See, this is what I was talking about

So, no sooner do I write a post about the stigmatising of mental illness, something comes up to perfectly illustrate my point. Writing in the Daily Mail, Janet Street-Porter argued that depression is now trendy, and essentially that if people bucked up their ideas, they’d do a lot better. Oh, and apparently we shouldn’t have sympathy for men with depression, although I honestly couldn’t figure out why.

Now, I’m not actually going to dispute that there are some circumstances in which just getting on with things is a good plan. There are definitely times when you just need to stop, get over yourself, then carry on. But – and this is the important bit – that’s not the same as depression. One of the major problems people with depression have is that others think it’s the same as feeling a bit miserable. It isn’t. Everyone has days when they feel better than others. As far as I’m aware, it’s called “life”. Depression is like living that life in a sucking black hole that not only drains the colour out of everything, but feels like it’s consuming you as well.

When you’re feeling miserable, you might eat more than you mean to, or yell at someone when you don’t mean to, or you might burst into tears if someone looks at you in a funny way. It’s a bad day, and it passes. Being depressed is feeling like that times about a million all the time, as well as lacking the energy/willpower/sense of self that allows you to perform complex tasks such as getting out of bed or cleaning your teeth. On slightly less bad days, you might manage that, only to be defeated by getting dressed.

There are several eloquent rebuttals of the Mail article, if which probably the most high-profile is Alistair Campbell’s blog here (article from Daily Mirror). Whatever you think of him and his politics, he’s been an eloquent and loud spokesman for Mind over the years, and he includes the statistics on depression, that apparently Janet Street-Porter couldn’t be bothered to Google for.

[NB I haven’t linked to the Daily Mail article, because I don’t want to go and seek it out again, but running the words “Janet Street-Porter Depression” through a search engine will bring it up quickly enough.]



Filed under depression

7 responses to “See, this is what I was talking about

  1. The thing about the Daily Mail is, if you’ll forgive me: fuck the Daily Mail. It’s a fear mongering, ill informed and knowingly destructive cancer on the UK.

    I think it’s great you’re writing about this stuff. I think – although I may be wrong – that as industries go libraries are probably fairly supportive to work in. Is that fair? I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be to have someone essentially dismiss an illness as a need to buck your ideas up, but hopefully that happens less in our industry, which is one of the nicest things about it (as that extends to other attitudes too).

    People will list location, status, pay, responsiblity etc in their criteria for job satisfaction but I think working in the kind of environment where people are sensitive and sympathetic is vastly under-rated! So in reference to your previous post, about what will happen if a potential employer sees your statement etc – I’d like to think, nothing at all… 🙂

  2. I’ll not only forgive you, I’ll applaud you.

    It actually scares me when I see some of the things they write, and even more so when it comes from someone whose name is so well known.

    My experience of academic libraries is that they’re incredibly supportive, and I’d imagine the public sector would be as well. The one that interests me – especially as a law librarian – is how the commercial world would see it. There’s already evidence that more than half of employers don’t want someone they know has had problems, and I wonder if large profit-making companies would be as supportive and sensitive as non-profit places.

    Since I work somewhere that I love with a group of awesome people, hopefully I won’t have to find out if it makes a difference for some time to come! And I figure the more people speak out about it, the more chance there is that no one will face that kind of disadvantage in the future.

    Thanks 🙂

    • Ah well that’s very interesting, cos I’ve always thought that of all the sectors of libraries, Law might be the least understanding to work for. (As in a Law firm obviously, not as a Law subject librarian for a Uni or whatever.) But at the same time, I’m weary of judging a whole group of people I don’t know much about, specially in light of the subject matter of this discussion being that people judge those with depression without really knowing anything about it…

      • Like you, I’ve never worked for a law firm, so I’m hesitant to say anything definite. But I do know that it’s a very different proposition to Law Librarianship in an academic setting and it’s under the same financial pressure as the rest of the firm, so I wonder if that would make a difference.

        There’s research just waiting to be carried out… 😉

  3. Hi Laura,

    Just wanted to add my tuppence worth, as I currently work in a corporate law library. I should point out first of all that I’m not claiming any authority on this – I have only worked in one corporate law library (have only been there for just under a year), and every workplace is different, so I’d be reluctant to generalise about all law libraries on the basis of my own, limited experience. I’ve also never experienced mental illness, and I don’t know that any of my co-workers at the law firm have either, so I can only guess at how it would be handled if anyone did have mental health problems.

    I can see what you and wikiman are getting at about corporate law libraries possibly being a less supportive environment for people with mental health difficulties. Being a comercial, profit-making enterprise probably does make a difference when it comes to expectations of staff. However, I really think the main difference is in the attitudes of the managers, rather than the organisation you work for. My line manager is really understanding about when personal issues need to take precedence over work, so I’d like to think that if I or one of my colleagues ever did have depression or any other mental health issue, he’d argue our corner. I know that when I was finishing off my dissertation, and making myself very ill from stress and lack of sleep, my boss and my colleagues were all really supportive of me and the amount of time I had off sick! Not remotely the same thing, I know, but it’s the only real indication I’ve got.

    As I said though, I can’t really extrapolate from that to any other law firm! Like any other sector, you have good managers and bad managers, and I do think that’s what makes the most difference.

    • Hi there,
      That’s really interesting, and reassuring, actually! I think you’re dead right about it being down to managers – now you’ve said it, I can think of some non-commercial environments where the word ‘depression’ would be met with raised eyebrows and complete lack of understanding. Hopefully as it becomes more readily talked about, more managers will understand what it means, and our experiences will become the norm.

  4. Oh, also, I agree with thewikiman – fuck the Daily Mail. Hells yeah.

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