When I was diagnosed with clinical depression, the psychiatrist explained an overload of stress had left me trapped permanently in an adrenalin-charged fight-or-flight mode. Brilliant, if you need to escape a sabre-toothed tiger or score a Test century, not so great for popping into Waitrose for some Heston pine-scented mince pies. I sought help in time. Because I’m a woman. As a report in the journal Comprehensive Psychiatry noted, women may be protected against suicide because of the way they think about problems, process their experiences with friends, seek feedback and take advice.
So that legendary male inability to lower a car window to ask for directions is not the joke we think it is. Not when pulling over to seek help could be the difference between life and death.
Male depression is still taboo in a society where a guy can come out as pretty much anything, except really sad. With the winter of discontent drawing in, it’s not hard to foresee an epidemic of depression among the newly unemployed, both male and female. But it is the men who will need help to seek help.
Gary Speed may not have been able to reach out and save himself, but there are signs his loss will help others. The Sporting Chance clinic revealed on Tuesday that, since news of Speed’s death broke, more than 10 top soccer players have sought help for stress and depression. Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, said that players with mental health issues needed to find the “courage to ask for help”.
It won’t be easy to get men to equate an admission of weakness with an act of courage. But the tragedy of Gary Speed shows that sometimes you have to break the rule. Big Boys Do Cry.
I’d be proud to spend the sacred foreign aid budget on our poor pensioners
They just don’t get it, do they? The two million people who went on strike yesterday to challenge pension reforms, closing 19,000 schools and cancelling some 6,000 operations, may have been expressing a widespread feeling that it’s not fair. And they’re right. It’s not fair – or Snot Fair as my family calls it when the kids are protesting in the back of the car over some perceived injustice such as a critical lack of Haribos.
Wake up and smell the damp. The economy is in its worst shape since the 1930s and, like it or lump it, Snot Fair is where we all live now and will for the foreseeable future or until our grandchildren are auctioned on eBay to repay our debts to the Chinese. George Osborne should have stood up to deliver his Autumn Statement on Tuesday and said, “Sorry, folks, no money left. Total bloody nightmare,” and promptly sat down.
One thing that really isn’t fair is that while hardworking low-income families are losing vital child tax credits, superb Sure Start nurseries are closing and teachers are being told to work until they’re 67 (as if, when urban classrooms are warzones), we are still paying more than £9 billion a year in overseas aid. George Osborne announced that he is to cut more than £1 billion from Britain’s “ringfenced” international aid budget, but the Chancellor confirmed that the Government is still committed to its pledge to increase foreign aid to 0.7 per cent of GDP by 2013. Why?
This means that British taxpayers, struggling with rising bills and tuition fees, will be paying more than £10 billion to places like India, which, unlike us, can afford a space programme, and to Pakistan, where Giros are cashed by the grateful Taliban and used to buy weapons to fire at our heavily cutback Armed Forces in Afghanistan. Something very wrong there.
This is an exceedingly generous country – witness the £28 million given to the Children In Need appeal – but we should not be taking vital pennies from our own people just so the Coalition can grandstand its compassionate credentials. The Tory high command is briefed to tell us that it feels “proud” of our continuing generosity in foreign aid.
I would feel a damn sight prouder if we used that £9 billion to give our pensioners the care and dignity they deserve and to help haul our neediest children out of poverty. Osborne should hit the Pause button on overseas aid and restart it the moment we can afford it. What do you think?