Arid Anne

Tuesday morning: after the previous evening’s football exertion, following a 4 a.m. end to a Sunday London outing (saw Living Colour again, by the way), I got up later than intended (although still earlier than some mornings), shuffled into the kitchen, my right eye still locked shut, filled the kettle in order to prepare the solvent for my morning fix, and switched on the radio, semi-registering with trepidation that Anne Atkins was again, with prune-like regularity, delivering the Tft(b)D slot. In my grogginess, I wasn’t wholly receptive to what she was saying, and, being a reasonable sort, figured that I must surely have misheard some of it. Because what I caught seemed to me somewhat, I dunno, asinine?

So I’ve since, during intermittent spells of boredom, listened again, and read the text, just to put my mind at ease, like. Only it doesn’t. Perhaps because I have a troubled one that fails to tune in to the tone of Anne’s bell, which rang the day after the Young Foundation’s report on Britain’s ‘psychological and material needs’, and the announcement that the Department of Health is to triple funding into mental health research. The Young Foundation’s report is a hefty document (294 pages, if you want to download it), which, although it does include discussion and examples of depression, is not, as far as I can make out, ‘a report on depression’ per se. However, Anne does not let this get in the way of her agenda.

One-in-four people will suffer from some form of mental health problem some time during their lives, a statistic that refers to a range of illnesses, including depression. From which, I calculate roughly that less than one-in-four are ever afflicted by actual depressive illness. But it seems to me that Anne has difficulties in her distinguishment between depression and being depressed. Maturely resisting the obvious cheap joke here, Anne is surprised – because far more than a quarter of her friends have been through it. Yes, being depressed perhaps, which affects just about everyone from time to time for various reasons. (Personally, I’m always slightly suspicious of people who never seem to be.) But depress-ion?

To be fair, she is right in alluding to the pharmaceutical industry’s marketing of (re)invented drugs for ‘illnesses’, which are in fact not. Yes, the pain of loss and setback is part of the process, and we don’t necessarily need medication – or counselling – for all life’s travails. Sometimes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But, it seems to me (although you might read it differently), Anne irresponsibly conflates here, in a manner that insults those stricken with a serious debilitating condition. Yes we used to describe ‘different states of mind variously.’ But that’s partly because we were more ignorant – and brave, shell-shocked soldiers were shot for cowardice.

But, despair not, for Anne has the answer. In a sleight of non sequitur, playing on the bluesiness that for many naturally accompanies winter’s cold and dark, she platitudinously conjures up that childish image of being surrounded by smiling beasts; that better life to come when everything will be warm and cuddly and painless and fair. It doesn’t matter if things in this life are bad; just look forward to another world where everything will be alright, and happiness is guaranteed.

Now, if believing that makes you feel better, then fair dooze. We all have our own emollience. I would say “snap out of it, Anne”; but that would be obtuse.

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