Germanwings: Mental Health in the Media

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From: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/df/Germanwings_A319_D-AILK.jpg

So, mental health is in the news again.

I think it’s very interesting and potentially frustrating that for all the campaigning it only takes one incident for people to throw away their reasonable facade and show their true colours.

There’s been so much work in recent years to try and break the stigma and silence surrounding mental health problems, I think that, for the most part, it’s been working. There are still some pretty questionable newspaper headlines though- and the common denominator seems to be people acting in ways we don’t like.

When people commit horrible crimes we like to use things like mental illness as the excuse. It may or may not be, the truth is irrelevant, but it makes people feel better to distance themselves from the perpetrators.

I find it incredibly frustrating.

Mental illness is not a box to put people in, it’s a sliding scale. We all have mental health, some people have good mental health; others have mental health problems. We can all experience mental health problems, and we probably all will.

Tragedies happen, they can happen to any of us at any time for any reason. We like to find things like mental illness to blame, to convince ourselves that we could never do anything like that; or that something like that could ever happen to us.

To the best of my knowledge they haven’t found a real reason for the Germanwings disaster, so we have no idea what influence, if any, the mental health problems of the pilot had on the outcome. As usual the media have jumped on it and exploited it for all its worth.

Breaking down stigma can take years of hard work, but when times get tough we still use mental illness as a scapegoat. It’s beyond frustrating.

If mental illness scares you, there’s only one way to tackle it; talking about it. The more we talk, the more we offer treatment, the less likely we’ll be to see disasters (potentially) caused by mental health problems.

Shaming and stigma will only make people hide their problems away.

’til next time,

Wren x

Why I Don’t Get Offended When Christians Try To Convert Me…

I don’t mind when poeple try to convert me.

I’ve had a number of conversations recently with people of all different faiths, it made me think a lot about my attitude towards other religions back when I first started practising Paganism. My outlook has completely changed over the years.

I was recently talking to a Christian who said that they got annoyed when they saw other Christians trying to convert other people. I didn’t quite understand where he was coming from.

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From: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c0/Cristo_Redentor_-_Rio.jpg

Christianity is a religion strongly associated with proselytism, the Bible encourages its followers to go out and convert those around them. They don’t do this out of hatred, but out of love. If someone believes in Heaven and Hell then their attempts at converting me aren’t selfish, they’re because they don’t want me to suffer through eternal damnation.

If you’re a Christian, or a member of another proselytising faith, and you try to convert me, I’m not going to be offended. I won’t change my views or my faith; my beliefs run as strongly as yours, but I won’t get aggressive or think any less of you.

It can be really hard to take when someone starts to pick apart and question your faith; it sometimes feels like they’re insulting you in the worst way by believing that anything they say could break your love for your Gods. However, that preaching is probably an integral part of their belief system.

I’m very luck in that neither my partner, nor any of my close friends are particularly religious, I would like to think that constantly being around someone who was trying to change my belief system would be something that I could deal with; but I’m not so sure. I know that if my partner was a strong and devout Christian we would butt heads constantly.

Time and maturity help to give us patience. It’s allowed me to get to a point where I can happily listen to others talk about their faith and even attempt to sway me to it. I think there is a point where it could over-shadow a relationship, but I hope I either never have to tackle that, or grow even more patient and wise by the time it comes around.

I take my hat off to the interfaith couples out there, it can’t be easy to have someone who you love so much unable to understand such a big part of your life.

I’m secure and happy in my faith, someone else’s opinion of it doesn’t factor in. When I was younger I saw it as disrespectful and an insult, and yes, that is still the knee-jerk reaction that I sometimes have, but overall I can deal with it.

I think that Pagans can be quite touchy when they come into contact with Christians; I mean, you can understand why, but at the same time it doesn’t help the image of our community. If I want someone to respect my faith then I have to respect that, and if their faith tells them to proselytise, then I have to be the bigger person and deal with it.

’til next time,

Wren x

Death Cab for Cutie: Kintsugi

I happen to be quite a big fan of Death Cab for Cutie; their music was the soundtrack to my lonely teen years and will always hold a special place in my life. I love all of their albums, some people like to claim that the earlier ones are ‘the best’ and can’t be touched, but I think each one has its own unique flavour and suits a different mood.

I was really, really excited when I first heard that they were coming out with a new album, I was interested to hear what kind of sound this album would have, especially after ‘Codes and Keys’ which many people regard as a departure from their usual style.

I have to say that I think the songs on ‘Kintsugi’ are really reminiscent of their earlier work, listening to them feels a lot like being sixteen and listening to ‘Plans’ on repeat in my bedroom.

Incase you missed it, here are the four new singles that have been released:

I’m so happy to have some new music to get excited about! It feels like it’s been so long since anyone I love came out with a new album.

Whilst I’m here I thought I’d also add some of my favourite songs from their previous work, these change depending on my mood, but if you’re new to DCFC it might give you an idea of their sound:

’til next time,

Wren x

Thoughts On: Life After Suicide

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From: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1a/BBC_One_2002.png

Last Tuesday night I caught a really brilliant documentary on BB1 called ‘Life After Suicide’, it looked at how people coped after losing a loved one to suicide. It was really poignant and did a wonderful job at lifting the lid on suicide and grief.

One thing that was discussed was the level of guilt felt by people who worked in the mental health profession when friends, colleagues or loved ones took their own lives. I write a blog on mental health, but I still missed the signs when someone I cared about was thinking about ending their own life. After B died I really questioned myself and whether I wanted to continue writing this blog. I felt like a complete failure.

When you spend a good deal fo your time and effort on writing about and exploring mental health yet fail to notice when someone you know is in distress it makes you feel extremely guilty. I was so convinced that I’d be able to help anyone who needed it, that I’d spot it a mile off… and I didn’t.

Another problem that was explored was the fear of ‘normalising’ suicide by talking about it. I think it’s a very difficult and dangerous line to walk; on one hand we want to be open and honest about how a friend or family member has died- but we don’t want to put ideas into people’s heads. That’s why media reporting on suicide is so closely governed. This kind of thing can lead to copy-cat behaviour.

Dealing with any death is hard, but suicide has such a stigma attached to it. It makes me so angry sometimes, it almost feels like you’re not allowed to grieve for someone who has taken their own life. It feels like the world is carrying on and you can’t breathe. People don’t want to talk about it, because it scares and confuses them; so they don’t talk. They pretend that everything is still normal, when it’s not.

Trying to reconcile the person that you knew, with the person who took their own life, is hard. Sometimes it feels like they must be two separate people, because the person that you knew would never have done that. It’s one of the strangest feelings I’ve ever had.

People who’ve never been suicidal can’t understand what it feels like to say goodbye to loved ones. The pain isn’t numbed, when you know you’re going to kill yourself and you say goodbye to the people that you love you feel the pain of leaving them; but you also feel strongly that they’ll be better off without you, and possibly not even feel much grief at your death. It hurts so much to walk away from your family, knowing you won’t see them again.

Overall I can’t speak highly enough of this documentary. If you get a chance to watch it then please, please do. It’s the sort of thing that we should all be made to watch; suicide and mental illness will touch everyone at some point, it’s important that we try to break down the walls of shame and stigma that surround them.

In that vein, I think it was frustrating that the BBC chose to air this documentary at 10:30pm, when most people had gone to bed; why not put it at the popular 9pm slot? Too delicate? Too unsavoury? Stigma isn’t always obvious, but its frustrating that it even managed to touch something that tried to break it down.

’til next time,

Wren x

The Government Wants to Teach Teenagers About Sexual Consent…

About a year ago I wrote a post on sexual bullying, you can read it here.

In that post I wrote about my experiences, and about how I feel that it’s a topic that’s being swept under the rug. it’s not something that anyone is comfortable talking about.

Lately, the UK government has floated plans to make 11-16 year olds undertake ‘sexual consent lessons’. I don’t know what these lessons would entail, but if they’re planned well then they could offer a solution to the problem of sexual bullying.

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From: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/82/2009-0617-Ontonagon-school.jpg

This is one of those plans that’s been a little sensationalised by the media. However, I think that it’s a great idea and fully support bringing in anything that helps teenagers to talk about and understand sex and sexuality.

In the UK having sex is illegal for under 16s. However, this doesn’t mean that everyone under the age of sixteen is completely innocent and ignorant on the matter. We have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in Europe, something that shows the law makes little difference for many teenagers.

As well as that, anything that tackles the issue of sexual assault is good in my book. The silence surrounding anything of this nature is awful and only hurts the victims, so giving guidance on where and when to get help is a good thing.

The people who are uncomfortable with this kind of legislation seem to be highlighting two things; the first is that these lessons will encourage teenagers to have sex. Personally, I think the law makes little difference when someone is deciding to lose their virginity or engage in intimate acts. Teenagers have always, and will always, choose to have sex when they want to. It might not be great, but it’s pretty much impossible to police. Giving them knowledge will simply help to stop any fall-out and give them power to make educated and informed decisions, as well as keeping them safe from people who want to use them.

The second is that we should be keeping children ‘innocent’ and not tainting their minds with knowledge that they’re too young to know. Frankly, I find that slightly ridiculous. Teenagers see sex everywhere, and not giving them the proper information about it is damaging. Sometimes, ignorance is not bliss; at the end of the day there will be teenagers who are sexually assaulted, bullied or raped. They need to learn when to recognise that they are in a dangerous situation, when to know that someone has crossed the line and where they can get help.

’til next time,

Wren x

Bloglovin’

Just a bit of housekeeping today; I recently got my shit together and claimed my blog on Bloglovin’ so if you’re into that then please hop over there and follow me!

I have to admit that it’s kind of bewildering that I haven’t done this sooner, I follow loads of different blogs and putting them all in one place makes life (and internet browsing) so much easier. I think it actually cuts down on the time I spend online, so maybe I will get this essay done sometime…

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From: http://the-digital-reader.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/logo-bloglovin1.jpeg

In other news, the interview that I was wailing about last week seemingly didn’t go that badly; they offered me a place! I’m pretty happy about it, now all I have to do is decide between my two favourite choices (easier said than done) and actually pass my LTCL.

I’ve also come down with some stupid head cold, I’m not as ill as I was over Xmas but I’m feeling pretty frustrated right now. I feel like it’s been one thing after another with my health since I got over that winter bug, I’m going to the Doctor tomorrow morning about a completely non-related health problem, not looking forward to hauling my sniffling arse out of bed to tackle the morning rush hour.

On the plus side, the Equinox is coming up and I’ve actually been sticking to some of my New Years resolutions; so maybe 2015 is actually going to be a good year??

’til next time,

Wren x

The End of Friendship

This is a novelty; I have no idea what to write about this Monday. I’ve got plans for Wednesday and Friday, but my mind has dried up on the subject of mental health for the moment; maybe it’s because I’m happy?

I have to say that at the moment I’m really happy. I’m content with my life, it has its ups and downs but overall I think I’m the happiest that I’ve ever been. I have some serious challenges coming up in the next year, but I’m just going to have to grit my teeth and get through them.

As time is passing I’m finding myself discovering who my true friends are. They seems to be the people that I can just pick things up with when I see them again and who keep up with me mentally. It’s kind of sad to see how many of my friends don’t seem to be growing up- they’re still fixated on tiny events that happened years ago when we were at school.

I can’t join in when people start reminiscing about school; I don’t remember most of it and the memories that I do have aren’t happy ones. I was either being bullied or struggling with mental health problems when we were at school. Whilst they were ‘fraping’ each other I was cutting myself in a toilet cubicle.

That probably comes across as more self-pitying than I intended it to- it doesn’t make me emotional to think of, it was my life for a long time and I accept it.

What it does mean is that I don’t like to dwell on the past; some parts were great, but I don’t need to hear the same stories over and over again. If they’re the only things holding us together then our friendships just aren’t going to work. How long can we rehash the same stories before we realise how false our link is?

Things get awkward; time moves on and fewer people turn up to each gathering. There are a couple of my friends who seem desperate to hold us all together, and it isn’t natural. We’re meant to drift, to move on and develop new relationships. Yes, we’ll go for a drink now and then, but that’s it. Why can’t we talk about our lives now? Why can’t we forge new links and share new stories?

I have some lovely and amazing friends, I have friends I’ve known since I was a toddler. Those relationships are the ones that grow and change with time. Others are clearly only meant to last for a short period of time. People and friendships drift in and out of our lives. The hard part it knowing when to let go, and when to hang on.

’til next time,

Wren x