It’s always harder to forget the book that rips your heart from your chest. Irene Némirovsky’s, Suite Francaise is that book for me. It’s the story of a group of Parisians, thrown together during the Nazi occupation of their city in 1942. A heady mix of persecution, brutality, missed opportunity, sacrifice and broken families – it’s the most depressing book that I have ever read.
So, there’s very little doubt that Suite Francaise will not be included on the approved reading list for the UK’s new “Books on Prescription Scheme”.
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Here’s a challenge. Try getting to the end of this article without fidgeting. That means no phone calls, checking text messages, scrolling through emails, updating Facebook, nothing. Keep your hands off your electronic device.
For an increasing number of us that’s a tough ask, we are bewitched by the our access to instant information and for many of us its becoming an unhealthy obsession.
According to this week’s Essential Report, that shiny new compact handheld computer the boss provides has roped us into 24/7 employment; 31 per cent of us regularly check our work emails out of hours, 30 per cent of us on weekends and 21 per cent of us on on holidays.
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Here’s what I’m willing to be believe: a person can actually spend far too much time on the internet. That almost without knowing it we can grow accustomed to the sound of our smartphone going “ping” and scrolling through our Facebook and Twitter feeds before we even get out of bed in the morning.
That being on the Internet can makes us feel intelligent, in the loop and connected to our friends, family, colleagues and peers because we know instantly what everyone is talking about. And yet, by contrast, the Internet can make others feel so anxious that they must commit to periods of being completely offline for their own wellbeing.
Here’s what I’m not willing to believe: that the Internet creates mental illness or is responsible for a whole heap of people going mad.
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From next year three year-old children will be screened for mental illness. GPs will screen kids for general physical issues at routine appointments, and three year-olds will also be assessed from the neck up for issues including depression, anxiety, and autism spectrum disorder.
The Healthy Kids Check is a wacky idea, even if it is being promoted with the best of intentions.
While the mental health of our children matters a great deal and there are clearly mental illness concerns for children, a policy that encourages doctors and parents to look for signs of mental illness at such a young age is misplaced and is likely to lead to several problems, all of which are worse than the proposed ‘cure’.
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Down your beers, out-drink and out-fight your mates. Get smashed on the weekends and impress every second chick you meet at a club. Be emotionless, aggressive and show no weakness.
This tough Aussie bloke image has led a dominant social construction of manliness in Australia and sends a message that men don’t and shouldn’t struggle with stress, get depression, anxiety or any mental health issues. But if you do, the antidote to that is a bucket full of cement and some “hardening the f—k up” and she’ll be ‘right.
We’re a nation so obsessed with demanding our blokes be “bullet proof” that it is literally killing us. For many, suicide is an easier option than admitting that you’re having a tough time and need a bit of help.
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Mental health surveys consistently show that around one in five of us will experience an episode of significant distress and dysfunction in any year. It saddens me that this suffering is mostly labelled as mental disorder and that we are encouraged to seek medical treatment for it.
No one likes suffering, but to suffer meaninglessly is worse. We should therefore strive to help people make sense of their distress; instead contemporary psychiatric practice is to rob actions and experiences of their meaning by applying simplistic labels and glib biological explanations.
Of course biological understanding can impart meaning, sometimes dramatically.
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Our mental health priorities are seriously out of whack.
Australia’s mental health system is a shambles. It’s under-funded and plagued by bureaucracy and a lack of political will.
People in desperate need of help are slipping through the cracks, as bed numbers dive and community support fails to reel in the slack.
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