l a i i s c s e ue p s
The University of Southamptonâ€™s Student Magazines
Mental Health Special Issue
h l e a a t l n t e h M
the biology T h e b e s t. . . w ay s m e n ta l h e a lt h to deal with in film: helpful behind anxiety and depression m e n ta l h e a lt h vs harmful pag e 14
meet the team wessex scene Editor Alice Hearing email@example.com wessex scene Deputy Editor Nuala McBride firstname.lastname@example.org wessex scene head of design Mackenzie Brown email@example.com wessex scene head of imagery Bethany Westall firstname.lastname@example.org
the edge Editor Anneka Honeyball email@example.com the edge Deputy Editor Ashleigh Millman firstname.lastname@example.org the edge head of design Liana Dent email@example.com editor in chief Cameron Meldrum firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to the Mental Health Issue - a special magazine that has brought The Edge and Wessex Scene together to tackle and investigate an increasingly prevalent issue in today’s society. Mental Health is something that we will all inevitably deal with in our lifetimes, and whether it’s a lifelong mental illness or something more short-term, the way we look at all forms of mental health needs to improve. According to a recent YouGov survey, one in four university students suffer from mental health problems, with nearly three-quarters stating that they were dealing with depression, anxiety or both. University is meant to be an institution that will give you “the best years of your life”, and while that is true for some, others will go through a very different experience. Although universities and wider institutions in the country are gradually adapting their resources to help those with mental health problems, there’s still quite a way to go to break the stigma that surround ailments that cannot immediately be seen. With that in mind, we decided to look at the current climate of mental health awareness, investigating how various forms of mental illness are portrayed and represented in the media, entertainment and the world we live in. From taking a look at ‘The Best...Ways to Deal With Poor Mental Health’ (p.14-15) to ‘The Biology behind Anxiety and Depression’ (p. 34-35), we take a look at how we can all best understand and deal with the most common mental health problems. We also take a look at mental health issues around the world (p. 32-33) and five travel breaks to try if you’re in need of a wellbeing refresher (p. 26). Our writers also tackle mental health in the media, as we investigate helpful and harmful portrayals of mental illness in film (p. 20-21), gaming (p.18) and the wider industries (p.5). Focusing in on mental health at university, we also ponder the effects of creative degrees on mental health (p.7) and what to do when the pressures of academic life get too much (p. 24). As well as all that, this issue also contains features on public figures like Chris Packham (p.9) and Ruby Wax (p. 29) - both of whom offer some interesting insights into mental health as a widespread issue. We would like to thank all of the writers who contributed and all of the editors of both The Edge and Wessex Scene who came together to make this possible. We would also like to thank VP Welfare, David Allwright, who donated to the funding of this magazine. We hope this magazine is both entertaining and insightful. Enjoy! Love Alice and Anneka x FRONT COVER IMAGE BY BETHANY WESTALL 2
nostalgic news notes on news: the increasing importance of mental health in the media
06 08 09 10 11 12
OPINION misconceptions of aspergers in women the best... ways to deal with poor mental health
C U LT U R E throwback review: mental at vault festival 2017 the rollercoaster of growing up: the perks of being a wallflower shadows of mental health in silent hill 2
16 17 18
coming out of the closet with anxiety: dealing with the 22 stigma what to do when the pressures of university get too much 24
TRAVEL 5 mental health breaks to try
sport for wellbeing
LIVE keep calm and gig on comedian in focus: ruby wax
RECORDS fall out boy: the therapists pumping through your speakers
POLITICS & INTERNATIONAL mental health around the world
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY 34
the biology behind anxiety and depression
FEATURES the effects of creative degrees on mental health: have we had enough? ‘i’m not okay’ bbc presenter chris packham on mental health chris traeger’s top tips for mental wellbeing addressing celebrity mental health: a toxic industry? more questions, more answers or more troubles? the part of media in young people’s lives
post-traumatic stress disorder in film: short term 12 mental health in film: helpful vs. harmful
Another roundup of things that happened this month in years gone by. Fall out boy released infinity on high 10 years ago SOPHIE TRENEAR
Ten years ago, on 6th February 2007, Fall Out Boy released what would go on to be their most commercially and critically successful album in their lengthy discography, Infinity on High. Released through Island Records as the band’s follow up to the acclaimed From Under the Cork Tree, Fall Out Boy’s third album boasted the nowiconic hits ‘This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race’ and ‘Thnks Fr Th Mmrs’. Infinity on High is often taken to be an allegory for the band’s rise to fame and the subsequent pressure of the limelight, with some critics noting that Pete Wentz’s (bassist and then-lead-lyricist) lyrics were ‘often times resentful’ and ‘full of fame-induced angst’, stressing ‘his need to drive home his position that stardom has not changed the band.’ Wentz calls album opener ‘Thriller’ the ‘most narcissistic song on the album,’ which references the band’s mediocre reviews and breakout success, thanking their ‘diehard’ fans. In contrast, ‘This Ain’t a Scene’ uses war-inspired metaphors to mediate their newfound popularity and anxiety. As a result, Infinity on High proved to be the most accessible and ambitious album Fall Out Boy have ever produced.
The perks of being a wallflower was released five years ago
Adapted from his 1999 book of the same name, the film adaptation of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower was released 5 years ago on 3rd October 2017. Grossing over $30 million worldwide, the film stars Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Nina Dobrev, Paul Rudd and Joatn Cusack. It tells the story of Charlie (Lerman), the titular Wallflower with a troubled past, who, upon starting high school, meets the enigmatic and charming Sam (Watson) and Patrick (Miller). Soon after, he finds his life taking a much different turn as the two take him under their wing and show him what life can really be like. The Perks of Being a Wallflower provides a truly heartbreaking and highly accurate portrayal of various different types of mental illnesses. When interviewed in 2014, Chbosky spoke about the film’s impact and discussion of mental health, saying: ‘Let’s take for example, depression. Depression is invisible. It’s an invisible scar.’ Chbosky originally wrote the book semi-autobiographically. In the years since its release, he has been, and will likely continue to be, a passionate and important advocate for mental health awareness.
silver linings playbook was released five years ago
spec ops: the line was released five years ago
When discussing films that explore mental health, one that always comes to mind is David O’ Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, released on 21st November 2012. The evocative and emotional romantic comedy drama, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, explores the story of Pat, a man struggling with bipolar disorder, and Tiffany, who battles her own mental health problems. Five years on from its acclaimed release, Silver Linings Playbook is still relevant due to its message of acceptance, as well as its frank and open discussion of mental illness. While it was created for entertainment, it still seeks to discuss these issues in a realistic and genuine way, refusing to dramatise and trivialize it into unrealistic parodies for entertainment value, or indeed skirting around them entirely because they are uncomfortable to face up to. While O’Russell’s depiction of mental illness may not have been perfect, the film is still more honest than most films about such issues. Ultimately, Silver Linings Playbook is important because it reminds us that those who suffer with mental illness are still real people and should be treated as such.
The evocative, immensely powerful and equally controversial 3rdperson shooter Spec Ops: The Line was released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on 26th June 2012. As Delta Squadron Leader Martin Walker, the player is thrust into a combat-strewn and war-torn Dubai, tasked with finding and punishing Colonel John Konrad, the corrupt leader of the 33rd Infantry Battalion of the US Army, who have declared martial law on the local militia. As Walker and his team try harder to try and chase down the 33rd, they find themselves increasing desperate resorting to tactics such as white phosphorous, riots and executions to try and bait out Konrad, all while protagonist Walker slowly descends into madness and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. With four different endings, and a genuinely punishing narrative, Spec Ops asks the genuine question: where is The Line between good and evil? Despite it’s incredibly good narrative, some people did not approve of Spec Ops because it used genuine locations, and promoted scenes of violence, torture and brutality. It does, however, handle the deterioration of mental health with a skillful, nuanced and ultimately heart-breaking level of attention.
ILLUSTRATION BY BETHANY WESTALL 4
Notes on News:
THE INCREASING IMPORTANCE OF MENTAL HEALTH IN THE MEDIA WORDS BY ROBERT PRATLEY IMAGE BY NETFLIX, ILLUSTRATION BY BETHANY WESTALL April marks the date when Netflix’s adaptation of the heartbreakingly brilliant young adult novel, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher is released worldwide. Ultimately, although it makes some changes to the novel’s narrative, the adaptation is, in my view, profoundly important and should be seen by as many young people as possible. But why you ask? Mainly due to the way it handles mental health. The show addresses the raw and powerful issues of depression, anxiety, suicide and negative thinking in a nuanced and respectful manner. Rather than being some quasi-damselin-distress story which fails to grasp the real issue which pervades the storyline, 13 Reasons Why focuses its narrative in such a manner that you can’t help but be drawn to focus and think about the issues. What if they were happening to you, or to someone you loved? Although we’d like to believe we’d help, the show does well at highlighting exactly what happens if we don’t heed warnings and bury our heads in the sand. The show is equally important in terms of altering negative perceptions of mental health issues in television. Far too often in the past, shows have used mental health as a weird gimmick or comical device, something to attract dark humour or at times deadpan comedy. Alternatively, it has just been added as a token device and shoehorned into a plot to add what some people might try and argue is ‘character development’. Furthermore, it is no longer such a taboo subject for comedians. A number confess to having mental health issues; a favourite quote of mine comes from Sofie Hagen, the Edinburgh Fringe Best Newcomer. On mental health, she says: ‘There are two ways you can feel alone. There is the good alone which involves a duvet, some pizza, some more pizza and
Comedy Central. And there is the bad alone, where you think the world is too much and no one else feels the same.’ On the other hand, if the issue of mental health or wellbeing is handled sensibly - such as the portrayal of the autistic Sheldon (at least during the early series) of The Big Bang Theory - it can be a genuine and useful plot device and explore storylines which are very much realistic and affect a lot of people. The show has rightly received a lot of praise for this portrayal. And of course, I am not saying that mental health can’t be explored in shows which have a comedic tone. I have already referred earlier to the TBBT- what some might call sitcom, but I can also call on other good comedic examples which use mental health as positive plot device. Take Wilfred for example, starring the hilarious Jason Gaan and Elijah Wood. Wood’s Ryan succumbing to stress results in hallucinating conversations with Gaan’s Wilfred, who happens to be his neighbour’s pet dog. Although this sounds trivial from the offset, the show handles it in a mature and therapeutic manner. We as the audience have to question what is true and what is not, and episodes always focus on a particular quote which deals with a mental issue- be it depression, anger, or anything in between. Wilfred is a dark comedy most of the time, but the audience get genuine catharsis from it, as we root for Ryan to recover and defeat his world of negative mental health. With the increasing importance and focus on mental health in recent years, I am delighted to see that the ‘straightjacket’ days are finally gone. Mental health is not a weakness; it is an illness and should be treated that way. As such, it is good to see the media highlighting, acknowledging and exploring this important issue.
THE EFFECTS OF
MENTAL HEALTH : HAVE WE HAD ENOUGH? WORDS BY NAVI AHLUWALIA IMAGE BY ROBERT LEWIS
It’s no secret that there’s a serious misconception when it comes to the arts, specifically when it comes to the often romanticised process of arts education. Creative degrees such as Fine Art, Fashion Design, Fashion Marketing and Graphic Design are usually right at the top of the ‘My degree is far too difficult, why didn’t I just study *insert art-based degree here*?’ list. However, with today’s art and fashion industries becoming more competitive than ever before, it’s time to shine a light on the effects their education have on our university experiences, our financial situations and most importantly: our mental health.
aving studied Fashion Marketing for almost three years now, it’s safe to say that I’ve found myself in a frenzy of downward spirals, most recently the biggest of them all: the third year spiral. Initially, it’s easy to assume that the glitz and glamour of the fashion industry is just that; glitzy and glamorous, but the more I’ve thrown myself into that world the more pressured, stressed and unhappy I’ve felt. Studying degrees that have this sort of ‘end goal’ can be ridiculously intense, especially when it comes to deadlines. Although we don’t find ourselves sitting many exams, the mountains of coursework and its aesthetically pleasing requirements can absolutely take their toll. With creative degrees it’s no longer acceptable to wade through a sea of academic journals, get some research and write a report to hand in, because the expectations of these courses go well beyond the bounds of conventional academia. What’s most frustrating of all is the fact that regardless of how well researched, well read or well written your work is, you will almost always be marked on your creativity and ability to ‘out-do’ everyone else. This includes being marked on the artiness of your layout, your ability to photograph and design, and your ability to come up with some sort of creative output alongside your report all in the same amount of time it takes someone else to write an essay. Exhausting. It is often said that creative degrees promote an unhealthy working routine, as “late nights, lost weekends and extended overdrafts” are unfortunately the norm, according to designer Daniel Fletcher. This lifestyle is something I guarantee every art/fashion/design student has experienced because as
someone who devotes their university education to a creative subject, it’s easy for everyone to assume that you’ll be willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. This involves splurging on train tickets to London (even if you live nowhere near) just to go and get some primary imagery of an exhibition that your lecturers have continued to shamelessly promote, staying up all night for an entire week because there’s no way you’d finish re-doing your InDesign layout in time otherwise, and even living off tinned soups for a month just so you can afford to actually create your final major project collection. If you think I’m just being dramatic, I implore you to think again. A recent publication curated by Central Saint Martins literally devoted an entire supplement to exploring the mental and physical health of their recent graduates, one of which was the previously mentioned Daniel Fletcher who revealed that he spent a week in hospital on a drip following the hand in of his graduate collection. A drip. Now I’m not saying that our degrees are way harder than yours, I respect that each and every course has its pressures, but I truly believe that creative degrees push students physically and mentally to the absolute limit, and then some more. They require an everlasting supply of creativity and imagination – one that must be available for use at any given time – and have the ability to bring you all the way up one week, and tear you all the way down the next. As designer Phoebe English put it, the process is “both crushingly, excruciatingly devastating and intensely, illuminatingly elevating, never in equal measures.”
“I’M NOT OKAY” WORDS BY SARAH WHITTINGTON IMAGE BY CHARLOTTE MIELL
Is that such a strange answer? Scary? Uncomfortable? Maybe you’ve sent that text before and were relieved you did it. Maybe you regret it. Why then, does sharing ‘negative’ emotions fill us with so much apprehension, compared to a simple ‘I’m good’? (If you feel no apprehension, skip this part) The idea of the ‘stiff upper lip’ all Brits supposedly harness is defined by the legendary Wikipedia as one that ‘displays fortitude in the face of adversity’ or ‘exercises great self restraint in the expression of emotion’. That doesn’t sound too bad. ‘Keep Calm And Carry On’. Great stuff. Conquer your emotions, get the job done. In wartime Britain, yes, panic isn’t exactly conducive to battle strategies. Mental health, however, is an entirely different battle.
we imagined. A reaction might be that stiff upper lip, to repeat the mantra that we’ll try again next time, and next time we won’t fail. Except you’re not failing in the first place. Opening up, while it can feel terrifying, is never selfish. It is not weak. Not if you’re the cheery one, the quiet one, the one who has it all together, or because of your gender. It’s incredibly brave. You are placing trust in that person, and not in a small way. There might be times that we get it wrong. Sometimes, that chat might not be enough. Sometimes they might want space, because as hard as it is to share those feelings, it can be just as difficult to hear them, especially from someone you care about. This is not your fault, or theirs. We might feel scared that we’ve shared too much, or fail to follow up when someone confides in us. It’s easy to let that fear keep us silent again, to put on that stiff upper lip. It’s easy, too, to say that we shouldn’t let that fear hold us back, and instead we should focus on our next decisions and try to do better.
It’s incredibly vulnerable to send that message. The moment its gone, you’ve exposed yourself to the follow up‘why?’, and does anyone want to launch into all the reasons why? What if there is no reason? Mental illness, after all, doesn’t always need a specific event to show its face. On the other hand, if we’re desperate to talk it can be hard to know where to begin and easy to overthink, and that’s all just from your end of the phone. In the short term, sending that ‘yeah, I’m fine’ can seem a whole lot easier. Stronger, even, because while it remains our problem it remains under our control to fix, and when we’ve come out the other side no one else will have had to be bothered by it.
Mon, Apr 3, 9:23PM
Hey, How are you? xx
The problem, of course, is when we ‘fail’. Depression, anxiety, PTSD – none of them play by the rules that we might want them to. They’re involuntary, and pressuring ourselves to deal with it alone can lead to a very real possibility of feeling ashamed when we can’t simply ‘get over it’, having fallen short of the standard 8
I’m fine| anxious
Of course, the reality is much more emotionally complex. What’s left, however, is your choice. No one is going to have all the answers or a quick solution to the situation, including yourself. If you feel safe enough to open up, take that step, even if it doesn’t feel the ‘right time’ in a conversation. Equally, if you don’t want to open up, try to be kind to yourself and don’t slip into feeling ashamed. And, perhaps most importantly, if someone opens up to you, listen.
BBC PRESENTER CHRIS PACKHAM ON
MENTAL HEALTH WORDS BY HARRIET MARTIN IMAGE BY SELINA HAMILTON
I had the exciting opportunity to interview Springwatch presenter and University of Southampton alumnus Chris Packham. We talked uni life, mental health and, well, badgers… Chris Packham attended the university back in the 80s and studied Zoology. He went on to present CBBC’s The Really Wild Show from 1985 to 1996 and has been presenting BBC nature series Springwatch since 2009. According to Chris, he has “the best job in the world”. But even the most successful among us can be touched by mental health problems. Packham opened up about his very mixed university experience:
“Yes so I had black hair with these two white stripes running through it. And I just remember, I used to go into my tutor’s office and he wouldn’t say anything.” Unfortunately, his fellow peers were not quite so accepting. “All of the people my age couldn’t relate to that at all and it was quite ostracising. I stuck out like a very sore thumb”.
GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO START HIS LIFE OVER, CHRIS ADMITS THAT HE PROBABLY WOULD HAVE GONE TO ART COLLEGE!
“My time at Southampton broke into two very discernibly different experiences, one of which was enormously positive and the other, which was phenomenally negative. The positive was the education and I am satisfied to this day that I was fortunate enough to be in the right place with exactly the right sort of people. The support that I had from my lecturers and my tutor was unparalleled”.
While the academic side of Chris’ degree proved to be very rewarding, he found adapting to the university social life to be very difficult. “I was in a very difficult place mentally at that time and I really was struggling. I was a very angry young man and I couldn’t communicate with my peers at all. I wouldn’t speak to anyone and no one spoke to me”. Packham has been diagnosed with high-functioning Asperger’s syndrome, a sub-type of Autism, which he revealed in his recent autobiography. While this has been debilitating at times, Chris has overcome his condition to establish a successful television career. I think it is fair to say that Packham is badger-mad, having studied them for many years. In fact, while reminiscing about his quirky style choices at university, he told me
about the time he actually dyed to his hair to look like a badger!
In spite of these difficulties, Chris managed to excel in his undergraduate degree and pursue an exciting career. Landing his first presenting job was both exciting and challenging:
“I did have to get a handle on my social abilities so it was quite stressful. It was just having to work in teams and being able to engage with people which I just couldn’t do at that point and I realised I needed to quite rapidly. It was enormously pleasurable because obviously people would come along and put exciting animals in my lap like falcons and cheetahs. But at the same time, I had to learn to look people in the eye and communicate with them more effectively. I could talk to a piece of glass – that was easy. But it was difficult talking to the director and to my associates. I managed to muddle through and it seemed to work.” In other interviews, Packham has admitted that he has suffered from severe depression and contemplated suicide on two occasions. But he reflected that there is a lot more support in place these days for people suffering with mental health problems and those living with autism. Chris has developed strategies to cope with his Asperger’s and learnt to see his condition as an asset. Wessex Scene are very grateful that Chris Packham took the time to speak with us and applaud him for his honest and inspiring interview.
Chris Traeger’s Top Tips for
Mental Wellbeing WORDS BY JAMES BARKER IMAGE BY AMANDA JACKSON, ILLUSTRATION BY BETHANY WESTALL
Hi there! Pawnee City Manager Chris Traeger here, and I literally could not be more thrilled to talk to you today. I’ve been asked by the wonderful human beings at The Edge to share my top tips for mental wellbeing – something which I feel extremely passionate about. If, like me, you struggle with the demons of your mind, here’s five things you can do to brighten your day, Chris Traeger style! Eat Healthily
I am a huge believer that root vegetables are nature’s very own candy. Eat some fruit and veg and feel energised to face the day! Grisly meats, fats and sugars will leave you as glum as Ron Swanson locked in a room with – well, me! Though, on behalf of my brilliant and talented colleague, Leslie Knope, I can confirm that waffles officially count as one of your five-a-day under Pawnee law.
Get some exercise!
If I keep my body moving and my mind occupied at all times, I will always avoid falling into a bottomless pit of despair. It doesn’t have to be a long exercise session – a half marathon a day followed by a good three mile swim does me – but getting outside is good for the soul! Fill your lungs with fresh air, cleanse your body of toxins and end up looking as fantastic as me at the same time.
Compliment your friends!
I work with literally the best people on the planet, who also happen to be my best friends. Spread the love and you’ll get it back – you would not believe the rush I get from telling Jerry he’s an intelligent, beautiful, charismatic
superhero, even if it’s a complete lie. Don’t be afraid to lean on your friends either. Recognise that, if your best friend takes to making claymation videos, it’s probably a cry for help.
Talk to someone!
As some of you may know, I see my personal therapist Dr. Richard Nygard an average of 15 times a week. On a day that I particularly feel like dying inside, I spend a mere four or five hours talking it over with Dr. Richard Nygard, and literally always come out feeling better. He holds my life in his hand like a fragile little bird. But opening up to inspired wise men like Dr. Richard Nygard isn’t always easy; it’s okay to talk to your doctor, or your colleagues, or your friends. Talking to April is a 100% not recommended.
Go into life with a positive mindset!
Embrace a positive mentality and you’ll find your day brightening before you know it! Take writing this article – it’s literally been the highlight of my day. My final message – turn your look outwards. If you’re feeling miserable, think what you can do for your friends, or even strangers. You’ll find yourself feeling better before you know it.
Chris x FEATURES
Addressing Celebrity Mental Health: A Toxic Industry?
WORDS BY ELEANOR JOYCE IMAGE BY AMANDA JACKSON, ILLUSTRATION BY BETHANY WESTALL
In 2014, beloved comic actor and father of three Robin Williams, committed suicide after a long battle with depression and the beginnings of Lewy body dementia. The ironic fact that one of the world’s most beloved comic actors struggled with depression is one that stunned many people, both within the film industry and outside of it, and tributes poured in from all over the globe. This tragic event became the latest in a long series of untimely celebrity deaths, many of whom also struggled with mental health conditions - but is there anything that the film and television industry can do to support its actors and actresses better? The ‘troubled celebrity’ trope is one that has become common since the advent of the film and television industry. People have become accustomed to tragic downward spirals since the death of superstar Marilyn Monroe, who suffered from insomnia and acute anxiety and died of an overdose in 1962. Today, there is an astonishing lack of sympathy for those in the public eye who often suffer in silence with mental health conditions. The stigma surrounding mental health among celebrities is severe due to the perception that a star-studded, privileged lifestyle can only lead to sunshine and rainbows. But as Deepika Padukone described in the Hindustan Times, ‘It’s not about what you have or don’t have’ Robin Williams’ silence about his struggle is not uncommon among actors. Only recently in March 2017, Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay opened up for the first time to the Daily Telegraph about her battle with an eating disorder that she has been experiencing since the age of fourteen. Kerry Washington spoke out about therapy being as important as going to the doctor in Glamour Magazine; an acknowledgement that it is hugely critical to keep on top of your mental wellbeing if you are so often in the spotlight. There is no gender
discrimination where mental health is concerned - high-profile actors like Ryan Reynolds, Brad Pitt, Jared Padalecki and Dwayne Johnson have all recently discussed their own encounters with mental health conditions, all stemming from their celebrity status and the pressure to conform to public expectations. One of the saving graces of celebrity culture is the opportunity that it gives actors to speak out about their own experiences: data shows that more people seek help with their mental illness after a celebrity’s disclosure. It is therefore hugely important that the film and television industry continues to be a platform and to ensure that nobody within its community suffers in silence. It is also important that we discuss what the industry can do to lessen the pressure on its own actors and actresses. There is often a toxic atmosphere surrounding the way mental health is tackled in film and television. The misconceptions and myths that are often being perpetuated do not help anybody, and mental illness does not discriminate between those who are famous and those who are not. Celebrity ‘breakdowns’ should not be portrayed as just desserts or eye-rolling events in the media, and the film industry should be held more responsible for the lack of support for their own. There needs to be a continued message throughout film and television that those with mental illnesses are not alone, and it is okay to admit that you are struggling. As Brooke Shields said in a Marie Claire interview: “If I had been diagnosed with any other disease, I would have run to get help. I would have worn it like a badge. I didn’t at first—but finally I did fight. I survived.”
More questions, more answers or more troubles?
The part of media in young people’s lives WORDS BY THEA HARTMAN IMAGE BY AMANDA JACKSON, ILLUSTRATION BY BETHANY WESTALL
It’s hard to be young. The ‘we’re all carefree and always doing whatever we want’ mantra is not really like that anymore, if it was ever so. The image of the rebellious, aloof teenager growing up to become God-knows-what only contours the meaning of youth. There is a storm constantly rumbling on inside, a storm that slips into anxiety or depression incredibly easy, and lately, the cases of young people facing mental illnesses have increased. The involvement of the media in this rise of mental health issues is a double-edged sword: media is the one raising awareness about mental health issues, but it’s also the one that considerably contributes to their building up. Repeatedly displaying the images of the ‘perfect’ life, body, relationship, house etc., in magazines, on television, in films or ads, putting additional pressure on the shoulders of the young who are, by definition, always on the brink of cracking. Trying to sort out a balance in life while the questions ‘Who am I? ‘What do I want to be when I grow up? What are people going to think about this choice?’ loom right over your head, is not an easy thing when you have no idea about anything. These questions are answered by the media who more or less subtly impose its ideas of perfection: we should all be slender or have a six-pack like cover models, we should all dream of the traditional family with parents, two children and a dog in front of a big house. That’s what we see in films and on social media, that’s what people like; and confirmation is vital for the youth searching for some solid ground to stand on. But what happens
when your answers are not the same as the ones given by the media? What happens when you’re two sizes bigger than all those people you see on TV, when you feel you don’t belong in an academic environment like you should, when you’re not a family person and you just feel yourself diverging from everything you’ve ever seen or heard? That’s when you crack. Panic attacks, anxiety, depression, self-harm. For not being pretty enough, or strong enough, or smart enough, not like the girl on that show or the guy in that film. Scrolling over social media pages every day and knowing so much about how everyone lives their lives, the mistakes they make and how harshly they’re judged for them, reading lifestyle blogs with all their do’s and their don’t’s: they’re all there to give the tiny push needed to slip into an unhealthy mental life. They come as an additional gift of the technology era, when we all get more information thrown at us than we’re able to process and are left questioning ourselves and our choices more than our parents and our grandparents used to when they were our age. Yes, it’s hard to be young in a world where ‘nobody’s perfect’, yet we see the supposed image of perfection everywhere and try to define ourselves with that image in mind. It’s easy to slip on the way towards finding ourselves, and asking for help and support on this way might sometimes be exactly what is needed to calm the storm inside and get a bit of a clearer sky to look at.
IN WOMEN WORDS BY CHARLOTTE COLOMBO IMAGE BY IMOGEN KEYS
You’ve come across people like me before, I guarantee it. I was always the kid in your class who couldn’t find a partner, the one who could never hit the ball in Rounders and wrote like a two year old whilst you had mastered cursive aged seven. Most of the time that was just the ‘weird’ kid, and to avoid the hellish social suicide that can occur in Year 8 where you have nobody to share a Bunsen burner with, you’d leave them to it. Her lack of eye contact, monotonous voice and wooden body language gave you the small inkling that there was something ‘different’ until you were told “She suffers from ASP-ergers”. I have always wanted to assert that I am NOT a victim or a leper, I’m just a human being. All my life, I have preferred going the scenic route in terms of friendships, confidence and development in general. But I got there eventually, and so did many other people like me, and so will many others in the future, whom I am sure are still off on a roundabout somewhere whilst their peers are nearing the next motorway. I very much wish that this preceding term of ‘suffering’ before Asperger’s remained in the environment of wellmeaning teachers, but it has also become an epidemic in everyday life. I used to be scared to tell people about it, as their faces would soften to that condescending grin you would give a play-school child and you would be constantly be asked if you are ‘alright’, since because I do not have a conventional mind, how can I possibly be content, knowing I will never truly conform? Even with medical professionals, one of the many paediatricians I saw was blown away that I could get a half-hour bus every weekend to work, have friends, and be getting my A-Levels. At one point she even exclaimed “WOW!” so I refrained from telling her I was in a relationship at the time as I’m sure that further proof I could function in society would make her spontaneously combust, and that would be pretty grim to witness. There is so much about people with Asperger’s that goes beyond the extreme and narrow stereotypes of graduating from MIT at 11 or a life of sheltered housing. People can tell me something three times without me registering it, as in my head a scenario or thought
process is played out in my peripheral and my social skills at that time are just somewhere else completely. I live part of my life in a ‘bubble’ away from the world, and being in that bubble so much of the time means I might miss out on key lessons and skills that come naturally to most. What I’m trying to get at is that people like me are not stupid, deficient or intentionally (most of the time) rude. The whole point of Asperger’s is that we exist outside conventional categories of human thought and behaviour, knowing only that we are ‘different’, and that can be hard. I spent most of my life, especially in my teenage years where boys and popularity alluded me, wishing I was like ‘other girls’. But eventually I learnt that you don’t need to be validated by being ‘normal’ and ‘cured’ by what you are, you just need to learn to validate yourself for you. If you had asked me 5 years ago if I could get rid of my Asperger’s I would not hesitate to. But these days I am so grateful for the way my life has panned out regardless of these struggles, as learning to accept myself for all my weirdness has been the most rewarding experience of my life. It is not a part of me, it is me, and I would not be me without it.
THE BEST... WAYS TO DEAL WITH POOR MENTAL HEALTH IMAGE BY HERMIONE COOK
AVOID THE PRESSURE
Students are expected to be going to a different society each day, partying all the time and studying until 3am. If you don’t do all that you get the feeling you are missing out on this mediaenforced assertion of what ‘student life’ should be. Maybe you’re taking anti-depressants and can’t drink, or maybe right now you know that all the socialising mixed in with midnight caffeine wouldn’t work if you struggle with an anxious mind-set. Therefore, my advice is to try not to feel pressured to be part of a certain lifestyle. Put yourself first. Your mental wellbeing matters more than other people’s opinions. Words by Charlotte Colombo
Firstly, fitting in exercise is an absolute must for me, it gives me two hours a day where I can just unwind and feel refreshed afterwards; a sort of detox of my mind. Secondly, organising your paperwork or tidying your room also helps, this leaves you feeling on top of it and like you can conquer everything. Secondly, try not to take professional criticism personally. Sometimes, when you feel like you underperform in an essay or get rejected from a job, you have to take yourself out of it and understand why it was that way, not think that you are now incapable of being where you want to be. Words by Samuel Tyler
The thing that has helped me most day-to-day (aside from the therapy and medication) is taking a little bit of time out of every day to do something nice for myself, in a form of selfcare. First suggested to me by my therapist as a way to calm down anxious thoughts, it’s the idea of focussing all of your energy on the thing that you’re doing, on something nice you’re doing for yourself. It can be a face mask, a bath bomb, reading a book or even just making a cup of tea. People can be quite negative about the idea of self-care but to me it’s just making time to do something for yourself that your negative thoughts are saying aren’t worth doing. It’s a way of shutting down those thoughts, doing the nice thing for yourself anyway, and ultimately feeling better for it. Words by Carly-May Kavanagh
KEEP A POSITIVE ATTITUDE
Mental health is a delicate thing that comes in all shapes and sizes. While I appreciate that some days it’s necessary to hide in your sweatiest jumper with Netflix in bed, I’m a firm believer that the best way to improve your outlook on the world is to turn your attention to those around you. Enter into life with a positive attitude and it will soon transfer. If a friend or family member is having a tough day, do something to cheer them up. Buy someone some flowers, or chocolate, or a pint, and the smile you get in return will automatically lift your day. Relish in the reward of feeling loved and valued. What’s more, what goes around comes around – next time you’re having the crappiest of days, that friend will remember and hopefully give back to you. Words by James Barker
TREASURING THE SMALL THINGS
In our efforts to maintain our mental health and well-being, it’s often assumed to remain ‘happy’ (for want of a better word) that we need to perform elaborate actions to ensure we enjoy ourselves in life, rather than being dragged along and caught in the motions. It is somewhat simpler in my view. A lot of the time, people forget to treasure the little things in life, like sitting down with a close friend and a cup of strong tea and just talking through everything- we all need an agony aunt session at some point whether it is 10am, or 11pm. Small things like that, on a regular repeated basis, can really help yourself connect with others, and it is always nicer when you aren’t the only person facing your problems. People will listen, empathise and help, all you need to do is tell them. Words by Robert Pratley
CHALLENGE THE INNER NEGATIVE VOICE
When your mental health gets bad, it’s easy to listen to the negative voice that tells you you’re useless, nobody likes you, you deserve to fail. One way to combat these feelings of negativity is to find evidence against the statement. So if you’re hearing “nobody likes you” think about the people who care about you and the ways they show it, and how you make a difference in their lives. Remind yourself of positive things you’ve achieved, whether that’s academically, socially, or in a hobby or another area of your life. Even little things like tackling the mountain of washing up or taking the time to support a friend can be used to remind yourself that actually, today or this week you have done something positive. Words by Emma Perry
Remember that the worst is always followed by the best. Your very existence is a reason to smile for many people, so don’t undervalue yourself and what you can achieve. It’s no coincidence that the most revered and famous people today have been through the unimaginable and “uncharted territory” when it comes to mental health. Don’t allow the pain of the moment to over-power you. Be a fighter! Words by Shaheer Ali
YOU COME FIRST ALWAYS, NOT YOUR DEGREE
Mindfulness. It is severely underrated in combatting mental illnesses – especially depression. We live such fast-paced lives these days, being hyper-connected on social media, bombarded with deadlines, and sometimes having to deal with unsupportive friends and parents who ‘just don’t get it’. It’s just so easy to feel overwhelmed. As someone who has struggled with depression for over 5 years now, often having struggled to deal with thoughts of self-harm and suicide, I would say that mindfulness has been extremely helpful in my fight against depression. Along with this I would absolutely advocate for self-love and self-care. You come first always, not your degree. Words by James Howlett 15 15
@ VAULT FESTIVAL 2017 WORDS BY BECCA BARNES IMAGE BY VAULT FESTIVAL, ILLUSTRATION BY BETHANY WESTALL Kane Power’s one man show exhibits the power of theatre as a platform to discuss mental illness. Mental explores the subject in an honest but simple way, giving the audience a fresh perspective that is both clear and easy to understand. Power discusses his mother’s experience with bipolar affective disorder, and how it ultimately affected her relationships with him, his sister, and his neighbours, using a mixture of song and recited memories. Each one provides a different perspective and emotional element to the production; his songs seem almost directly spoken to his mother, open and heartfelt like a lost child. When Power shares his personal journey he is at his most vulnerable, discussing his embarrassment as a child and his loneliness and regret as he has gotten older. Power’s use of music and lighting is another powerful element in Mental, with both used to reflect the mental state of his mother. Slow music and calm lighting, projecting colours such as blue and green onto the stage, represent her stages of depression, while bold chaotic lighting and loud music reflect her manic moments, causing the audience to feel oppressed and overwhelmed by both. This is an effective way for Power to create a sense of empathy among the audience for his mother, as they begin to understand just a fraction of what Kim goes through. His use of props included tapes of his mother’s voicemails, pills she had been prescribed, and her medical files, all aiming to ground the production, giving the dramatic play a sense of realism and
substantiation. The voicemails vary from angry, hysterical messages where Kim vents her frustration and resentment of her son, to messages where she sings about how much she loves him. These extreme variations give the audience a clearer image of her mental state and just how cruel and hurtful her disease can make her. Yet, these messages do not make the audience turn on her as you might fear, but rather they evoke greater sympathy for both Power and his mother. His discussion of his mother’s medication, its side effects and her medical history contribute towards the raw realness of the production, as it highlights the confusion and complication that surrounds mental illness, dispelling the myth that there is some kind of ‘miracle drug’ in the process. We learn how medicine prescribed to make her better can have side effects which cause similar, if not worse suffering than the disease itself, ridding depression by removing emotion. The overwhelming combination of medication and medical files gives a sense of hopelessness, as despite decades of help Kim still suffers with the disorder and her son still suffers with the impact that it has on his life. Mental is a heart-wrenching production that discusses mental illness in an honest, clear and intimate way. Power makes the issues feel personal while ensuring that the audience are educated, not just in the suffering of its victims, but how it affects those around them. A particularly important message that Power imparts on his audience is how important it is to separate a victim of mental illness from their disorder, as this is merely a part of who they are, rather than their entire identity. Mental will inevitably leave its audience changed for the better.
THE ROLLERCOASTER OF GROWING UP:
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER WORDS BY DAVID MITCHELL-BAKER IMAGE BY SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT, ILLUSTRATION BY BETHANY WESTALL There simply isn’t a better coming of age-teen novel out there than Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Trust me, I’ve read a lot of YA fiction, and nothing has even come close to the gold standard that The Perks of Being a Wallflower boasts. I’m of the belief that the book’s biggest success lies in Chbosky’s unflinching, heartbreaking and hugely moving portrayal of mental health. In amongst a deep exploration of mental health, Chbosky never strays from keeping it grounded and realistic. Central protagonist Charlie suffers from PTSD and depression, something that is laced throughout his character and his arc, forms who he is and how he acts. But never does Chbosky fall back on this as a source of emotional manipulation towards the reader; it is unflinchingly realistic and Charlie acts and responds to things in wholly rational ways given his situation. It’s because of this that we learn to sympathise and relate to Charlie. We don’t just feel sorry for him because of his life, we grow to like him because of how real and how human he is. Chbosky’s narrative form (a series of letters sent from Charlie to an anonymous recipient) gives us an insight into his mind and how he thinks, a framing device that deftly turns a potentially two-dimensional down on his luck teen into a voice for the voiceless, a young man who is confused, daunted and troubled in life. The Perks of Being a Wallflower explores mental health at a crucial time in one’s life as well. A person’s teenage years are incredibly important to their growth as a person and how they learn to handle life moving into adulthood. As much as it is a time of learning and growing, it’s a
time of turmoil and immense struggles. What Perks puts across is that mental health problems can develop at any age and can have adverse serious effects on anyone. Charlie is a symbol of the wider struggle of the youth of today; he stands for those who feel alone, those who feel out-of-place, those who don’t understand what they’re feeling, how and why they’re feeling it, and why life is doing this to them. It seems that no one truly understands Charlie, so in this sense he suffers in silence, unable to articulate or verbalise his struggles. Whilst measures are being made in society to improve mental health awareness and diagnosis every day, millions still face hard times without anyone knowing. But it’s not just Charlie who struggles mentally. Sam is a victim of sexual abuse and has something of a struggle for acceptance and love. Patrick becomes tormented by his hidden affair with the star athlete. Charlie’s sister faces domestic abuse yet continues on in the relationship. Mary Elizabeth feels insignificant in comparison to other girls. It’s not just one character, it’s several. But it’s the same in life; the chances that it’s only ever one person you know who struggles mentally are slim. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is still incredibly relevant nearly 20 years after its initial release. The Perks of Being a Wallflower takes what could be a rather pedestrian story and set of characters, and turns it into a heartfelt and stunningly powerful examination of mental health. It perfectly captures the soaring highs and crushing lows of growing up and becoming who you are.
shadows of mental health in WORDS BY ELLIS MURRELL IMAGE BY KONAMI, ILLUSTRATION BY BETHANY DAVIDSON When you think of Silent Hill, your mind probably conjures images of ghoulish monsters with malformed features, hellbent upon your gruesome destruction. You likely wouldn’t relate the survival horror series with a thoughtful, considered and innovative portrayal of mental health. Here’s why you should. Although later entries in the franchise abandoned tension and atmosphere for gruelling combat and action sequences, the original tetralogy (developed by Team Silent) dealt with themes of depression, loss and acceptance in surprisingly conscientious ways. Silent Hill 2 is built from the ground-up as an indepth examwination of the psyche, and how your own mind can be your worst enemy. If this is all sounding a little A-Level Psychology then no need to worry – Silent Hill 2 is still a video game, with all the features and mechanics you have come to expect from the survival horror genre. However, its locales and characters (as well as the aforementioned ghouls) are far more than just window-dressing. Look beyond their face value and there is surprising, contemplative depth to the world of Silent Hill 2. Lead character James Sunderland arrives at the lakeside retreat of Silent Hill after receiving a mysterious summons from his deceased wife. From the very outset of the game, the oppressive atmosphere is laid on, as James is forced to wade into the vast blanket of fog that has consumed the town. Labyrinthine, impenetrable and clouded – James’ surroundings mirror his mindset as he revisits the most painful time of his life, all the while surrounded by once-familiar landmarks, rendered unrecognisable by the fog. Already, the game is subtly exploring the idea of mental
states, and how they can influence our perception of reality. Throughout his search for answers, James meets a variety of characters, who all claim to have been drawn to the town for unknown reasons. From the timid Angela, who sees the world aflame at all times and represents fear and helplessness, to the murderous Eddie, who is haunted by childhood bullies and a tendency to violence, the visitors to Silent Hill all have one thing in common: they are fleeing from trauma. The town, which seems to exist beyond reality, shapes itself to reflect each of their fears, populating the landscape with twisted monsters that symbolise nightmares. Through well-placed plot revelations, we learn that James had a part to play in his wife’s death, and has been tormented by his guilt ever since. His distraught psyche takes physical form through the visage of the terrifying Pyramid Head, a creature with a deformed, triangular head and an enormous knife. For James, seeing Pyramid Head is like looking into a mirror; he sees the ugliness he feels inside made manifest, and the burden of guilt he carries forever dragged behind him (and frequently, used to stab him). The game’s denouement comes when James comes to recognise that Pyramid Head exists to punish him for his actions. Those who suffer from depression, anxiety, schizophrenia or any kind of mental health issue can probably relate to at least some of the obstacles that James faces throughout the game, even when such hurdles take particularly monstrous forms. Although Silent Hill 2 may not be the most down-to-earth portrayal of the struggle for mental health in the media, it stands out for its bravery and boldness in tackling such resonant themes in a title intended for entertainment.
POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER IN FILM:
SHORT TERM 12 WORDS BY SOPHIE TRENEAR IMAGE BY CINEDIGM, ILLUSTRATION BY BETHANY WESTALL The very last line of Destin Daniel Cretton’s Short Term 12 comes as serial-runner Sammy tries, for the hundredth time, to escape the group home for troubled teenagers. As Grace and her coworkers’ conversation is interrupted, she announces with a glint in her eye, ‘Here we go,’ and, somewhat unsurprisingly, off they go. As a last line, it does a pretty decent job of summing up the last 96 minutes, and perhaps even more so in terms of its major characters. Central character Grace (Brie Larson) is a young supervisor of the Short Term 12 home, alongside her co-worker and boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), and newbie Nate (Rami Malek), who, whilst looking out for the various kids from various backgrounds, has a traumatic past behind her too. In meeting teenage newcomer Jaden (Kaitlyn Dever), whose current struggles parallel her own background, she’s forced to face the effects of her past, something she’s found a hell of a lot easier to ignore up until now. ‘Here we go,’ she says, as if knowing what she’s about to embark on. Carrying the weight of her father’s abuse, Grace demonstrates something reminiscent of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. But significantly, whilst Short Term 12 charts her exploration of the effects her father left her to, they don’t come close to acting as wholehearted definitions. There’s no exaggeration in the portrayal of Grace; she’s grappling with a damaged past, but her life isn’t her affliction. This is something really important to consider with PTSD, and something Short Term 12’s script must be commended for. Likewise, there are no secondary characters who aren’t sufficiently fleshed out, there are no means of exploiting PTSD or other mental illnesses to act only as a mirror for the investigation of the protagonist. They are all given sufficient depth, and sufficient space to explore themselves, for themselves.
down cheeks. It’s a lack of understanding that grows in ferocity throughout the film, and parallels Grace’s inability to fully comprehend Mason’s motives for being and staying present. ‘Why are you so nice to me?’ she says quietly. Short Term 12, potentially more than anything else, shows and, more importantly, accepts that love doesn’t equate to understanding. But, in various forms, it can do a hell of a lot to support. In depicting both the trauma of adults and of children, and the countless ways it can manifest itself, whether that’s involuntarily slapping away a consensual sexual encounter, the overwhelming urge to self-harm, or purposely isolating yourself from others in bid to protect you both, Short Term 12 elevates itself into a quiet optimism that accurately, yet sensitively, revels in its portrayal of PTSD. Too often, mental health is sucked into a vacuum of quirky relevance and Hollywood razzle-dazzle, something new and fresh to make it stand-out from the crowd (ahem, I’m looking at you Silver Linings Playbook), but Short Term 12 should be commended for its brutally honest effort. Yep, here we go…
At about the third-way-mark, in a small bid for their wellbeing, Mason says to Grace ‘Please, you have to let me into your head once in awhile’. It’s a small, kind of minute moment of tenderness, but one that is by no means any less important than those other wild moments of hot anger and tears streaming
LEFT IMAGE BY WARNER BROS. PICTUR
HELPFUL ORDINARY PEOPLE
Robert Redford’s Ordinary People is a subtle and nuanced, yet masterful examination of mental health. Central character Conrad is deeply affected by the death of his older brother, he suffers from PTSD and survivor’s guilt over his brother’s death and begins the film returning to everyday life after a four-month stay in a psychiatric hospital. Conrad’s mental afflictions cause him to become alienated from his friends and family, most notably his mother, and it’s here that Ordinary People truly sinks in. Mental health struggles often cause people to feel lonely and alone, regardless of who is around them or who is making an effort to help or spend time with them. Conrad’s isolation is a hauntingly realistic depiction of a teenager who is emotionally devastated by his past and suffocated in the present. He finds himself unable to let anyone in and it’s heartbreaking to watch. Conrad’s struggle is one of trying to control emotion when in reality this is nearly impossible, so he must learn to simply deal with it. It’s a moving and measured study of mental health, one that resonates so deeply and strikes a very raw nerve through its humanistic approach. By David Mitchell-Baker
One of the most powerful and acclaimed depictions of mental health on film, Girl, Interrupted explores the realities of being institutionalised with stark, incredible depth. Starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie, the 1999 film adaptation is based on Susanna Kaysen’s autobiography of the same name, which poignantly depicts her time in a psychiatric hospital in the 1960’s. The hospital that Kaysen stayed in, McLean (which in the film was reinvented as Claymoore), was renowned for treating famous clientele like Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton and Ray Charles. The novel and the film don’t seek to idealise this though. The film’s depth comes from its characters and their struggles with mental health, from Susanna’s depression and borderline personality disorder to Lisa’s highly toxic and sociopathic tendencies. Other struggles such as eating disorders, schizophrenia and pathological lying are scrutinised in the behaviours of other inmates. The film’s perspective, through the eyes of the troubled and intelligent Susanna, help to view the women and doctors involved with empathy, as they all struggle to carry on with their lives in the shadow of their illnesses. By Anneka Honeyball
Burning Man (2011) accurately depicts the discombobulating aftermath of loss through the eyes of chef, Tom (Matthew Goode). A joltingly harsh and disjointed storytelling technique is employed by writer/director, Jonathan Teplitzky, and editor, Martin O’Connor, in a way that rejects the tropes of a linear allegory and reflects the numbing nihilism that frequently accompanies bereavement. Tom’s initial presentation plays right into stereotypes of the nyctophiles of the hospitality industry. Bloodshot eyes and an accomplished detachment from his random sexual hook-ups enforce the caustic elusiveness that’s seen towards concerned relations. This extends to his young son, who is relinquished to a relative’s more stable home. However, after having established Tom as an all-round jerk, Teplitzky begins incrementally altering our perception of him by introducing recollections of his wife, Sarah (Bojana Novakovic), giving a better idea of what turned him into this irascible single-parent with a proclivity for curly-wigged prostitutes. Melancholic portrayals with weighty silences and affective strings are replaced by staggered scene takes and a frantic energy, which taps into the reverberations of ignoring grief and how easily sex becomes an outlet for displaced feelings. Inspired by personal experiences, Burning Man is an honest account of the confusing and disjointing effect that trauma has. By Katja Stout 20
ALTH IN FILM:
RES, ILLUSTRATION BY BETHANY DAVIDSON
When it comes to exaggeration, inaccuracy and just total lack of realism, Rob Snyder pretty much ticks every box in his 2011 release Sucker Punch. While Sucker Punch is undeniably a fantasy film, it relies on such overused and offensive stereotypes that it really loses all merit. It’s especially lacking in depth with its treatment of mental health. Set in a mental institution, Babydoll (Emily Browning) attempts to cope with her circumstances by envisioning a brothel in which she teams up with other dancers to escape a lobotomy. Not only are the women in the film sexualised and totally one dimensional, but it suggests that the ideal mental escape for women is in a sexualised fantasy, and it is through this that they supposedly find solitude and empowerment. While the film does not intend to touch on the complexities of mental health, it still simplifies it beyond what is acceptable, and is worsened by the generalisation of women’s mental health and the lack of attention to individual characters and their conditions. By Hollie Geraghty
James Mangold’s 2003 film Identity is a prime example of unrealistic mental health depictions in film, and another on the long list of offenders from the horror genre. For those that haven’t seen the movie - look away now - as it explores the psyche of Malcolm Rivers (Pruitt Taylor Vince) struggling with dissociative identity disorder under the guise of a motel murder mystery. Similar in its execution to the more recent Split, Rivers’ mental health is used as a tool for destruction - painting his illness as directly linked to being a psychotic killer incapable of controlling his powerful ‘personalities.’ Capitalising on
the debatable legal process of DID, horror films often use mental health as a vehicle to present us with scary, unhinged murderers with little to no empathetic qualities - implying that those suffering from these issues are categorically frightening and highly dangerous. Identity doesn’t stray from this model, ending on Rivers being taken over by the strongest, most deadly, and psychotic personality at the cost of his very being. Much like Shyamalan’s ‘Beast,’ Mangold leaves the bitter taste of mental health being boiled down to the monstrous - an unrealistic, painfully reductive quality in an otherwise excellent horror film. Whilst DID is debated fiercely in both the scientific and legal worlds, maybe these films are trying to offer a ‘they can’t help what they can’t control’ answer - but in the end, this reads as a harmful representation of those struggling with similar disorders in the real world. By Ashleigh Millman
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
If Silver Linings Playbook’s means of littering lingering closeups of apparently significant objects, like a handful of brightly coloured pills, or Tiffany’s non-conformist black nails aren’t enough to convince you of the film’s endeavour to usher in the human quandary of nurturing positivity, then maybe its deceptively fresh take on romance will. Yes, beyond its many layers of quirky imperfections, Silver Linings Playbook smells of formulaic Hollywood razzle-dazzle, pumped up with enough indie eccentricity to pose as something original. Rendering it relevant to the modern day where mental illness has just begun to find a voice, central characters Pat and Tiffany are each dealt a mental affliction which never gets fully explored (in fact Tiffany reads more as a means for Pat to explore his own affliction and develop himself than anything else) and cures itself through the remarkable power of dance and newfound intimacy. How dazzling. It would be silly to read Silver Linings Playbook as really, absolutely encouraging the idea that love really is all you need to heal mental illness. But still, its inclusion of the big-kiss, happily-ever-after ending unveils the novelty of their illnesses, that the very purpose of them was to put forward a few neverbeen-done-before traits simply to pose an obstacle to surmount. By Sophie Trenear
COMING OUT THE CLOSET WITH ANXIETY: DEALING WITH THE STIGMA WORDS BY BRUNO RUSSELL IMAGE BY BETHANY DAVIDSON
When we hear the phrase ‘coming out the closet’ we immediately think of homosexuality: that is the prime example of an issue where people feel they need to “hide” because of the way they could be treated by society and the stigma attached to it. Of course, for many, being gay is a reason they do find themselves ‘in’ the closet, but it is not the only one. Recent studies, published by leading charity Student Minds, said that while 30% of university students will suffer from mental health issues, only 10% will report it to the university, while 75% would talk to a friend. Why then is there the difference? I think it is mostly because society has built the same stigma around having a mental health problem as exists around being publicly open about your sexual orientation. I certainly went through the same experience not knowing who to tell that I suffered with anxiety, or how people would react. Would it affect my job prospects? Or how I was treated by the university and by friends? This is my experience, and thankfully mostly positive, of coming out the closet with anxiety.
uring my second year at University, I found myself increasingly stressed and worried for no good reason; worrying about results more than necessary and ending up making myself ill or upset letting thoughts of failure go round and round in my head, even though I was succeeding. To a certain extent, I did what many people have done and told myself, “this is normal” and “I’m sure everyone worries this much”, even though I knew it was not true. And sometimes it made me feel like utter rubbish, as if whatever I did there would be no chance I would ever be good enough. What then made it even worse was my inability to speak to anyone as I was constantly worried about how others would judge me, if they would see me as the person that buckled under the pressure and couldn’t cope. So I put
on the same façade that I’m sure many have created: I ensured, in other words, that the closet door was firmly locked and not going to open. Eventually, however, it all became too much and I found myself unable to cope and decided I had to change. Thankfully, I had the help of some amazing friends that supported me, who I was able to talk too and even came along to my first meeting with Enabling Services. They made me feel like I could cope, even though at this point I could not really admit how I felt, they realised that I was not me, that something was affecting the way I behaved. I then managed to go on my own journey of self-discovery as I attended sessions with Steps 2 Wellbeing, a Hampshire service run by the NHS,
and met other people who suffered in similar ways to me as their anxiety took control of their emotions and behaviours. The group sessions allowed me to discuss my issues and thoughts in a safe space, it allowed me to open up myself and realise that mental health problems can be overcome with strength, community and – most importantly – friendship. It will certainly be a rocky road: I split up with my boyfriend at the time and sometimes worried that the process would not work for me. But you have to keep going, as eventually you pull through and realise you can overcome this and that the stigma will not beat you. One thing, however, strikes me more than anything else and that was that all the worries I had faded away. I didn’t feel judged differently, or like ‘that’ guy; people never made me feel different and were only ever supportive. The stigma, I realised, is as much in our own heads as it is in society itself. The stigma, really, comes from the fact we don’t talk about mental health and then we build up these preconceptions about how we would be treated if we revealed how we felt. Rather we feel like we must adopt the British manta of having a ‘stiff upper lip’, and then being able to talk about mental health difficulties becomes itself problematic and traumatic for so
many people. But from my own experience, I can say the most difficult bit was building up the courage to seek help and realise that I would not be treated differently. The difficulty was building up the determination to come out the anxiety closet but once I did it was like a weight was lifted off me and I was able to get the help which has now allowed me to improve so much. We need to talk about anxiety, so that we can remove the need for trauma surrounding “coming out the closet”, as once people can be open and honest, half the battle is already won.
It allowed me to open up myself and realise that mental health problems can be overcome with strength, community and – most importantly – friendship.
what to do
when the pressures of university get too much WORDS BY IMOGEN ARTHUR IMAGE BY SELINA HAMILTON
Moving to university is fun and exciting, but it can also bring about a stressful period of immense change. If you experience mental health issues, then these can sometimes be made a lot worse by a new university environment. The freedom that university brings bursts the comfortable school bubble, and this freedom can be daunting, especially when you’re faced with the struggles of seeking help and managing your mental health. There is a constant pressure that university is ‘the best years of your life’ and the pressure can often be shrouded by personal anxiety, and it can leave you feeling dissatisfied. Wessex Scene have devised a number of ways to help improve your mental well being.
In a recent survey, the NUS reported that a staggering 78% of students experienced mental health issues in the last year. University can be an isolating environment, especially if you’re in halls – no matter how close you are to your flat, it’s easy to feel lonely in your room. Sometimes, all it takes is a conversation and explaining how you feel to help alleviate your problems. As hard as it may be, try reaching out to your friends, tell them how you feel and you may feel an immediate sense of relief. As tempting as it is to recommend visiting Bournemouth beach, or the New Forest for a relaxing break from Southampton, it is not always possible with exam season on the horizon. Instead, look to Highfield for your sunny escape. Campus is a great place to improve your mental well being, especially after hours spent cooped up in the library. When the sun comes out, grab a lolly and sit by the pond with your friends for a break from revision, and soak up some summer rays – plus you get a chance to recreate that prospectus perfect photo we’ve all seen a hundred times! Another less common way to improve your mental well being is to keep fit and active. A gym is a way to alleviate some stress, either alone or with a group of friends. If the gym isn’t your thing, then try an exercise class, walk or cycle – not only are you improving your mental wellbeing, but your physical as well, with the added bonus of relieving stress! Look out for the free exercise classes offered by Jubilee Sports during the exam period, as well as the free self-defence classes that are offered all year round. If you’d prefer to speak to a professional about any issues you may be experience, the University Health Service is the perfect place for that. Additionally, building 37 is host to a wide range of student services, and don’t forget about Nightline, or the University Advice centre.
5 MENTAL HEALTH
BREAKS TO TRY IMAGE BY SELINA HAMILTON
We asked some of our travel team to come together and recommend their perfect mental health break destinations. These suggestions below are where in the world they found to be the most ideal places for self-love and relaxation. Take a read… and maybe a trip?
Mui Ne, Vietnam – Freya Millard
Never have I been anywhere quite as vividly spectacular as the coast of Vietnam. We’ve all heard the many tales of what this country has to offer, but it isn’t until the moment you experience it for yourself do you truly understand what all the fuss was about. My favourite spot on Earth has to be the quiet coastal town of Mui Ne – it’s peaceful, warm and just so rich in colour and culture. I found the best place to relax there is strolling down ‘Fairy stream.’ The warm water soothes your feet as you walk along these incredible orange cliff sides which tuck you safely inside this little creek. As you look up to see the staggering rocks, you also catch the stark contrast of these orange cliffs against the flawless blue sky. Put it together and it makes you feel like you’re in a cartoon and far from the troubles of the world.
Crete, Samaria Gorge – George Seabrook
The Samaria Gorge, the longest in all of Europe, lies on the South-West shores of Crete. It’s 16km long, starting more than one kilometre above sea-level at the northern entrance; hiking it alone at the start of September 2015 provided the most stunning vistas of natural geography I have ever encountered. It’s a tiring walk, even in late summer Mediterranean heat, but the personal rewards are plentiful – not least the cleansing cool of the sea beyond the finish line, washing against the black sand beach. This place is truly heaven on Earth and an ideal place for a break away from it all.
Mexico – Chelsea Smith
Sometimes we just want to escape. When I feel the stress bubbling up my mind flashes back to a 26
little beach on the East coast of Mexico I was lucky enough to experience. I had woken up at dawn and sat on the soft white sand watching the waves slowly roll in, the sun slowly rising; I’d never felt so peaceful. When it all becomes a little too much, my mental health break destination is the beach. There is nothing more calming or grounding than running sand through your hands and staring out at that wide blue ocean; reminding you anything is possible.
Rome – Sophie Nobes
I understand why you’d question my suggestion of a city with a population of 4.3 million people; hear me out. Hidden among the labyrinthine streets of Rome is Piazza Navona; a square centred with a water fountain and surrounded by cafes and gelaterias. But why is it beneficial to your mental health? If you’re like me, you find it far too easy to catastrophise a situation. I found that sitting still in a constantly moving city made me relax and realise that really, it wasn’t all so bad. Taking the time to stop while the whole world carries on around you is an underrated method of self-care.
Edinburgh – Margaret Allan
Going somewhere familiar can be beneficial when trying to reduce stress. My de-stress destination would subsequently be Edinburgh, which I’ve been to repeatedly since my childhood. Nevertheless, it never grows old and offers many ways to relax. You can cosy up in a warming café or pub to melt away the stress; unleash yourself to the arts and get involved in something different; or walk through the nearby hills to wash away those blues. To top it all off, it doesn’t need to cost you a fortune to get there. Perfect in so many ways!
WELLBEING WORDS BY JAMES MOSELEY IMAGE BY BETH GIBBS
Many students have ‘Sports and Wellbeing’ membership, (despite the cost, but that’s an article for another day) but I’m not sure how many of us use sports for wellbeing. It is common knowledge that exercise is the ultimate fix for pretty much any mental health illness. For depression, it creates new activity patterns in the brain and releases endorphins. These effects have been scientifically proven to be just as good as current medication for treating mild depression, but exercise doesn’t come with several pages of possible side effects. Getting out and about has the same effect for sufferers of anxiety, with the endorphins once again playing a massive role. However, exercise can be used as a great grounding technique, be it the rhythmic pounding of your feet, focusing on your breathing, or feeling the wind against your skin. Any one of these acts as a way to keep someone who suffers from anxiety from feeling disconnected or disembodied, as is often a common symptom for anxiety sufferers. Then on top of all this, you’ll find that you’ll sleep better, have sharper memory, perform better in exams, have higher self-esteem, and generally feel fitter. On paper, exercise seems like the obvious simple solution, but as someone who has, and still suffers from anxiety, I can tell you that it isn’t just as simple as all of your worries melting away when you go out and exercise. The thing that makes anxiety so difficult to deal with is that when you are at your worst, doing anything other than hiding from the world in your duvet becomes almost impossible. This can get you stuck in a catch-22 situation, where you feel worse because you can’t take the steps to feel better. Add on the fact that you’re probably going to be tired and out of energy all the time due to sleepless nights and constantly being
on edge, you’ll soon find that the idea of going for a nice brisk jog will soon evaporate. Finding motivation can be hard: so many people are trapped inside due to anxiety, depression, or whatever it may be. The month Pokémon Go was released was a great motivator for getting people out the house and doing exercise. Unfortunately that craze didn’t last, (especially sad for all of us Pokémon lovers out there) but that doesn’t mean that exercise can’t be a part of the long term solution. I’ve found that although individual sport is definitely not an option for me, team sports have worked a charm. Recently, I’ve taken rugby back up after a three year break, and exercising twice a week has helped massively. The day after rugby, I walk around with a selfsatisfied glow, something that rarely happens at all otherwise. That isn’t to say that it’s easy, but because it is a team sport, I feel more obligated to attend training and matches because if I don’t go, I’m letting the side down. Along with the actual sport, it’s been great to meet a bunch of new people, getting to know my teammates and sharing a pint and a laugh with them after a good day of rugby in the mud. For people that, unlike me, don’t have the benefit of being able to return to a sport they’ve done before, that doesn’t have to stop anyone. University is a great time as there are so many different sports clubs to try out, and many have a beginners teams so having a lack of experience isn’t an issue. So get out, and try something! 27
keep calm and
gig on WORDS BY CARLY-MAY KAVANAGH ILLUSTRATION BY BETHANY WESTALL
As someone who’s had some pretty bad anxiety for a few years, I’ve had my fair share of panic attacks - and as live editor and a gig lover, a lot of them have happened at gigs. I’m pretty sure my first big one was at BST Hyde Park for The Libertines, where having been fine at the front all day, all of a sudden more people were coming into our section and it was quickly filling. I knew I just had to get out, and as soon as I started trying to leave mostly everyone was lovely about it. Ranging from mild anxiety to full-blown ‘needing to leave the venue my chest feels like it’s caving in’, it’s safe to say I’ve picked up a few tips over the years on how to keep yourself feeling calm while at a gig so you can, hopefully, enjoy your night. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed easily and quickly at a gig, so a fast way to calm yourself down is grounding techniques. A common sensory awareness technique is ‘54321’, you think of five things you can see, four you can feel (even just air going through your nose), three you can hear, two you can smell (or two smells you like), and one good thing about yourself. It’s a distraction technique that also brings you back to the present moment, and hopefully, brings some calm! If you know you get anxious when you’re at gigs, then before you go try to work out what you don’t like about them. For example, do you actually like being in the pit? Or do you prefer being further away from it so you can watch without being jostled? Whenever I can I like to be further
back, by the sound booth for example, or on the balcony - I have an amazing view still, but I’m much less likely to get pushed around which is incredibly comforting to know. Aim to get to the venue way before the bands are actually due to be on (so if doors are at 7:00pm get there for 6:40pm) so you can be one of the first people in. This will mean you’ll be able to find yourself a space you’re comfortable in, and you’ll be able to get used to the venue so you can be super relaxed for when the gig starts. Go to the bar for some water and step outside for some fresh air. You’ll likely just have to show your ticket or your hand if they stamped it as you entered, and getting into an open space and sipping water can help any anxiety you may have. Something else that may help is to focus on your breathing, the standard ‘in through your nose, out through your mouth’ if your breathing’s been shallow then this can help you bring it back to normal. Let the people you’re with know. When I went to The xx’s sold out show, my friend went to get water for us but I quickly realised I should have been the one to go, because being responsible for saving both of our spaces and surrounded by people I didn’t know in a part of London I wasn’t familiar with was a tiny bit triggering for my anxiety. Tell your friends and if they’re good people they’ll understand. Hopefully this little guide will help you to Keep Calm and Gig On, without anxiety getting in the way!
comedian in focus:
RUBY WAX WORDS BY ABI CUTLER ILLUSTRATION BY HEATHER RANKINE
Comedian Ruby Wax, well-known for her dry, no-nonsense, sarcastic brand of humour, has been appearing on British television for over 25 years. Born in Illinois, she majored in Psychology at the University of California, before moving to the UK to train as an actress at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. With a successful career in comedy and television, she has more recently been prominent in raising awareness of mental health, campaigning through various platforms to try and break the stigma around the subject. Wax has been very open about her own struggle with depression, and uses her own story when speaking about mental health to stress the importance of raising awareness for mental health, and that mental illnesses should be treated no differently than physical ones. What’s great about Wax as a mental health advocate is that we can visibly see the driving passion, the anger she feels when someone tells her to simply “perk up”. She expressed these feelings in her 2012 TED talk, What’s So Funny About Mental Illness?, in which she explained what causes mental illness in the modern day, and that, actually, it is a physical thing, caused by chemical reactions in the brain. A year later, Wax obtained her Master’s Degree in Mindfulnessbased Cognitive Therapy from Oxford, and used this knowledge to write her book and live show, Sane New World, in which she explored how our busy lives and relentless thoughts can cause stress and anxiety, and how understanding our brains can help. Wax is also a patron for the
British Neuroscience Association, and more recently was awarded an OBE for her services to mental health in 2015. Her most recent book, A Mindfulness Guide For The Frazzled, accompanied by her touring show Frazzled this year, follows on from Sane New World, and aims to engage readers and audiences in mindfulness its usefulness in everyday life in trying to keep sane. She has also founded Frazzled Cafe, which officially launched this month. With the tag line ‘It’s ok, to not be ok’, Frazzled Cafe gives people in cafés across the UK a space to talk openly about the way they’re feeling. What makes Ruby Wax stand out from the crowd is that rather than performing typical stand-up making little impact on an audience, or giving solemn talks on the issues of mental health which may also make little impact, she combines the two to really make a difference. Her tours, her books, her TV appearances all carry the trademark humour we love, yet she simultaneously sends a serious message about the importance of mental health awareness. She has actively sought to extend her knowledge on mental health and how the brain works, and devotes her time to spreading this information to help anyone and everyone. She truly deserves more recognition for her bravery in being so open about her own experiences, and for her outstanding achievement in raising the profile of mental health. Ruby Wax will bring her ‘Frazzled’ show to Nuffield Southampton Theatres on 21st May.
FALL OUT BOY:
THE THERAPISTS PUMPING THROUGH YOUR SPEAKERS WORDS BY SOPHIE TRENEAR ILLUSTRATION BY BETHANY WESTALL Blogging on the likes of Nickelback in 2013, Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump said: “All of the agreed upon pariahs throughout pop-culture history put their identities into the thing we decry. And yet we derive our own identities from the act of hating... Some may argue that nothing in history gathers a crowd like complaining about Lady Gaga’s meat dress. Near-masturbatory complaining has brought together more people than cheap liquor.” The man’s got a point. How are we meant to celebrate the work of artists, the work of our peers, and ourselves if we’re too busy bringing the world down around us? We are not what we love, but what we hate, as long as we hate it as a collective. Over their 16 years of existence, the alarm bells have rung for his Chicago-born four-piece, which is one that infamously indulges in convoluted metaphors and poetic symbolism circling depression, anxiety, and suicide. Perhaps most open about his struggles is bassist and lead lyricist Pete Wentz, who cites much of the band’s early lyricism as “coming from a dark place.” Specifically, second studio album From Under The Cork Tree, details the overwhelming anxiety that followed the rise to fame and the pressure Wentz put himself under, culminating in an unsuccessful suicide attempt poetically narrated in ‘7 Minutes in Heaven (Atavan Halen).’ Other songs – like ‘I’ve Got A Dark Alley And A Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth (Summer Song)’ and ‘XO’ – unveil a similar sense of consuming anxiety and claustrophobia that seemed to resonate with the band’s mounting fanbase. In joining the likes of My Chemical Romance and The Used in establishing
an honest, in-depth conversation about even the most difficult of emotions, the band’s music helped to cultivate a community united by the urge to deal with negativity and adversity. These lyrics formed a place of understanding and mutual belief, where emotional expressivity was encouraged when the world at large might react with hostility or invalidate them. With 2007’s Infinity On High, the understanding was brought to full fruition. Songs like ‘I’m Like A Lawyer With The Way I’m Always Trying To Get You Off (Me & You)’ contained a new, more hopeful kind of realisation (“And the best way to make it through / With hearts and wrists intact / Is to realise two out of three ain’t bad”) whilst ‘The (After) Life Of The Party’ revelled in the mystical humanity they were so eager to assert in the face of tabloid hysteria and the peak of stigmatisation of emo music (“I’m a stitch away from making it / And a scar away from falling apart”). Contrary to how they were being portrayed at the time, the band’s output was as human and vulnerable as it could get. Even after tumult and a three year hiatus, it was the same community that was re-cultivated for the post-break era. Save Rock And Roll and American Beauty/American Psycho both deal with the issues the band still encounters through depression and anxiety, but with a notably more optimistic tone. Over a career of reflecting upon their own struggles, it’s as if Fall Out Boy has held up a mirror to society to illustrate that these mental health issues are present and deserve to be taken seriously. The band has, without a doubt, been integral to breaking down the surrounding stigma. The phrase “This band saved my life” gets thrown around a lot regarding emo rock bands like Fall Out Boy, but damn, they’ve done so much to earn it.
MENTAL HEALTH AROUND THE WORLD Social-cultural diversity across the globe is reflected in differing approaches to mental illness. This article will explore both perceptions and support in developing and developed states, and what additional progress can be made. United Kingdom
Tackling mental health illnesses has received increasing coverage by media and medical authorities in the UK. Treatment has become more advanced, particularly when compared to the global norm, yet current measures to tackle mental health remain insufficient. NHS statistics indicate that 25% of all adults in the UK will suffer from mental health problems during their lifetime, with depression representing the largest and most difficult to treat mental health illness faced by Brits. Young adults, aged 16 to 24, are most commonly affected, and the NHS has consequently recently developed a range of treatments to attempt to address these concerns. In the wake of the 2015 election, the Government pledged £1.25billion to mental health services by 2020. The NHS plans to use these funds to improve existing services, while introducing greater community-based schemes, to reduce waiting times and work to lift the stigma against mental health illnesses by creating a platform for individuals to feel comfortable discussing any issues they face.
Traditionally, mental health has been a low priority within the Russian health system, with little evidence of discernible progress. Although legislation has given mental health illnesses greater treatment since 1993 reforms, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has indicated that mental health treatment predominantly remains based through institutions, with 279 psychiatric hospitals across Russia.
Treatment within institutions is inadequate, and those who do not respond well to initial treatment can be admitted to long-term social care institutions, where they can be held indefinitely. In December 2013, The Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia complained to the World Psychiatric Association regarding mental healthcare in Russia, and warned that conditions in hospitals often lead to civil rights and physical abuses directed against patients. Government legislation has seen a limited transition towards community based programmes, particularly since the inception of NGO’s into the region. Further downsizing of the hospital sector is essential to encourage confidence raising issues at a community based level. However, given the current political climate, further reform appears unlikely.
Treatment offered to those suffering from mental health conditions in China is often inaccurate, impractical and insufficient. Culturally, mental health remains highly stigmatised in Chinese society, a regional prejudice, and China consequently ranks amongst one of the worst states globally for treating those with mental health issues. WHO studies have found that fewer than 1% of the national health budget is allocated to mental health care, with individuals consequently prevented from accessing appropriate treatment through a lack of trained mental health professionals and poor access to services. While the core problems – anxiety and depression – remain constant globally, treatments offered
POLITICS & INTERNATIONAL
WORDS BY CAMERON RIDGWAY AND KIERAN HYLAND IMAGE BY ABI BARTHEE to sufferers of mental illnesses provide markedly less effective cures. Poor mental health facilities have only reduced life-spans in China. The WHO has estimated that between 2015 and 2025, the number of healthy years lost to dementia will grow by 56%. Only increased funding, and a regional overhaul of cultural stigmas, will reform.
Mental health treatment in the United States, although a multimillion dollar industry, is still not sufficient to provide care for those who need it. Cost is often a barrier in the US health system, restricting more expensive treatments to those who can afford to pay or have relevant cover under their insurance plan. Access to experts continues to be a continuing problem. Around 89.3 million Americans live in areas designated as having a shortage of mental health professionals, and many states cut money from their mental health budgets during the last financial crisis. The Guardian’s 2014 investigation found that many families living with someone affected by a mental illness were forced to pick up the cost themselves due to a lack of accessible treatment. Recent legislation has improved protections for those suffering from mental health concerns. The Obama-era Affordable Care Act requires all insurers selling compliant plans to include coverage for mental health treatments, while a 2008 law banned employee insurance programmes from imposing additional cost barriers for mental health treatment.
Chile’s health system is regarded as one of the best performing in South America, and has been ranked alongside European countries. Mental health treatment, however, is still a
POLITICS & INTERNATIONAL
developing area. Although mental disorders are highly prevalent, with the WHO predicting that 31.5% of the population will suffer from a psychiatric disorder in their lifetime, around 60% of the population that is expected to have a mental health disorder does not receive any form of treatment. A National Mental Health plan, implemented in 2000, brought about major improvements to mental care and an increase in community based support, but recent research has found that around 80% of Chileans suffering from a mental health disorder have not been diagnosed. Among OCDE countries, Chile also has some of the highest rates of both suicide and mental illness. The 2000 plan suggested that the Chilean Health Ministry should spend around 5% of its budget on providing mental health care, yet figures for 2012 suggest that only 2.16% of the department’s budget was dedicated to this.
In Libya, the effect of widespread human rights violations over the past four decades has been felt by much of the population. Recent research by the Danish Institute Against Torture (Dignity) found that nearly one in three suffers from depression. With little access to international aid or medical support, many Libyans are relying on friends, local doctors or religious leaders for treatment. Some even self-medicate with heroin or cocaine to try and ease the trauma. Mental illness is often stigmatised in Libya, to the extent that some consider it a consequence of paganism. Many mental health professionals fled the country during the unrest of 2011, and aid organisations have struggled to encourage them to return.
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
THE BIOLOGY BEHIND
ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION WORDS BY ABBIE WORF IMAGES BY BETHANY WESTALL
Mental health disorders are a major problem affecting overall public health, with 1 in 4 people diagnosed with some form of mental illness. Of these disorders, anxiety and depression are considered the two most common, often being diagnosed together. In fact, roughly 50% of patients diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with anxiety, representing 9.7% of the overall public. Depression is mainly highlighted as a mental disorder that induces helplessness and hopelessness in its victims, eliciting the self-damaging symptoms, such as loss of interest and a decrease in energy. It was frequently believed that depression resulted from a chemical imbalance in the brain, with those experiencing depression expected to exhibit lower levels of chemicals, such as the “happy chemical” Serotonin, compared to their healthy counterparts. However, more recent research into this disorder has highlighted that depression is perhaps more complex than this simple chemical imbalance. It was demonstrated that patients diagnosed with depression also exhibited defects in their hippocampus, such as a decrease in size and lack of cellular growth. The hippocampus itself is a key part of the limbic system, which functions in the processing and control of emotion, learning and memory. Such defects were therefore translated as the biological cause of the symptoms experienced by these patients.
it being a key determinant of the fight-or-flight response. However, when this emotion is prolonged, its effects are felt more intensely for longer periods of time, producing anxiety disorders. Interestingly, like depression, the feeling of anxiety is controlled by the limbic system, with certain parts of this system, such as the amygdala and hippocampus, playing important roles in the onset of this emotion. The amygdala functions in the communication between sensory signals, such as sight, and the interpretation of this signal based on previous experience. From this, it develops the correct emotional response based on this interpretation, one being the initiation of the anxiety response. It is believed that the basis of any anxiety disorder relates to a dysfunction in this processing ability of the amygdala. Patients may then lack the ability to differentiate a threat from other normal situations, explaining the abnormal initiation of the anxiety response in these patients. Unfortunately, the current biological explanations for these disorders only provide a short glimpse into the severity and complexity of mental health. Current knowledge is forever adapting, with the exact causes and cures changing, not only over time but also between each individual. Mental health is still a major problem of the modern world, highlighting the need for more research into the nature of mental health in order to fully understand this problem.
Anxiety arises as an issue revolved around the fear of the unknown, with the role of this emotion to increase the individual’s awareness in order to prepare them for any harmful scenarios. Anxiety is a normal human emotion, with
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY