Mental illness – both genuine and something completely different

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In an article on mental health and education policy, one wonders about the mental health of commenters who seemed to turn the issue of a Northern Ireland MP into a diatribe about homosexuality and Christianity.  No matter – to the issue.

Mental health is one of those “hard to defines”, not unlike bad backs and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  There are many who might call it a PC construct and CFS sufferers slackers and layabouts but for someone with it, it is no joke.  One of the more celebrated sufferers was Alastair Lynch, spearhead forward of the Brisbane Lions in the AFL during their triple premiership glory years and he was anything but a slacker.

Wiki says the essential problem with CFS is:

Sufferers describe the struggle for healthcare and legitimacy due to what they consider to be bureaucratic denial of the condition because of its lack of a known etiology.

This is the problem with any condition of this kind and also with mental illness.  As regards CFS, I wouldn’t have said anything before, especially in the light of my current less than fully employed life but even doing training three times a week and having built up a fair amount of stamina, which allowed me to walk up eight flights of stairs in Russia most days without too much puffing at the top, on other days I’d be hit by sudden “muscle desertion” where I’d just have to lie down.

In my most active days in education where I had three roles, I’d find I’d have to disappear for 20 minutes from time to time and after that would come back as if nothing had happened. It would suddenly come on and suddenly disappear, bearing no relation to anything eaten, previous activity that day or whatever.  One occult specialist I knew through IT matters said it was all the hexes on me at that time, 11 from women.  Maybe someone was sticking pins in my photograph.

Whatever it was, it was not the type of thing one could talk about, especially with the company I keep, which tends to be gruff, blunt and doesn’t suffer fools and tricksters gladly.  It was certainly not something which could be put on a CV/Resume.  What made it even worse in my eyes was that I was reading an astrological blurb about my sign and it said we could induce illnesses in ourselves if we didn’t want to do something.

There’s a hell of a lot of prejudicial thinking on one side and a hell of a lot of malingering on the other.

When you get into the mental illness issue, it’s even worse.  Big Brother governments are notorious for committing people they don’t like, criminals use it as a pretext and abuse is widespread.  Yet there are people with genuine cases, attested clinically and they get caught up in the scam and cynicism culture within the medical field.

All this you know already.

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The purpose of this post, I suppose, is to suggest that what could be deemed mental illness, while genuine, is not always severe enough to be recognized as such and is often diagnosed as something else.  In everyday life the term is overused – how many times have you heard someone called crazy?

It seems to me that the two conditions most prevalent today are depression and sociopathy, the latter very much at the core of the Knox conviction.  There are many tests of sociopathy floating round on the web and everyone of us  has at least a small amount of it – the question is how much?  We’re not all Vinnie Jones characters such as in Snatch.  Those tests are dangerous because I’ve seen people using them to confirm that their own partners were sociopaths – interesting that they didn’t apply the test to themselves.

I’m most certainly anti-social and increasingly shun contact with more than one person at a time but does that make me a Vinnie character?  Wimbledon was my team, by the way.

Depression is the most difficult one perhaps.  Just one look outside the window at society and it’s enough to withdraw into the cocoon of our living rooms and not want to mix with society at all.  You know of, I know of, so many who could be said to be exhibiting signs of depression – disillusionment, deep anger, loss of morale, lassitude, disconnection from life, disconnection from logic.

There are two or three fellow bloggers I could swear are on the road to mental ill health but who am I to say?  I’ve heard that any blogger who sticks at it has some symptoms of mental ill health by the very nature of what he/she does, the obsession with having his/her point of view accepted.

Many men [and women] are wont to say that all women, to a greater or lesser extent, are insane:

As we were standing outside the church on a Sunday morning, I decided to get a few opinions from the gentler sex. The first person I approached was a young mom with three children, two of whom are teenagers. After I explained the conversations that occurred, I asked if she thought the men had a valid point.

“They probably do,” she answered.

Surprised, I asked, “So you think that men would be better off if they just assumed that women were insane and acted as such?”

“Yep, probably.”

My next contact was with a mother of four small children. Again, I explained the situation and asked the lady’s thoughts.

“It’s probably true from a man’s point of view. I always want my husband to tell me what I want to hear and to do what I want him to do. I can see how he might think that’s crazy.”

The most I can say is that so many individual members of the gender approach issues in a similar way, just as men approach them, on the whole, in a different way.  And then there are the many exceptions to that observation so where does that leave us?

In the interests of PC fairness, I googled “all men are insane” but the one which kept coming up was “all women are insane and all men are pigs“.  I suppose we can add to that that “all men are rapists and all women are dot dot dot”.

I can’t see that this is getting us too far.

Looked at in terms of nationality, it’s long been mooted in other lands that the British are eccentric, some ascribing this to the tea-drinking [just let me remove these underpants from my ears while I'm blogging at you].  The Americans are said to be nationally insecure, manifesting itself through the winner/loser culture and the first question any visitor is asked within a few minutes of arriving – how do you like our country?

Mental illness – both genuine and open to abuse.

By the way, did you see those pigs flying by at about 6:30 a.m. this morning?  No?

FlyingPigs

8 Responses to “Mental illness – both genuine and something completely different”

  1. gracchi January 1, 2010 at 14:34 Permalink

    I agree with you that mental illness is real and is difficult to diagnose, to understand and to approach. One of the hardest things in the world must be distinguishing between someone who is pretending to be mentally ill and someone whose illness is literally incapaciating them from participating in society.

    I’m not so sure about the point between the sexes- to be honest I think that’s more about the fact that we all don’t behave rationally at times- consequently in any relationship, you are likely to be irrational to your partner at some point along the line- I don’t think that’s different for men or women, its just an element of being a human being.

    In general though I agree with the substance of your post, that mental illness exists, is graduated and probably present in us all, and that one of the real problems of modern life is trying to detect who is mentally ill and entitled to whatever treatment we as a society prescribe for them and who isn’t. I definitely agree with you about the Soviet point, I was once lucky enough to meet Vladimir Bukovsky and the stories he told about the insides of Soviet ‘hospitals’ were terrifying.

  2. Calumcarr January 1, 2010 at 15:43 Permalink

    Happy New Year, James.

    An excellent post – not sure like Gracchi about the sexes. We’ve been lucky in the diagnosis of CFS – or Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome – with our family and in the recovery. Undoubtedly the diagnosis helped with our child’s school who didn’t pressure us at all.

    As regards mental health – well you know from the past where I stand and I have just posted my first mental health post since my return.

    Stigma, both with mental health professionals and within the general population, is immense. Those with physical ill-health are viewed much more sympathetically than those suffering with mental ill-health.

    I’m sure diagnosis can be difficult: there are no simple physical tests to confirm or deny a diagnosis. What we can end up with is a subjective analysis in which patients are judged quickly almost as the impressions formed by an interviewer in the first few seconds are very important in deciding the outcome. This way lie many ill but untreated souls.

  3. Bill (Scotland) January 1, 2010 at 16:15 Permalink

    I am sorry to hear about Mrs Robinson’s illness. However, whilst I agree that the way ‘homosexuality’ and ‘religion’ has been brought into this discussion is disquieting (and I cannot speculate on the motivations of the commenters who did this, even if the politics of Northern Ireland might lead one to wonder, sometimes), it is nevertheless a fact that Mrs Robinson is ‘on the record’ for some pretty extreme anti-homosexual views, even within the context of Northern Irish politics and the relgious denominationn with which she is affiliated. Even firebrand NI politician Rev Ian Paisley (FM of NI until Mrs Robinson’s husband took on the role) did not in more recent years express himself in quite the confrontational language on this topic that Mrs Robinson permitted herself.

    My genuine sorrow that she may have severe mental problems does not lessen my belief that she helped (along with others) foster a climate in which it is considered acceptable to cause physical harm to people because of their sexuality – and there are many cases of this in NI in recent years. It is striking to me that Sinn Fein people (McGuinness and the like) have been advocates of equality of treatment in this area, not a popular thing for them to do in some segments of their main (presumably mainly Catholic) constituency. I don’t wish her any ill, but I cannot say I regret her stepping down fromm a public position where her odious beliefs were given a platform to do harm to many innocent people.

  4. jameshigham January 1, 2010 at 17:27 Permalink

    Tiberius – that’s interesting about you meeting him and yes, Soviet hospitals have not changed all that much – I’ve been inside a few [visiting] and let’s just say one does not wish to become ill.

    Calum – I had you in mind when I wrote it.

    Bill – I can’t say I was au fait with the situation but your comment puts it in context.

  5. Andrew Scott January 1, 2010 at 20:10 Permalink

    We are all mentally ill by someone’s definition James, but some are able to function, albeit in an insane world, and even be happy, while some are not. There is an argument that people who are happy in this world must be mentally ill, or at least “insane” in one way or another. I know for certain there are seemingly reasonable people who regard me as insane, and I confess I myself regard people with absolute faith in their religion as suffering a form of insanity (and one that can be very damaging for others). A psychiatrist pal has told me people with depression have a much clearer grip on reality than those who are happy, but she was (probably) still is, a bit of a “nutter” herself. Anyway, from one nutter to another – Happy New Year

  6. Welshcakes Limoncello January 1, 2010 at 23:05 Permalink

    Well, if someone is faking mental illness, I’d say they are mentally ill. Depression is a killer and sufferers can be so lonely because, unlike a broken leg, you can’t see it. And people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related illnesses are at the bottom of every government’s list of priorities.

  7. Welshcakes Limoncello January 1, 2010 at 23:06 Permalink

    Forgot – on the sexes part. Men think women are crazy because of what de Beauvoir called women’s ambiguity. A woman has to play so many roles in her life that of course she is deemed crazy sometimes.

  8. Andrew Scott January 1, 2010 at 23:23 Permalink

    Welshcakes Limoncello said “Men think women are crazy because of what de Beauvoir called women’s ambiguity”…

    Hmmm, from long experience I think there are many other reasons Welshcakes (crazy name by the way :) but I do prefer the more even-handed view that, “All women are mad, but all men are just plain stupid :)

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