terrorist bombs doesn’t inspire a sense of safety. Jason Russell, director of the Kony 2012 video, also recently had a spectacularly public meltdown which drew huge amounts of comment – most of whom finding his misfortune extremely entertaining. Russell has now been diagnosed as having experienced a brief reactive psychosis. Both cases are easy to mock, because the individuals involved had “lost it”…
“Ever since puberty, ever since I was 11 or 12, I’ve had cyclical depression. That’s something that has been a defining feature of my life as an adult. It’s manageable. But it’s real. And it doesn’t take away from my joy or my work or my energy, but coping with depression is something that is part of the everyday way that I live and have lived for as long as I can remember. … Depression for me, you can’t distract your way out of it. … When you are depressed, it’s like the rest of the world is the mother ship, and you’re out there on a little pod and your line gets cut and you don’t connect with anything. You sort of disappear.”—Rachel Maddow, on depression
I need to write about what it’s like to have mental health colleagues give you shit for working through mental illness.
That would be such an important contribution. I ran a mental health conference yesterday where the Chief Executive of Mind gave a really interesting talk about the Time to Change campaign’s work in reducing discriminatory attitudes in the general public. The director of the Mental Health Network at the NHS Confederation spoke afterwards and basically said that educating the public is great, but so much work needs to be done with healthcare staff themselves as they can be just as guilty of stigmatizing and discriminating against the mentally ill. (I was nodding my head frantically at that point.)
“Being triggered does not mean “being upset” or “being offended” or “being angry,” or any other euphemism people who roll their eyes long-sufferingly in the direction of trigger warnings tend to imagine it to mean. Being triggered has a very specific meaning that relates to evoking a physical and/or emotional response to a survived trauma. To say, “I was triggered” is not to say, “I got my delicate fee-fees hurt.” It is to say, “I had a significantly mood-altering experience of anxiety.” Someone who is triggered may experience anything from a brief moment of dizziness, to a shortness of breath and a racing pulse, to a full-blown panic attack. A survivor of sexual violence who experiences a trigger is experiencing the same thing as a soldier who experiences a trigger, potentially even including flashbacks. Like many soldiers who return from war, many survivors of sexual violence are left with post-traumatic stress disorder. Unlike soldiers, however, they are not likely to receive much sympathy, or benefit from attempts to understand, when they are triggered. Instead, triggered survivors of sexual violence are dismissed as oversensitive, as hysterics, as humorless, as weak. Well. Trivializing the concerns of a person whose traumatic experience of sexual violence has been triggered is a legitimate response. But it’s not a very kind or decent one. I will never understand why anyone wants to be the total jerk who evokes someone’s memories of being assaulted by blindsiding hir with a rape joke (or image, or metaphor, or whatever), in the guise of “humor.” No “joke” is worth triggering someone. Not if you understand what triggering someone really means.”—
Another note about submissions for issue #2: Please don’t think that you can’t contribute positive experiences! This is about sharing your thoughts, whatever they may be. You may be incredibly impressed with your mental health provider, you may be disappointed. I welcome whatever you have to share! x
For the submissions I’ve had so far: thank you so much! Also, I realise there is no April 31st - an error on my part. Just as long as you take away from it that the deadline is end of April, that’s cool.
I’ve had some questions about how people should go about writing something for the zine: do whatever you like! I’m not here to dictate or censor anything; I just want to provide a platform for your voice to be heard. If you’re struggling to write, try imagining that you’re writing a short letter and see if that helps.
Please remember to specify whether you would like to be credited with your first name and age, or as ‘anon’.
THE TIME TO CHANGE CONCERT PRESENTS THE JUDE / CHRISTINA NOVELLI / TOY HORSES + SPECIAL GUEST
Listen up, Londoners: My lovely friend Lucy is putting on a gig tomorrow at the 100 Club on Oxford Street to raise money for Mind and Rethink; two brilliant mental health charities. Click through on the link above to pick up tickets.
Even if you can’t make it, please reblog this and spread the word. Proceeds are going to a very important cause that is personally very dear to Lucy, and myself.
Trade unions and Labour MPs reacted with anger on Wednesday after the government announced the closure of two in three of the remaining Remploy factories for disabled workers with the loss of more than 1,700 jobs.
The other factories face a highly uncertain future under plans to wind up the state agency and float off its profitable parts or sell them to commercial operators.
The announcement by Maria Miller, minister for disabled people, brought to a head a bitter and long-running battle over the Remploy factories, which were set up after the second world war to provide sheltered employment for disabled people.
Most disability charities back the move on grounds that the sheltered factory model is long outdated. But unions expressed outrage, pointing out that the decision came just days after the passage of the government’s welfare reforms and represented a second crushing blow to disabled people.
“At heart, I have always been a coper, I’ve mostly been able to walk around with my wounds safely hidden, and I’ve always stored up my deep depressive episodes for the weeks off when there was time to have an abbreviated version of a complete breakdown. But in the end, I’d be able to get up and on with it, could always do what little must be done to scratch by.”—Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation