In which I look at mental health and disability stories over the past fortnight and commentate on them for writers and other interested parties.
“This is Why People With Anxiety Are The Best People To Fall In Love With”
not only is this terrible, oversimplified dating advice – it's a really harmful way of thinking about anyone, esp people with mental illness pic.twitter.com/UYAx3sRW11
— jonathan frandzone (@NotAllBhas) March 14, 2017
We kick off with this gem that combines several of my pet peeves when it comes to mental health reporting and writing – romanticisation of mental health problems, illness as identity, and “all people with X are the same”.
Firstly, living with a person with anxiety is difficult. Both my personal and professional experience tell me this, as do carers groups and charities like Mind. This article implies its some kind of all-consuming rapture.
My second point is a controversial one. I hold my hands up – I am a psychiatrist and I favour a biological model of mental illness. Therefore, when a person with anxiety comes to me, I see someone with an illness that can be treated or, at least, managed to improve their daily function. There is often a distinction made between “trait” and “state” anxiety – i.e. that anxiety is a part of someone’s personality make-up or it’s a temporary condition. Whichever theories you might subscribe to you, this article is talking about advantages of a person remaining anxious because that leads to a great relationship.
Finally, anxiety is different for every person, like all mental health problems. To say that this advice applies to all of them is ridiculous at best. It is dangerous and it opens up all parties to absuive situations.
“Work can make you mentally ill, but we still have a lot to learn about the links between employment and mental health” (The Mental Elf)
This is a great review at The Mental Elf, the go-to resource for understanding mental health research in context. The research in question is a meta-analyses – looking at multiple research papers to gather all known evidence on a subject, which is considered the pinnacle of research evidence. It included themes like lack of control and high demands, a mismatch of effort and reward, and fairness in the workplace.
Writers are often self-employed and answering to agents, editors, publishers and film studios. Their worked hours don’t often match the financial rewards of their profession. And access to the ivory tower is a whole ‘nother issue.
For writers to have sustainable careers, self-care is vital. The research shows that the environment can affect some of these factors, so the publishing and production industries need to take note. Because stories need writers.
As an interesting aside – taken from medicine but definitely application to other professions – take a look at Dr Elin Roddy’s career path as illustrated here:
I'm doing a talk later this morning and have tried to draw my career pathway. It's…..complicated. Also – not to scale 😂 pic.twitter.com/w3voDpuHZJ
— Elin Roddy (@elinlowri) March 18, 2017
In the last FSF, I talked about hysteria and linked it to the invention of the vibrator. Sadly, the talented Kate at Whores of Yore has debunked that myth in a fascinating read: Buzzkill: Vibrators and the Victorians (NSFW).