I wasn’t sure whether or not I should write this. I will be treading on some sizeable eggshells in order to try to make an argument that many people will not want to hear. Oh well, here goes.
I think we are in danger of letting the phrase ‘mental health’ become devalued. There, I’ve said it. I know that every politician is cheered to the rafters when they mention mental health, and as a result most of them now regularly do, whether they previously had any interest in it or not. Interview any person on the street and ask them what the biggest issues facing the country might be and they will feel obliged to include mental health, because that is what they have heard everyone else say. Not a day goes by without learning that a celebrity had a ‘mental health issue’ and as a result you hear of every man and his dog now excusing bad things they have done by explaining that they had mental health issues, knowing that this will turn annoyance into immediate sympathy or a reduced jail sentence.
I think we are in danger of losing the focus on the importance of genuine mental health concerns by throwing the net over basic emotions. For example, say I did really badly in my exams (it is not hard to imagine). In the old days I would get very depressed, annoyed, and maybe angry. Then I would pick myself up and maybe try to retake them. People would put their arm round my shoulder, give me words of encouragement, and help me over the bad times. Nowadays, I would be able to wallow in the fact that my bad exam results had given me a ‘mental health issue’. If you think that sounds far-fetched, I heard a young girl on the radio recounting that exact scenario. By using a medical term like this, it trivialises people who are genuinely suffering from mental health problems and cannot live without medication. We have to draw a line between an illness, and an emotion. They are two different things. I appreciate this is not always easy to do. If you are feeling a bit depressed, and are prescribed anti-depressants which help, have you suffered a mental health issue, or was that just a over-stimulated emotion caused by a bad thing, or combination of bad things, happening to you?
I do think there is a lot of bandwagon-jumping going on at the moment, not helped by having so many famous people ‘coming out’ and thereby encouraging the general public to think that admitting they have a mental health issue is a great thing to do, whether they have one or not.
I know I am no expert, but then nor are most people who self-diagnose and then publicise their condition. Let’s just remember that we all have emotions that make us happy and sad, and having a genuine mental health issue is a level above that. Aaahh, shoot, I’ve got egg yolk all over my soles…..