Posts Tagged ‘‘A Malignant Sadness’’

Rapid Fire Destroys Belfield’s Ignorant and Dangerous Advice on Mental Health

March 28, 2022

Here’s another video tearing apart mad right-wing YouTuber Alex Belfield, whom some have called my favourite right-winger. Well, he is interesting in that he says out loud what the Tories secretly believe, but don’t want you to know. Like he’s in favour of the privatisation of the NHS. Belfield styles himself and his wretched internet show ‘the Voice of Reason’. This is because he affects to be an ordinary man with ordinary, common sense opinions standing up against Guardian-reading, champagne-sipping, oyster-eating leftie twirlies and whippersnappers. His views are pretty much those of the right-wing media, not much different from those spouted by Rod Liddle, Richard Littlejohn and any number of other overpaid bores. And while he presents them as common sense, they can be ignorant and dangerous.

This video from Rapid Fire lays into Belfield for the advice he was doling out to people suffering from depression on his show way back in February. The video’s just under 18 minutes long, and I haven’t seen all of it. What I did see was enough to convince me that Belfield is massively unqualified to talk to anyone about mental health, and that the video was an excellent demolition of the stupid and dangerous nonsense Belfield was spluttering. The first couple of minutes of the video alone tear it down and show as arrant nonsense. That evening’s topic of conversation was mental health, and Belfield had appealed for people with conditions like depression to phone in. The video begins with Belfield talking to one gent, who was diagnosed with depression by his GP. Belfield takes issue with this, as ordinary doctors aren’t mind specialists. Well no, they aren’t. But as Rapid Fire points out, they have mental health training and are therefore in a far better position to dispense advice and treatment for mental conditions than random members of the public and opinionated talk show hosts.

I think I can talk with some authority about mental illness, because I suffer from depression and anxiety after suffering a breakdown nearly thirty years ago. What happened in my case is that I went to the doctor, who prescribed drugs and then referred me to the appropriate psychiatrists and therapists. I assume that this is what generally happens, depending on the case. Belfield goes on to ask the man about his symptoms. He replies that he was unable to concentrate. Belfield responds that that isn’t a symptom of depression. At which point, Rapid Fire leaps in with the appropriate medical literature to show that it certainly is. Which should be enough to tell anyone that Belfield doesn’t know what he’s talking about and should either do some proper research, or better, shut up and leave it to medical professionals to give advice.

I think Belfield is like many people, and simply believes that depression is simply a case of feeling sad a bit worse than usual. Instead of taking drugs, you can and should pull yourself together. But depression isn’t like that. Lewis Wolpert, the biologist and Humanist/secularist, described it best in the title he gave to his book describing the battle he had with depression following the death of his mother, A Malignant Sadness. People seek medical help because they can’t pull themselves together and it persists despite their best efforts to get themselves out of it. There has been debate over whether drugs are being overprescribed for it, but sometimes they’re exactly what’s needed. And there shouldn’t be any shame in that. But this attitude isn’t shared by opinionated hacks like Belfield, whose own, supposedly common sense opinions are actually ignorant and dangerous. But they appeal to the prejudices of their right-wing audience, and so get them viewers and readers.

Ignore Belfield, trust the doctors and trained medical professionals, and if you want to see Belfield’s massive ignorance exposed, watch Rapid Fire’s video below.

Boris Johnson’s Cure for Depression – Go Back to Work!

July 21, 2019

Boris Johnson and his legion of deep thinkers ponder mental health.

Just as Johnson has ignorant views on foreign nations and their leaders, so, it should come as no surprise, that he also has stupid and ignorant views on depression and mental illness. Yesterday Mike put up another article, based on a piece by Poorna Bell in i News, about Johnson’s latest piece in the Torygraph, in which he informs that disgusting rag’s readers about his ideas for tackling this serious health problem. And it really isn’t anything worth considering. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. His views on its solution aren’t just ignorant, they’re actually dangerous.

BoJo believes that depression can not only be effectively tackled, the cure would also help the economy and save money, all at the same time. So what is this wonder cure? Simples. He wants the depressed to go back to work. Because it worked for Winston Churchill during his ‘Black Dog’ episodes. According to the sage of Henley on Thames, or wherever it is he’s MP, it was through work Churchill ‘pitchforked off’ his depression. He goes on to write that what is true for Churchill is also to a certain extent true for the rest of us – that we derive a large extent of our self-esteem from our work. He goes on to say that it is being engrossed in our daily tasks that we derive an all-important sense of satisfaction.

Mike shrewdly remarks that if hard work’s so good at curing depression, then why has Boris himself never tried it? He admits its a low blow to claim that the man, who would be PM is mentally ill, but his views are an offence against people, who really have been diagnosed with these problems. He therefore asks

As this man may soon be the UK’s prime minister, why has nobody demanded that he undergo a mental health check?

Boris Johnson’s comment about mental illness raises one revealing question

Bell, the writer of the original article on which Mike’s is based, also isn’t impressed. She lost her husband to depression, and makes the point that it isn’t that people with depression don’t want to work, it’s that they can’t.

We’ve heard this kind of nonsense before. When the Tories first got nearly nine years or so ago, they and a number of mental health charities were advocating this approach. Tom Pride, Johnny Void and a number of other left-wing blogs, including Mike, tore it to pieces. They especially attacked the directors of the mental health charities making these claims, pointing out that they really had no understanding of depression and other forms of mental illness before, and their personal connections to industry and right-wing think tanks.

It’s the advice given out by fit types, who have never suffered any form of anxiety or depression, and so have absolutely zero understanding of it. To them, it’s just feeling a bit down. But never mind, you can pull yourself out of it, if you want to! Those people usually tell you how they were left feeling very depressed once, but they were able to come out of it by putting their mind to it.

And they’re wrong.

Depression isn’t like feeling ‘a bit down’. It is, as one scientist, Lewis Wolpert, called it A Malignant Sadness, which was the title of the book he wrote about his experience with it after losing his mother. And you can’t pull yourself out of it. Those with it try, and fail, and the failure makes them feel worse. Or at least, that was my experience when I came down with it nearly three decades ago.

Johnson’s comments are also those of someone, who has never had to take a job he didn’t want or like in his life. As an Old Etonian, he could always rely on his wealth and connections to open doors for him, just like his fellow old school chum David Cameron was invited to work for the royal family. Johnson worked first as a journalist, then became editor of the Spectator, and finally a professional politician with an eye on the top job. I dare say all these jobs have their stresses and problems. But he has never been forced to take a menial, poorly paid job simply to put a roof over his head and/or food on the table. He has never been in a zero-hours or short-term contract, nor had to worry about any other kind of job precarity. And whatever else they were, his jobs weren’t boring.

When I had my breakdown, I was in an extremely boring job. I had nothing to distract me from the fears and anxieties I had at the time. And so, while I can’t claim the job caused the breakdown, it didn’t help and made my mental health worse.

And I’m sure I’m not alone by a very, very long chalk.

At the time I was working in an office, as very junior staff. And job hierarchy is very much part of the problem. Way back in the 1990s the Beeb’s flagship science programme, Horizon, covered the problem of stress. Using the civil service records going back to the First World War or so, they showed that while the people at the top of the civil service were also under pressure, it was the people at the bottom of the pile who suffered from stress-related illnesses. And the crucial reason why they did, and they’re seniors didn’t, was simply because their seniors were in a position of leadership. They had control, whereas the staff at the bottom didn’t. One former, high ranking civil servant said that when he joined, it was like the whole world was opening up to him.

Which exactly describes Johnson’s position and mentality.

He could always count on a very good position, even if it wasn’t one of leadership. As an Etonian, he immensely privileged and has access to a world of opportunity very much not granted to you and I. And it shows. He’s always enjoyed good mental health, even if that doesn’t hold true for commonsense, intelligence and simple common decency. He has never, ever in his life suffered the anxieties and stresses of the powerless, the people most likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.

He doesn’t understand their predicament. Neither do his readers, or the rest of the Tory party and its degraded, mendacious press.

He isn’t interested in making genuinely sick people well. He’s only interested in finding ways to get people back into poorly paid, insecure work. Or if not that, then simply off the benefits the poor and sick need to survive.

And this means that if he gets in, we can expect the wretched workfare, benefit sanctions and work disability tests to continue. Because it’s all justified in getting people back to work, as that will cure them.

Except it doesn’t. Mike has put on his blog time and again case after case in which the DWP declared a severely ill person ‘fit to work’. And quite often they tried to justify this by saying that working ‘would bring positive benefits to their self-esteem’ or some other similar sniveling rubbish. Like the case where the DWP passed someone as fit to go back to work, who was being treated for cancer in the spine. This person was in no way fit to go back, but the assessor decided they should because ‘it would give them something to look forward to.’


Boris is a menace to the disabled poor, as is his wretched party. Get them out, and a Labour party, led by Corbyn, in!


The Continuing Scandal of the DWP Asking the Depressed Why They Haven’t Committed Suicide

March 18, 2017

Mike this week put up a piece reporting and commenting on the admission by Maximus that they do indeed ask depressed people questions about suicide as part of the Work Capability Assessment. See are several questions. The first questions simply ask them if they have had thoughts about suicide, and the frequency and severity of these thoughts. These are, in my view, reasonable questions. Or rather, it would be if it were part of a genuine medical examination as part of a real programme to make that person well again. Depression isn’t a case of being ‘a bit down’. It is, as the British medical scientist, writer and Humanist, Lewis Wolpert described it in the title of his book, ‘A Malignant Sadness’. Clearly, if someone does have thoughts about suicide, they are extremely unwell and desperately need help.

The other questions, however, is unwarranted and frankly dangerous. The depressed person is then asked

“And what is it that stops you from acting on the thoughts that you have?

“Can you think of any reason that you’re not doing that? Is it friends or family support?”

Now it should be clear to anyone with the most meagre level of intelligence that asking people, who are already mentally fragile and have admitted they think of doing themselves injury or actually killing themselves, why they haven’t done so is extremely dangerous. My guess is that the way it is phrased in particular makes the question seriously unethical, as it seems to assume that the depressed person is not seriously troubled by these thoughts unless he or she has tried to act them out.

I don’t know, but I can imagine that if a social scientist or medical professional doing research amongst the clinically depressed asked the question, they could be hauled up before their relevant bodies overseeing professional standards for ethics violations or misconduct. As part of their training, social scientists are told not to phrase questions in the form of ‘You’re not…are you?’ And the Hippocratic Oath, a form of which doctors were required to take until recently, contained the provision ‘And I shall do no harm.’ These questions seem close enough to the first question, at least in spirit, to make them also unethical, while violating that provision of the ancient doctor’s Oath in that they could seem to some to be suggesting that they should.

The Work Capability Test itself is a scientific travesty. It is based on spurious and scientifically invalid research supposedly linking recovery to illness to mental attitude. The whole wretched test was introduced by Blair and his coteries on the recommendation of the American insurance fraudster, Unum, in a conference in the first years of this century. It is based on the attitude, shared by the Blairites and the Tories, that nearly everyone claiming invalidity or sickness benefit is a malingerer, despite the fact that such fraud only counts for 0.7 per cent of such claims.

The question also shows the immense double standards about health that persists between us and our rulers. It’s assumed that asking a severely ill person why they haven’t harmed themselves or committed suicide is acceptable. But heaven help anyone, who asked the same question of a captain of industry or leading politician why they haven’t tried to commit suicide, and you can imagine the feeding frenzy from an outraged press.

For example, the Blairite contender for the Labour leadership and flagrant liar, Angela Eagle, was asked by Andrew Neil on the Daily Politics about Tony Blair and whether the vile warmonger should face trial for leading Britain into an illegal war. Tellingly, she said no, as ‘Tony’s been through the wringer’. Thus showing that she cared more for the Dear Leader’s anguish than for the real horror he has inflicted on hundreds of thousands, of not millions of innocent people, who have been killed, tortured and forced out of their homes through the carnage he and that other malignant creature, George Dubya Bush, have created through their war. I don’t know what Neil’s response was, but can you imagine the outrage that would have resulted if Neil had said, ‘Well, he can’t be going through too much trouble, ’cause he’s still walking’.

Or if one of the other interviewers asked the same question of one of the Tories, like Theresa May, David Cameron, or the people directly responsible for the question: Ian Duncan Smith and Damian Green. There would have been fury directed at the ‘left-wing’ BBC. How dare they suggest that a minister of the realm isn’t doing his job if he hasn’t committed suicide for his failures! Or even the suggestion that they have failed in their job, which the Tories have, spectacularly.

But if it is acceptable to ask a gravely disturbed person why they haven’t acted out their desires to harm themselves, then by the same standard it should be acceptable to ask the same questions of anyone, including and particularly the ministers that have formulated that question.

Now I am not suggesting that Blair, May, Cameron, aIDS or Damian Green should be asked these questions, or otherwise be told to kill themselves, for precisely the same reason I don’t think anyone should be asked these questions. I am merely trying to point out the double standards involved here.

Now I imagine that if they were asked about this question, Damian Green or his predecessor, the Gentleman Ranker (and a right ranker he truly was) would say, in their inimitably patronising manner, that they are only trying to gauge the severity of the illness. This is rubbish. The whole test is structured so that the government can find some pretext to deny paying the ill person disability benefit on the grounds that they’re still somehow fit for work.

And Mike and many other bloggers and disability activists also see something much more sinister here. Many tens of thousands of people have committed suicide, or died in poverty and misery after being thrown off benefit, although the DWP continues to deny it. See Stilloaks website and the blog, ATOS Miracles, for further coverage of this and the biographies and individual cases of some of the victims. For Mike and people like Jeff Davies, one of the long term commenters on my blog this is evidence of a covert, secret genocide of the disabled. The government wants them dead, because that way they don’t have to pay out to support them. They can continue lowering the taxes of their rich donors.

This is how it’s beginning to look to very many of us, whether we’re disabled or fit. The presenters of the Channel 4 comedy review show, The Last Leg, even said so themselves. There should be mass outrage about these questions and the test itself. That there isn’t is a major disgrace in itself.

Unemployment and Health in the 1980s

March 15, 2016

Earlier this morning I put up a piece urging people to look at an article on Mike’s blog, over at Vox Political, in which he discusses composing and sending in a form letter from claimants with depression. This, he argues, would make the connection between benefit sanctions and increased rates of depression and anxiety irrefutable. Despite numerous protests and warning from disability and mental health groups, and the medical profession, Ian Duncan Smith still refuses to accept that his wretched welfare reforms are pushing people into suicide and depression. As I said, he has no arguments against this. When pressed, he simply blusters about his beliefs, or goes into a huge rant about how no-one else is doing anything to solve the problem of long-term unemployment. He did this when he appeared on an edition of Question Time with Owen Jones, when the author of the classic book on the demonization of the working class took the bald brute to task for his callous and destructive policies. A foam-flecked angry rant followed.

Psychologists have presented statistics showing that over a quarter of a million benefit claimants have been pushed into depression and anxiety because of the DWP’s sanctions regime. 590 have died in poverty, of neglect, starvation and horrifically by their own hand. This on its own should be sufficient proof that IDS’ policies aren’t working. But it isn’t. Hence the need, so Mike argues, for the form letter.

In support of Mike’s argument, I quoted a piece from Eric Hopkins’ social history, The Rise and Decline of the English Working Classes 1918-1990. He notes that in the depression of the 1930s, two unemployed men committed suicide every day. Later in the book he discusses the depression of the 1980s. He states that ‘How far real depression was suffered is impossible to quantify, and would depend on individual circumstances’. He also states that

(U)nemployment in itself does not appear to have contributed much to sickness rates. The Economist Intelligence Unit 1972 survey found that the unemployed were no more likely than the employed to visit the doctor, though slightly more on average were liable to have a long-standing illness; and there were higher rates of chronic sickness among manual workers who (as we have seen) were more subject to unemployment than skilled workers. (P. 20).

However, the Economist Intelligence Unit published some statistics in 1982 that shows that people’s self-respect and mental health were being damaged by unemployment.

About a fifth of those interviewed (19 per cent) confessed to being miserable or unhappy since losing their jobs; 17 per cent to being restless and bad-tempered, 15 per cent to being less patient and tolerant, and 13 per cent to being easily upset or snappy. Interviewees often mentioned becoming more aggressive, emotional and ashamed. As for material disadvantage, 13 per cent said they had been affected very badly, and 24 per cent that they were affected ‘fairly badly’; 32 per cent said they had not been affected at all (presumably they had been on low wages). Answers on this topic varies according to length of unemployment; of the long-term unemployed, 20 per cent said they had been badly affected, and 30 per cent affected ‘fairly badly’. (P. 218).

My guess is that if IDS is basing his denials on anything other than simple belief, it’s the statistics from the 1980s, as these would seem to confirm his own prejudices that no-one was being harmed by unemployment. Like most of the Tories, he believes that the unemployed are simply idle and workshy, and need to have a good dose of poverty in order to force them to get a job or work harder.

The problem for using the stats from the 1980s in this way is that conditions are now rather different. Those statistics come from a time when there were either no, or a much less rigorous system of benefit sanctions. The conditions unemployment benefit could be received was being cut. For example, I can remember that one of the conditions Maggie scrapped was unemployment provision for those going on holiday. However, it wasn’t quite like the absolute denial of income there is now, although there were certainly justifiable fears at the time that this would be the final result. And undoubtedly, many people were suffering genuine poverty.

The Gentleman Ranker is also basing his claim on discredited arguments about the existence of a dependency culture, largely coming from the American Republicans. When I found a booklet published by his moronic Social Justice Centre a few months in a second hand book shop, many of the arguments seemed to be based on experience in America. The blurb on the back declared that when benefits had been cut in America, welfare dependence had fallen in some cases by 40 per cent. That’s entirely possible, of course. It doesn’t, however, tell you whether those people then got a job, or if they just starved to death or subsisted on scraps from friends and relatives. And IDS can’t tell you either. All he does is rant about how it’s ‘what he believes’. Well, Smith can also believe that the Earth is flat, and Maggie was a titan of political insight and acumen, but that doesn’t make them true either.

The overwhelming evidence is that benefit sanctions are pushing the unemployed and disabled into anxiety and the ‘malignant sadness’, as the scientist Lewis Wolpert described depression in the title of his book on it. And it shouldn’t surprise anyone, given the statistics from the Economist Intelligence Unit on the way unemployment was affecting people’s minds and moods. But the evidence of statistics and medical professionals is, apparently, not enough to sway the mind of Ian Duncan Smith. This says all you need to know about the rationality of this government, and Smith’s own glaring unfitness for office.