Debating 13 Reasons Why with Woman’s Hour

I was invited to join a debate on Woman’s Hour recently which was broadcast today. It wasn’t politics this time though. We were debating the controversy surrounding the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.

I was invited to take part after the producer spotted my Huffington Post piece discussing the show. I think it was an excellent show for parents and peers, hitting us with all the challenges that teenagers might have to face. However, I didn’t feel it was as good for those who are struggling with mental illness, as it didn’t offer much hope. Additionally, it focussed on giving a voice to the person who had taken their own life, and therefore the finality of the situation didn’t really transpire. Hannah still had a voice.

I was joined by blogger Kate Delaney, who, as somebody (much) younger than me, argued that it encouraged us to have conversations about something that isn’t talked about enough, and brought teenage issues into the spotlight. You can also read Kate’s Huffington Post piece here.

Kate and I also chatted with Alice Newton from the charity Papyrus who felt that the depiction of suicide in the final episode and the themes of revenge were not particularly responsible.

Fancy a listen to the interview? Click this link to hear the full debate with presenter Jane Garvey.

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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Pipe down Piers

There’s a charter for those who work in PR, marketing, accountancy and HR. It’s to promote responsibility. Yet celebrities – who have a much greater influence than I have, for example, in my PR role – don’t have to sign up to anything.

So it’s kind of about trust and good will. What would you do if you had such a powerful platform? If one tweet could reach millions? If you could completely change somebody’s day? Would you try to do something to help? Or would you ridicule those who do?

It’s ironic, really, that Piers Morgan accused Denise Welch of using mental health to raise her profile. He uses his nasty pantomime act to gain attention a la Katie Hopkins. I watched Good Morning Britain one morning on the TV in the gym. It was the interview with Nicola Thorp who was sacked for refusing to wear high heels.¬† It was deliberately provocative, of course. Does he really believe women should wear high heels or face losing their job? Whether he does or not it’s shocking. Shocking that he believes in something so blatantly sexist or, on the other hand, shocking that he is willing to peddle such shite to draw in the ratings in a cheap and nasty Jerry Springer show kind of way.

It’s Good Morning Britain. It’s mainstream telly. I’ve never watched it since leaving the gym that day.

But I couldn’t get off Twitter last night.

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Review: Mad Girl

I’m a bit late to the party with this little beauty from Bryony Gordon. But I’m bloody glad I turned up….fashionably.

Mad Girl tackles the topic of OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. ¬†Specifically, it’s Bryony’s personal experience of living with OCD and that’s why it’s equally authentic, uplifting and pee your pants funny.

First of all let’s get one thing clear. You won’t receive a diagnosis of OCD based purely on the fact that your idea of R&R involves donning the marigolds and wafting the feather duster. That just means you like things clean (or, in some cases, dirty. Ahem). OCD is an illness. And it’s really not very nice.

But the important thing about sharing stories about mental illness, in my opinion, is striking a balance between the often dark thoughts and symptoms and the strength and hope that can overcome them. Mad Girl does this brilliantly.

Bryony’s life has been blighted by dark and terrible symptoms. But overall, all things considered, she’s lived a really happy, successful and loving life. She is living proof that it can happen.

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There’s a party going on in my legs

Bed time. You’re comfortably knackered. And happily snoozy. And cosying up to a cat. It doesn’t take long before….you…zzzzzzzz….zzz…

DING! Wide awake. Some selfish shit has decided to throw a party. FFS!

There’s no music though. Or people. But a shed load of compulsive dancing. Coming from your own damn legs.

Not again.

Restless legsRestless legs. It’s been pretty consistent recently. It’s a tricky one to describe (and to imagine if you’ve never experienced it, although, sadly, many people have).

I get drawn into this cosy state, forgetting that it almost always waits until I’m least expecting it. It’s like a sneaky snake, waiting until I’m practically unconscious before pouncing and injecting its poison.

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What the actual f**k is this!?

It’s tough enough identifying what’s real and what’s anxiety, but what the actual fuck is this!?

Anxiety makes me doubt everything.

‘Chris, the hens are absolutely over run with red mite’.

‘OK love, I’m on my way home, I’ll pick some stuff up to fix it’.

Doubt pings into my racing mind. Did I really see red mite? Yep, definitely red mite. They’re moving, the nasty little fuckers. Poor girls. I’ll clean them out.

Bin bag goes in the bin. Bin bag gets pulled from the bin. Bin bag ripped open to double check if they were really there. Bin bag put back. Bin bag checked again.

That’s the problem with mental illness, as much as you acknowledge it, read up on it, talk about it, it still plays games with your convalescing mind.

But what the actual fuck is this!?

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Sketch 1The buzzing has been constant for so many years I can barely hear it. A doubtful tinnitus. A constant humming, like the electricity in the walls and the distant traffic in a place I’ve lived forever.

Am I intruding on this conversation? Are they flinching from my smell? Can they see me picking my eyes, my hair, my skin?

Is it thinking too much of myself to assume others have crowd funded this hate on my behalf. When I can do it all myself.

Too much, too little, too me, too much. Apologise before you speak. Speak too much then speak some more to say you’re sorry.

Like a mosquito somewhere in a dark room. It’s not clear, but it’s definitely there.¬† And when it shows itself to your ears, you remember what it is. It bites. And it will.

And when it bites, you create two. And four. And eight. And on and on and one more creates a swarm that you can’t see through.

I can hear the electricity in the walls. I can hear the distant traffic. I can hear the jibes. They’re coming from them, and them, and them. Passing the baton from mosquito to moth to spider to a darkness that’s alive and moving as fast as my mind. There’s no such thing as nothing. Dread. It’s telling me something.

How can you seek solace – when you don’t know if you’re running from them, or from yourself?

I know what doubt is. But I still doubt its existence.