Thursday, 5 February 2015

Is anyone else angry at The Guardian?

What does the word ‘Guardian’ make you think of? Connotations of security, safety, anticipated stability, may come to mind. I would consider myself to have somewhat of a childhood attachment to newspaper – having seen it from being small, making tents from its oversized sheets. Yet now it seems the newspaper needs to grow up, not me.
But I am going to start this article with a positive because that is  what taking time to  talk ultimately brings – positivity. Today is Time to Talk Day, a venture launched by the Time to Change Campaign which seeks to end stigma about mental health.

Facing mental illness is tough – for both sufferer and those around them – but talking about it doesn’t have to be.  For example, many people  may fear talking about mental illness due not only to the element of the unknown, but the assumptions of negativity attached to it.

“I didn’t want to speak to anyone about it because my dad said it was ‘depressing’’ one friend told me. Not only here do we see a misuse of language – how can you call something ‘depressing’ when you are unwilling to discuss depression itself(?) but also a fear.

It is my view that no one should have to be afraid about discussing mental illness, whether they are affected themselves or not.  I didn’t want to be afraid today. I want to sit down with someone and invite them to share their views, their feelings.

Yet today I saw something which really frightened me.

I went onto The Guardian website this morning, curious to see how such a large broadsheet newspaper was publicising ‘Time to Talk day’ a major national campaign; I was expecting a headline, possible enlightening voices in the ‘comment’ section. Nothing.  The last article concerning ‘Time to Talk Day’ which is day was actually published LAST YEAR  I am sometimes told as someone with mental health problems my minds may project unreasonable expectations. Was it too much to expect  some support today?
Yet through talking to friends about how much the apparent lack of media support shocked me, I have come to realise that my expectations were reasonable, that my expectations were good.  We should expect a healthy discussion of mental health and that there is the positivity which can be gained from taking time to talk. Talking to others is an affirmative action – ultimately expressing, not depressing. It is the continued silence which complicates issues - as The Guardian has done for me today.

I feel angry.

But talking to people about it certainly made me feel more positive, and that is what I want to share.  Yet according to Time to Talk, - Nearly three in four young people fear the reactions of friends when they talk about their mental health problems. – and therefore the first step is to face the fear in order to embrace conversation.

Fear can take many forms. Indeed I saw it again in  The Guardian this morning. I felt fear myself as I saw no ‘Time to Talk’ logo, no inspiring articles. Instead there was fear fixed-into the headline ‘Clarke Carlisle: ‘I stepped in front of a lorry because I wanted to die’. Here was an example of someone’s admission of suffering from mental health problems used to attract attention, but not  constructive conversation. Why? The article went on to elaborate not about  support or the significance of such a statement, but the threats of police action.

The sensationalising of mental illness in this way is not acceptable. In this way ‘Time to Talk’ is not a special day, because we should be having open conversations about mental health every day, whenever we need them. Sensationalisation leads to complication.

Complications became evident as following the poor coverage of Carlisle’s issues, there was then a Twitter reply from the actor Ralf Little, more than a little unreasonable.  He declared “‘Oh dear. Looks like Clarke Carlisle’s going to get away with it - AGAIN. #Teflon #nonstick,” before adding: “Seems people want context about previous tweet. So let me say, I know the full story and it’s not what’s portrayed in the media. That’s all.”

I agree on the lines that the media portrayal of the situation has not been proper,  but for reasons I mentioned earlier. But also totally improper is Little’s allusion to suicide as ‘getting away with it’, taking what is a brave admission of mental suffering and covering it with his own complaints.  In times where mental illness is still used as stories to sell papers, presented in headlines but given very little information, and trivialised by media statements – we need to recognise that it is time to change.
But I can only do so much hiding behind a typeface.

Some people may disagree with me – some people may think that the typed word is the place to take the discussion of mental health. Many people have recommended that I take my views to Twitter, and I appreciate their input there. After all, the conversation about mental health on the internet in general is greatly important in increasing awareness. But so is face-to-face physical conversation and we shouldn’t shy away from that.

In taking time to talk, to sit down and just talk with another person for five minutes, I shared my feelings and in turn feel a lot more positive. You can too – by talking in the way which you feel is best for you. I am not detailing a specific course of action– just like mental illness does not take specifics into account, so if you find taking online more accessible, then definitely do it. It is just that we should not feel scared of taking about mental illness in the real world either as it is ‘real’ issue, an issue you can go to the doctor with and receive real treatment but also real support.

Mental illness can affect anybody. It is time that  ourselves and the media started being effective in talking about it.

It was talking about it when eventually led The Guardian into talking. But relegated to ‘technology?’ Mental health really is something worth talking about.