Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Layer 419 . . . Mental Health, Women (and Men, and Children) in Crisis, Education, Pills, League Tables, Bankers, Giffords, Palin and the Tea Party

Time to get back to the newspapers for a dose of harsh reality . . .  for a top-up of disgust at the state of the world.

If anyone happened to read Layers 412 and 417  and thought I was over the top with my comments about miserable, burnt-out young people and the amount of mental health issues in our society, then think again.

"Is it any wonder that so many children, and so many adults, are borderline insane? And so many of them are . . . literally . . . driven insane. Or become morose, depressed, angry and resentful."

This week the Guardian carried this report:

Mental health of women in crisis

According to survey of 2,000 girls and women, around two-thirds have had mild to moderate mental health problems

by Amelia Hill

Almost a third of women aged over 18 have taken antidepressants, according to research published today which its authors claim reveals "generations of women in crisis" with mental health problems.

According to a survey of more than 2,000 girls and women in England and Wales, around two-thirds have had mild to moderate mental health problems, equivalent to 15.2 million girls and women.

Penny Newman, chief executive of Platform 51 (formerly the Young Women's Christian Association), said: "Millions of girls and women are facing mental health problems and they are telling us that they are not getting the support they need."

At least 13% of women experiencing mental health problems had quit a job while 44% had taken some time off work; more than a quarter had been off work for at least a week, the research showed.

The findings into the extent of mental health problems experienced by girls as young as 12 were reached after the group expanded the medical definition of "common mental health disorders" as defined by the Department of Health.

The definition of mental health problems used in the new study includes low self-esteem, poor self-confidence, and stress.

"This term captures the range of feelings and symptoms which negatively impact on girls' and women's mental health and which can have more serious consequences if undetected or unaddressed," said Newman.

"What is most striking about these behaviours is that they are often self-destructive and hidden."

About 20% of adult women in England suffered from a common mental disorder – typically depression or anxiety – compared with about 12% of men, according to an NHS report last year.

Professor Louise Howard, head of women's mental health at King's College London, said the figures were "very interesting and relevant". She said: "There is evidence that there is under-identification of people with mental health problems that need treatment."

The research includes women with emotional difficulties as well as those with mental health problems, she added. "But any of the stresses that these women are reporting can lead to mental health problems. Depressive symptoms can persist and need treatment but some women will feel that they have to keep on coping because they have all these people depending on them."

Platform 51 works with 11,000 girls and women in schools, community centres, youth clubs, mother and baby units, and prisons across England and Wales. Its study found those they identified as having mental health problems attempt to cope with their distress in damaging ways. More than a quarter regularly drink too much and many isolate themselves from friends and family: almost a half had not left their homes for a long period and more than a quarter had lost friends.

One in five had built up debt. One in 10 had self-harmed – a figure that rises to 35% for women aged 18 to 24.

"Many women appear to be functioning normally or coping adequately with particularly difficult situations when in fact they are struggling to cope," said Newman. "But we identified many risky behaviours that girls and women engaged in as a result of mental health problems, including promiscuity, drug-taking and crime."

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, said: "This survey is shocking and covers a myriad of distress."

Colin Walker, policy and campaigns manager at mental health charity Mind, welcomed the report but said his organisation's research showed men and women experienced mental health problems such as depression and anxiety in roughly equal numbers.

"But men are less likely to speak out or ask for help," he said. "This tendency to suffer in silence is reflected by the fact that men account for 75% of all suicides."

Around one in three women with low-level mental health problems have never sought professional help, the report, "Women Like Me: supporting wellbeing in girls and women", found. Of those who did seek help, almost two thirds felt doctors were too ready to prescribe drugs.

So here's more evidence that huge numbers of people have mental, emotional, social and spiritual afflictions, who also know that getting drugs from doctors is NOT the answer to their problems.

How and why do these afflictions occur in the first place? What can possibly be done about them?

Why do so many of us suffer from  low self-esteem, poor self-confidence, and stress? Why haven't we learned how to overcome these problems? Why don't schools and other agencies do more to prevent these problems occurring in the first place?

Well - nobody asked them to. Not in this country. On the whole. Nowhere is it a requirement to ensure that pupils acquire more resilience, self confidence, and high self-esteem. Nowhere are these things prioritised any more. Maybe in some schools here and there, where the leadership is more enlightened, but there's no expectations - not seriously - from government, bureaucrats or Ofsted, whose sole concern is with academic success and test results. It's an appalling situation.

We all let our hearts bleed about the poor sods who are cracking up all around us, in so many ways, and all we do about it is send these people to get their anti-depressant drugs to help them 'cope'. These are people who ought to have been able to develop their emotional intelligence, social intelligence and spiritual intelligence whilst at school, in order to prepare them for living in the big wide world, and all they got was pressure to achieve in exams - in order that the schools could do well in the league tables and deal with the Ofsted inquisition.

Look at these schools squealing today, as the government shifts the goal posts once again, and they suddenly find themselves failing to meet the arbitrary targets again. Not so smug now, eh? So why haven't they been doing more to fight the very idea of targets, league tables and so on? Surely not because they thought they were doing pretty well . . .

Notice how the schools are now being accused of "failing to prepare pupils for the workplace". NOT 'prepare them for living in a challenging and complex world'. Not ' prepare them for managing complex relationships'. No - we just want them to be able to satisfy the demands of employers. That'll do nicely.

Meanwhile lives are wasted and ruined, kids are getting burnt out by the age of eighteen, and they'll very likely end up stressed out, depressed and lacking in self-esteem even if they get a pocketful of exam passes.

This all makes me beyond anger.


A good comment from Winhill:

It isn't just women, although they might be more up for admitting it. Our society is fundamentally sick.

I don't think most people realise anything else is possible. Try travelling and you find otherwise. Try going to sub-Saharan Africa for example. They may be poor, but they have a general culture which is far more kind and supportive, and they don't spend their whole time being terrified of each other like the British do.

But then, why should it be a surprise that we are sick? Values of brutal competition, insecurity and the-weak-go-to-the-wall have been deliberately inculcated by neoliberalism. As Thatcher said "economics are the method. The object is to change the heart and soul". She changed it alright.

Some people can cope with living in a brutal, insecure environment, but many can't. They just crumble.


Our world, our society, doesn't have to be like this - relentlessly, competitively materialistic; full of greedy arsehole bankers whose stupidity and selfishness is already well-established; where mental ill-health is the norm rather than the exception.

Banks given go-ahead to pay unlimited bonuses

Ministers cave in to City and reject calls to tackle highest earners as No 10 seeks face-saving deal

Britain's banks have been given the go-ahead to pay unlimited bonuses, drawing to a close a two-year political battle to rein in the City.

After months in which a series of government ministers of all parties have threatened a toughening in the stance over City bonuses, Downing Street said the government did not intend to intervene in the pay of the UK's top bankers.


How insane is this - Sarah Palin has accused her opponents of inciting hatred and violence . . .

Fucking insane.

In the US, where hate rules at the ballot box, this tragedy has been coming for a long time

The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords may lead to the temporary hibernation of rightwing rage, but it is encoded in conservative DNA

by Michael Tomasky

Gabrielle Giffords shooting reignites row over rightwing rhetoric in US

Sarah Palin at centre of storm over political vitriol after spree leaves six dead and congresswoman in critical condition

by Ewen MacAskill

The US was tonight seized by a fierce debate over whether inflammatory rightwing rhetoric was to blame for a shooting spree in Tucson, Arizona, that targeted congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and left six dead, including a nine-year-old child.

Giffords, 40, who remains critically ill in hospital after being shot through the head but is expected to live, criticised Sarah Palin last year for putting her and 19 other Democrats on a hitlist of districts, each shown as being in crosshairs.

"When people do that, they have got to realise there are consequences to that action," Giffords said. Palin today distanced herself from the shooting, as did leading figures of the Tea Party movement. Conservative bloggers accused liberals of seeking to exploit the attack.

Insanity Rules. OK?


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