This is my crude translation of an NHS poster, screaming in 60-point type that “1 in 4 people have mental health issues”.
I wonder how that proportion was calculated. But first, as Greek rhetoricians taught, let’s agree on the terms.
Is a mental issue the same as a mental problem? Is a mental problem the same as a mental disease? If the answer to both questions is yes, then, statistically speaking, the title above is spot on.
A fourth of us must indeed be suffering from diseases like schizophrenia, paranoid delusions, manic depression, dual personality disorder and so on. Does this conclusion tally with your experience? It certainly doesn’t tally with mine.
Granted, your experience and mine don’t add up to a statistically significant sample. But to hell with statistical significance. There’s no way a fourth of the people we meet over a lifetime are mentally ill.
So let’s backtrack to the questions I asked earlier, or specifically the answers I suggested. In reverse order, a mental problem can’t be a mental disease. Nor can a mental problem be the same as a mental issue.
What is it then, this mysterious ‘issue’ that so concerns our blessed NHS because it afflicts one in four of us? First, let me give you a short answer: our blessed NHS is talking about life, medicalised.
Life, yours, mine, everybody’s, has ups and downs, peaks and troughs, excitement and drudgery, love and hate, sunny and tempestuous moments. We are happy when experiencing the first component of each pair, sad or even despondent when in the grips of the second.
Both are normal – but not to our blessed NHS. It starts from the assumption that only the first components constitute the psychiatric norm. That means the second components are deviations from the norm, or, in modern jargon, ‘mental issues’.
Somebody grieving for the love of his life suffers from a mental issue. So does a chap just made redundant. So does a girl jilted by her fiancé. So does a couple stuck in a loveless marriage. So does anybody who sees his job as a tortuous ordeal.
Most, though not all, of these problems will eventually be sorted out. But the mental issues will persist until they are, enabling modern people to indulge in their favourite patois: psychobabble.
Chaps, off-licences are open until eight, some even later. They all display hundreds of bottles, each containing a reliable, time-proven remedy for most ‘mental issues’. Mental diseases are of course a different matter, but we’ve already established that our blessed NHS doesn’t really mean those.
This is all part of the self-worship actively promoted by a civilisation that no longer can worship anything else. People are actively encouraged to delve deep into their own psyche in search of ‘mental issues’.
And, as the good book says, “seek, and ye shall find” (Matt. 7:7). Jerome K Jerome had much fun with that proposition when he made one of his characters peruse a medical encyclopaedia. The poor man found out to his horror that he had every disease listed, except housemaid’s knee.
In the same vein, our modern people, fluent in psychobabble if in no other language, don’t head for an off-licence when feeling sad. They make a beeline for a shrink’s office and come out with a prescription in hand.
Doctors these days dole out antidepressants like Smarties. As a result, 13 per cent of Americans aged 12 and over take things like Prozac every day. Further up on the age scale the percentage grows, indeed reaching something close to one in four.
That soul-destroying counter-cultural idiocy started in the US, but, judging by that NHS poster, we’ve caught up. We always do, when getting American vices second-hand. Not so with American virtues, such as industry, general civility, enterprise and little class envy. We give those a miss.
Writing about this has made me depressed – and if that isn’t a mental issue, I don’t know what is. So off to the liquor cabinet I go, for a taste of my own medicine. Cheers!