Stop using mental health as bait

We all love to boo a pantomime baddie, but that’s usually because they’re stealing a magic lamp or weaving destructive magic spells. We know it’s all made up and we know they’ll get their comeuppance. But yet again, Katie Hopkins and Piers Morgan are enjoying the boos and hisses by taking their pantomime into real life. They’re baiting us with mental health stigma. Sadly, that’s not fictional.

MegaphoneBBC Question Time was a prime hook for the recent onslaught of mental health provocation with Katie Hopkins, rather predictably, tweeting:

‘Breaking news: it is possible to pay for mental health counselling privately if you save hard enough’.

Of course the mentally ill are fair game aren’t they. They’re bound to get upset and have a tantrum. That’ll get the Twitter engagement figures flying. That’ll land more controversial headlines.

It was much the same with Piers Morgan’s recent attacks on Will Young:

‘Will Young does not have PTSD. He has WNTS – Whiny Needy Twerp Syndrome.’

Mental health campaigner Denise Welch rightly called him out which resulted in more mud-slinging from the lovely Piers who called Denise a ‘publicity-starved bore’. Nice.

So why am I falling into the trap and talking about them some more? Because they already have the platform and the airtime. They already have the ears and eyes of millions of people. And they already have the power to influence. Sadly.

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Good morning Storycampers!

I can barely believe it’s been a whole year since I slept in, bodged my eyeliner and didn’t have time to wash my hair before dashing to the train station and winging my way to London for the Time to Change storycamp event.

But it has. A whole year. And in that year so much has happened. Needless to say, Time to Change and all the fabulous peeps there have played a big part in my life.

So I was seriously chuffed to be asked to speak this year alongside Andrea, Shea and Jodie (I love the blummin’ lot of them).

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Don’t demonise social housing tenants

It’s #HousingDay today – a national campaign that, this year, focusses on challenging the stigma surrounding social housing.

I’ve lived in social housing myself – for about five years when I was in my late teens/early twenties on North Hull Estate. It was the house that my boyfriend’s parents grew up in, his granddad lived out his final years there and my then-boyfriend moved in when his granddad was taken ill.

I need to be honest here. I had a comfortable upbringing – in the sticks. I didn’t want for anything – other than for my dad to take the lock off the phone and a more regular bus service to the city. So I fled village life when I was 17 and moved into a one bed flat with a school friend in the Spring Bank area, then slept on a mattress on a floor in a living room for six months with two other friends in a two-bed flat down the road. I worked part time at a print company and did my A Levels part time at college. For a 17 year old this was the bloody life! I was surrounded by students, we partied a lot, we had people round every day – it was the lifestyle my village-dwelling teenage self had dreamed of.

Then I moved into North Hull Estate and things began to change. I saw real life. The difficult challenges that came with it. And the community that supported one another.

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Review: How to be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran

Eeeehh I’m late to this one! As per.

How to be a womanCaitlin Moran, blowing the power of the princess out of the water and leaving it firmly agitating the heads of those who would rather ‘be’ than ‘do’. What a book. Although, I still stand by one princess. She-ra. She had it going on.

As someone who grew up dis-interested in the idea of the princess (my mum might have put me in a dress but I spent my spare time doing impressions of John McEnroe and racing Stuart Fleming on his BMX) it was a shame that it became my sole ambition to be one in my early twenties.

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It’s behind you!

As part of my therapy, my counsellor asked me to write a metaphorical story about me, as a child, and my struggles. So this is a little story about anxiety and the upbeat parts of my personality that I wouldn’t give away – the excitable parts. Would I swap my excitability if it would take away my panic? I’m not sure I would.

I’ll be taking this with me next therapy session to discuss it. Which is kind of nerve wracking. But here goes…


She opened her eyes. They were still sticky from sleep and she struggled to make out the shapes of her teddy bears sitting in a neat row at the bottom of her bed. The dust was floating calmly in the sunshine as it shone through the gap in the floral curtains.  The mass of teddy-like shapes gradually sharpened up and she could make out her favourite bear.

It was morning.

But wait. What was that? Was that a dark shadow lurking behind her purple woollen bear?

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EastEnders: Is it wrong to portray somebody with mental illness talking to themselves?

This will probably go down like a lead balloon….and I will state right away that I am completely happy to be challenged on this – you might even change my mind…but here goes…

I know that there has been upset regarding the Lisa Fowler storyline in EastEnders. Her character returned to the Square and within days was seen talking to herself in what people believe is a stereotyped portrayal of mental illness. But there’s something that I, personally, think we are getting confused with regarding portrayals of mental health.

Whilst I don’t believe we should betray people as scary, frightening and irrational, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t portray mental illness in that way. It is, after all, pretty scary sometimes.

So I think with this EastEnders storyline, it all depends on what happens next. It all depends on the context. Do we get to see Lisa the person, or do we only get to see Lisa the ‘crazy person’? That’s when I might want to raise a complaint. But I’ll give it a little time yet.

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Book Review: If They Could See Me Now Author: Denise Welch

Denise bookI read this within 24 hours. As the first sentence in a review of a 350+ page book, that says quite a lot. I barely put it down – in fact, I think my copy will have my breakfast crumbs firmly embedded in the pages now…

This is Denise’s first novel – and I admit I am a little behind as it was published in early 2016. Late to the party – again! But I’m glad I turned up eventually.

The story focuses on Harper, a 53 year old with a rich husband living the high life in Cheshire with the ladies that lunch. So I wasn’t convinced I would relate, but I thought I’d give it a whirl…

Thing is, this isn’t so much about the superficial bits of Harper’s life – other than showing how truly superficial they are. It’s a study of relationships, love, abuse, bullying, self-esteem, mental health and independence. It explores how the family dynamic impacts on each member and reinforces a particularly important lesson in life – that you should never lose sight of who you really are.

Harper makes a huge sacrifice for love. Or at least, for what she wants to believe is love. And this story shows that abuse doesn’t have to have physical signs. That bullying doesn’t have to involve fighting. In fact, what’s important in this story is that the person experiencing the bullying and abuse may not even realise it. And when you paint a smile on your face, nobody else need realise either.

How many of us have sacrificed parts of ourselves for somebody else? I know I have many years ago. I look back and think, perhaps it was because I was young? Perhaps I was naive. But it’s not just about being young and naive, it’s far more complicated. It’s often impossible to see it when you’re on the inside. When you believe that this is the best that love has to offer. When your self-esteem has hit an all time low. Sometimes, you can’t even see that, either.

I don’t want to give too much away, but I think what is also incredibly thought-provoking in this book is the impact that relationships can have on the wider family. And how within a family, it isn’t simply a series of individual relationships, but a bigger, whole relationship with individual parts and bonds that all react to one another – both positively and negatively.

It’s about love. Who you truly are, who you love, and allowing a little love for yourself, too. It’s not about neutralising one for the sake of the other. It’s about combining and accepting all the best, and worst, bits of each other, of a family, and making something really special. It’s the only way to thrive. Compromising who you are is a strong indicator of something toxic creeping in…

But can Harper see that? Give it a read and find out.

If they could see me now which is published by Little Brown is available to buy online – click here to order.

Panorama – a prescription for propaganda

So the recent Panorama has caused some controversy. It was entitled ‘A prescription for murder’ and was supposedly an investigation into the dangerous effects of antidepressants.

In my view, it was wholly unfair and served to reinvigorate stigma around medication. Of course, I’m not suggesting that taking SSRIs is a risk free business, and I am certainly not suggesting that serious reactions do not exist. I was, however, accused of doing so after publishing an article with the i Newspaper. My problem was with the portrayal. Not with the idea that some people may experience frightening symptoms.

Click here to read my i News article. I’d love to know your thoughts on the topic as well so please do comment below.