Tuesday, 10 January 2017
As a rational, middle aged, heterosexual cis-male white man, there are many issues about which I am actually not allowed to have an opinion. Mental illness is one of them, so here it is; it’s mostly bollocks. If you were offended at this point you may be a bit doo-lally yourself; I didn’t say it was all bollocks, just mostly. Mostly because if you treat every bit of instability every bout of sadness, every losing-it moment as a condition warranting medical attention, then you must be insane. But hey, in a world where everybody requires their own individual, highly personalised, bespoke bit of disadvantage in order to ‘compete’ it is little wonder that eventually the madness would filter up to government level.
Theresa May is putting the crazy back into constituency, the wacky back in ward and the barmy in the ballot box by a token financial gesture towards mental well-being that has already produced demands for even more. Because, of course, that’s the way with the welfare state; once you open up another box of bonkers, there’s no telling where it will lead. Actually, that’s a bare-faced lie; we already know exactly where it will lead. Case after nutcase will grab the population’s imagination as the scope of Project Mental Britain creeps until no lunacy goes unrewarded. It’s your human rights, innit?
Mad axe murderers, gibbering psychotics and howlers at the moon are clearly a danger to themselves and others. It’s not them we’re worried about. Oh, except maybe for the axe jobbies, because insanity has long been a basis for criminal defence. Indeed, many recent unfortunate incidents of the jihadi Joe variety have been excused on the grounds of poor mental health, or as it is more widely known, islam.
But I digress. The point is that, like learning difficulties, the sort of mental health that May is inexpertly pontificating about exists in a continuum; there isn’t one position on the scale at which shyness becomes pathological; there isn’t a dividing line between anxiety and clinical depression. And while awareness is all well and good, bringing it into the classroom as has been suggested is akin to what has happened with education; nowadays if you don’t have a special educational need you have to struggle along all by yourself.
So watch the list of mental maladies grow with each passing year, each providing fodder for a burgeoning industry. Think I’m making too much of this? Then consider the growth of counsellors, life coaches and desperate chancers, all cashing in on the insecurities and snowflakery of the upcoming generations. If neuroses are going to be the basis for the new age cuckoo community then almost by definition the following are mentally ill: toddlers, teenagers, fatties, goths, lefties, the socially awkward, serial fad-followers, cat ladies, loners, hypers, ghost-hunters, god-botherers and anybody who leans on the crutches of difference.
The low self-esteem machine has been steadily churning out inadequates ever since some people realised there was money to be made in identifying and labelling the normal fears we all have as treatable... for a price. According to recent reports, seventeen million man-hours a year are lost through mental ill health – or is that actually immeasurable bollocks? And how come those who study aberrations of the unbalanced variety are invariably needy, unstable nutters themselves?
But, if we are going to formalise hysteria at a national level and classify it so as to allocate funding we need a more accurate metric. I propose The Streep; a unit of self-harming self-delusion at which fantasy and reality become sufficiently indistinguishable as to be capable of affecting everybody in the room. After all, if going bananas is going to be taken seriously we need to consider the very real probability that it is contagious; it could affect the whole bunch. So line up for your sick note, form a disorderly queue, get your diagnosis here and pick up your cash from the chemist; you’d be mad not to.