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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Review: Black Eyed Susan

So I was chuffed to bits that the wonderful Denise Welch allowed me to have a sneak peak of her forthcoming short film, Black Eyed Susan. Here’s my review.

As a mental health ambassador who has spoken publicly and at length about her battles with depression, it’s perhaps no surprise Denise Welch’s first project as a film producer brings the subject into focus.

Capturing every shade of a depressive relapse, Black Eyed Susan, the short film she has made with writer and director Nick Rowntree, explores the despair, the isolation, the darkness, the why.

black-eyed-susanIt chillingly portrays the front you put up before retreating from your friends and heading deep into its grip; the inability to see the detail in the world around you; the change in pace and the dissociation from time, before it becomes all-consuming and takes every last piece of energy, of self-worth.

Welch, perhaps best known for a lengthy stint in Coronation Street and a decade on the Loose Women roster, brings all of this to the screen with complete authenticity.

The plot of the film, which will undoubtedly be making its presence felt on this year’s festivals circuit, is one of deep-rooted psychological abuse. Of the torment experienced by a woman at the hands of a teenage boy who unexpectedly returns to taunt her and intrude on an otherwise happy life.

Read the full article on Standard Issue

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Review: Leaving

Written by Paddy Campbell, directed by Amy Golding

At Northern Stage, Newcastle until 4th March

Then Bath (13th March) and Exeter (15th – 18th March)

leavingWhat happens when a young person leaves care? The only life they’ve ever really known. They don’t know how or why they got there, or who they really are, but it was in care that they survived.

And then they turned 18.

There is no gradual transition from child to adult for care leavers. It happens at the flick of a switch. No sooner have they cracked open their first legal can of Oranjeboom and they’re catapulted into an unfamiliar and lonely new world.

Leaving is verbatim theatre – a form of documentary theatre based on real experiences and transcripts. Writer Paddy Campbell (Wet House, Day of the Flymo) and director, Amy Golding (of the award-winning theatre company, Curious Monkey) are giving these young people a chance to be heard. In their very own words.

In fact, they’re giving the sector a chance to be heard, as the play is based on interviews not only with care leavers, but also with support workers, social workers, teachers and MPs. It’s a fully rounded view of the system – with experiences that are good, bad, tragic, funny, frustrating, inspiring and above all, true.

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It REALLY couldn’t happen to a nicer…actor

For my latest piece for Standard Issue, I interviewed my other half, or, as our editor put it ‘I took my work home with me’.


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Chris (right) in Wet House at Live Theatre with Riley Jones. Even loud, menacing actors can experience anxiety. (Don’t worry – he’s not this angry in real life).

When I saw Chris Connel on stage in his underpants it was love at first sight. Covered in fake marinade and lipstick, he had audiences in stitches every night as Stuart the hapless baker in Lee Hall’s dark comedy, Cooking with Elvis.

Don’t worry, that’s as Mills and Boon as I’m going to get. Put simply, I fancied the arse off him, fell for his terrible chatup line at the theatre Christmas party and the rest is history.

So it’s fair to say I got to know him pretty well over the years. And we have lots in common. Our obsession with Homeland and Gary Sparkles bingo; our love of Cat Stevens, big dinners and garden centres – and a shared experience of debilitating panic attacks. See, the thing is, as I’ve mentioned in previous articles, anxiety doesn’t just strike the wallflowers. Proud, loud, blokey actors get it too.

When I went to seek help because I thought my throat was going to close up and kill me aged 19, it was explained to me that I was suffering from anxiety, and I was offered a combination of medication and talking therapy. I took the talking therapy. It kept things pretty manageable for many years.

When Chris went to seek help because he thought his heart and lungs were going to kill him aged 19 (spooky eh?), he was told it was anxiety and sent away with nothing but propranolol (beta blockers). No explanation, no conversation, just drugs that didn’t even touch the sides.

Read the full article here on Standard Issue

Who do we have in power? A snake in the grass or an untrained Rottweiler?

As published on Huffington Post, featuring interviews with Dr Kevin Dutton and Dr Clare Hart.

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(c) Awakenedeye Dreamstime.com

We’re all experts when it comes to diagnosing Trump. Twitter confidently informs us that he is a ‘psychopath’, a ‘narcissist’, ‘schizophrenic’ and possibly suffering from ‘Alzheimer’s’.

Seeing as everyone else is at it, I’m going to jump on the psychology bandwagon too and have a go myself. However, I don’t agree that we should label Trump schizophrenic or suggest he is suffering from Alzheimer’s. He might be. But, even with my incredibly limited knowledge, I am confident that the Trump headlines are not typically representative of either diagnosis. So let’s leave those two be. It’s an assumption that I feel is a massive insult to anyone who lives with those conditions.

So, what have we got left to play with? Psychopath, narcissist or both?

Read the full article here on Huffington Post

A tribute to the village genius

My latest piece for Standard Issue magazine. A tribute to an old friend.

If you lived a quaint village life, you inevitably had to learn to drive. East Yorkshire villages didn’t have the same level of drama as Emmerdale. Well… unless you listened to the gossip from the Bay Horse pub.

But that was mainly limited to a bit of middle-class swinging as opposed to aeroplane crashes and lightning strikes.

So, seeking inner city excitement, most of us moved into various bedsits, flats and housing estates in Hull. Martin didn’t. He had the brains. While all we were aiming for, uni-wise was the ‘Eat Your Words’ club nights at Hull Students’ Union, Martin studied. He was the IT guru among us and, more often than not, the designated driver. He was dependable, loyal, quiet and studious.

Read the full article here

Weak? Scary? Violent?

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I wrote the following article for the Journal. Published 08.10.16.

It’s World Mental Health Day on Monday. But why should we care?

I have a mental health disorder. You can often find me on Northumberland Street, shaking like a leaf, muttering to myself and pushing eighteen cats in a pram.

That, of course, is a big fat lie.

If you bumped into me on Northumberland Street tomorrow, you wouldn’t even notice me. Sadly, I’m just not that interesting.

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