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A sentimental blues?

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CoolTan Arts’ response to ‘Depression? It’s just the new trendy illness!’ by Janet Street Porter, Daily Mail 19 May
2010 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1278510/Depression-Its-just-new-trendy-illness.html

If you have a problem, talking - or writing - helps. Bottling up concerns and anxieties is damaging.
Having a better grasp on the facts and a heightened social awareness of mental distress is a key step in
moving forward and finding positive ways to ease the suffering experienced by a growing amount of
people.

Janet Street Porter recently branded a number of middle class women of exploiting experiences of
depression, when arguably they should be understood. Who are we to judge what another person’s
depression might be like? Her article raises a distinct social and financial ‘class’ question. And
supposedly enough wealth can buy proper treatment, yet why is mental distress still on the rise across
all communities?

We are given no facts to support any of Janet Street Porter’s article. Is telling the women cited to, in
effect, simply ‘pull their socks up and get over it’ a proviso for a positive resolution? Articles such as this
carelessly promote unnecessary and negative stigma.

Our western lifestyle is manic. It’s terrifically fast and ferocious and changes have happened quickly. Our
working week is one of the longest in Europe and pressure is greater than it has been.

As the medical world has improved it’s methods of diagnosing and treating clinical depression, bi-polar,
and other forms of mental distress, the word ‘depression’ has become a word that’s being casually
thrown about in everyday life. Serious conditions can be belittled and undermined through
misunderstanding. Or I misunderstood Ms Street-Porter’s point that melancholy is increasingly used to
boost popularity, to gain attention and of course, sell celebrity-endorsed books?

Whatever, there is something seriously off kilter when people who voice concerns about their own well
being, are ignored, mistreated, or not taken seriously. This is a tragedy. It’s common to hear of people
misinformed and encouraged into prescribed drug dependency when other courses of action could be
much more effective. Alternate solutions should be offered and sought, and social therapy could be
encouraged; often the charities and organisations who offer these avenues are not adequately
recognised, supported or promoted.

Some forms of mental distress are increasing rapidly and we need a better plan of action to combat
destructive attitudes and find ways to bring stability and equal care into our communities. Is there a lack
of creativity in the ‘system’ that reinforces isolation and pressure?

One example is CoolTan Arts, a charity challenging stigma and campaigning for the rights of people
experiencing mental distress.
CoolTan Arts works from a vibrant arts centre near Elephant and Castle in South London. Run by and
for people with mental distress, it believes mental well being is enhanced by the power of creativity.

We would very much welcome Janet Street Porter to come and visit us, at her convenience, and
hopefully revise her opinions.

“Mixed anxiety and depression, according to the ONS 2000 survey, is experienced
by 9.2 per cent of adults in Britain… the figures show an increase in the prevalence
of mixed anxiety with depression compared with the 1993 survey by 1.4 per cent
(from 7.8 per cent to 9.2 per cent).
Source: ONS, 2000, Psychiatric morbidity among adults living in private households
in Great Britain.”
Source: http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/commonstats.html

Written by Martin Walsh ©, volunteer at CoolTan Arts, with members of CoolTan Arts’ Self-Advocacy Training
Course. More information about CoolTan Arts is available on W: www.cooltanarts.org.uk ,
E: info@cooltanarts.org.uk, T: 020 77012696.