QUEER LONELINESS & THE IMPENDING MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS

by Kasper Hassett

CW: mental health

Long predating the lockdown, members of the LGBTQIA+ community have reported feelings of isolation and loneliness at alarmingly high levels. This reached a point where ‘queer loneliness’ was dubbed an epidemic, and the mental health of the community overall was recognised as dire. With many now separated from their support networks during lockdown, queer people are experiencing new lows in their mental health. Additionally, much of the previously mentally healthy population is also struggling, and NHS services are suffocating from cuts, meaning that many queer people will miss out on vital mental health services as a complacent wider world focuses on going ‘back to normal’. Continue Reading

PROFIT BEFORE PEOPLE

by David Breakspear

Whilst going about my daily ritual of spending hours in front of a computer screen researching in a variety of areas, one of which being the criminal justice system, I came across this piece with the headline ‘Mental health trust takes back contract for more serious conditions at Norwich prison’. It was a report in an edition of the Great Yarmouth Mercury.

I have served as a prisoner for a good number of years at HMP Norwich, and as someone who has a complex mental health history, I came into contact with the mental health team on a regular basis. I was also a trained listener and would have dealings with the team as a third party on behalf of individual prisoners.

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MARBLES: MANIA, DEPRESSION, MICHELANGELO AND ME – REVIEW

by Lucy Caradog

Content warning: depictions of mental illness

Just before her thirtieth birthday, Ellen Forney is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo And Me is an autobiographical journey which follows her years-long exploration of medication, therapy, and how they affect her creative drive. Despite it being referenced off-hand in popular media, a taboo around bipolar disorder still remains prominent – this is something that Forney does an excellent job of addressing in her graphic memoir: during the second meeting with her therapist, she recalls saying “My mother and I both have bipolar tendencies, but I’m not like, bipolar bipolar”. Despite having an understanding of the mental illness, she initially rejects the possibility of having it.

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BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER: A REPRESSED SUPERPOWER, PART II

by Sunetra Senior

CW: abuse | Continues from Part I here

Both Analytical and Emotional Intelligence

Mystification: go to work in an office to endorse more of that analytical, grounded thinking.

Hidden Truth: having these two qualities in equal measure means you have constant access to an enviable social clairvoyance that does well in advisory and imaginative professions.

The twin pairing is an attenuated, ongoing version of psychosis which means you can control it and draw from it whenever you want. What’s more you can immediately translate profound ideas to those around you, having one foot in the cosmos and the other in the everyday. That same parental lacking when a person with Border Personality Disorder grew up, made them sharp to environmental clues in order to survive. As this person grows older, they will retain this attentiveness, accumulating little signs and symbols – politically, mathematically and socially –  to equip them to make impressive and perceptive connections and even predict sociological algorithms.

Additionally, you are likely to be excellent in the arts and in critical thinking because you process such a sensitivity to surroundings and are rapidly processing information and images. You can identify intuitive nuances that make great cinema and literature.

The world needs more dedicated artists, sociologists, researchers and socially conscious politicians, not bankers, marketing executives and legal crooks.Continue Reading

BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER: A REPRESSED SUPERPOWER, PART I

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by Sunetra Senior

CW: self-harm, abuse

As a homage to mental health awareness week (14th- 20th May), I have decided to write on an often misunderstood and underrepresented psychological health condition close to my heart, or more accurately my spirit.  Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD is characterised as a ‘behavioural disorder’, which is intrinsic to one’s selfhood, and because of its often abuse-induced origins, has been notoriously difficult to treat. It is not the expected actions or the very true fact that the condition is deeply ingrained that I take issue with, but the medical paradigm of dysfunction and negativity implied by the alliterative last acronym.

This pervasive perceptual context, reflective of the attitude towards many mental health issues, permits an entire trail of prejudice, extending to the defining symptoms of BPD. Common misconceptions are “attention-seeking, manipulative and over-emotional”.  This comes from the high numbers of those with BPD who self-harm, especially during their already tumultuous teenage years, their expressing the need for special care or extra-vigilance and seeming not to be able to cope with the interpersonal and social challenges that everyone else can.

It is time to not only put the record straight, but to add some fucking colour.Continue Reading

ANOTHER HIGHER EDUCATION IS ALREADY HERE – BEYOND TUITION FEES #8

By Sarah Amsler

It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. But what will the implications for universities be if this comes to pass? And what can we do to leverage this progress? In this series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green are bringing together perspectives from across the sector to explore these questions.

‘The university’ is a fertile space within which to practice radical imagining and world-making today. I do not mean that actually-existing universities, in the UK or elsewhere, necessarily provide space for such work. On the contrary, there is ample evidence that the spaces for critique and creative thinking in higher education have shrunk as forces of commodity fetishism, privatisation, competition and authoritarian modes of control have permeated university governance. Continue Reading

AN OPEN LETTER TO STEVE DOWNES, EDP.

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by Eli Lambe 

No, Soup Kitchens are not making Norwich’s “Homelessness problem” worse. It might seem that way to you, if you’re used to brushing the vulnerable off and not having to see the reality of more and more people’s lives. The easy solution – and the one that your newspaper and the local police like to peddle – is to force rough sleepers and vulnerable people out to the fringes of the city, where they’re cut off from their community and support and, most importantly it seems, you don’t have to see them.

What makes you think that your walking past the Haymarket every so often qualifies you to write about the lives of the people in the queue?Continue Reading

YOU’RE HAVING A LAUGH

by Alice Thomson

Life is hard. For everyone. We’re all trying to find some meaning to our lives, trying to figure out where we belong and what our purpose is. Amongst that, we see what is going on the world, either connected to us or globally. Our environment can be tough to digest.

My last article was about the cuts the government is in the process of implementing to benefits for disabled people. I spent a lot of time researching the article and it really brought me down. I already knew it was a problem and needed to be spoken about, bknowledge,ut to learn the extent of the issue and read personal experiences, made me feel hopeless. The news can easily do that. Making it difficult, not only to take control and make positive changes to our environment, but to make those changes for ourselves. It’s a trick that’s as old as the book. Since the time people were able to establish a hierarchy, those on top kept everyone else in the dark to keep them in their place. Knowledge is power. Muddy the water of knowledge, and we disengage and disenfranchise the masses.Continue Reading

THIS IS MY LOVE STORY

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by Anonymous

cw: sexual assault, PTSD

There’s something weirdly intimate about being curled up in a corner of a bed, completely naked and sobbing uncontrollably, unable to catch your breath and being very conscious of the wet space between your legs where a warm body was just seconds ago. The face belonging to this body is now centimetres away from my face, asking too many questions, and panicking more than I am.Continue Reading

A CHANGE IS AS GOOD AS A REST?

by Alice Thomson

So much has happened in only a few months, for me personally as well as globally – let’s be honest, the the past year’s events in the United States of America alone of the past year would be tough to sum up in a 1,000 word article. I don’t think I could do justice to the topic.  As this is my first article in a while, I thought I’d focus on what I’ve been up to, to give you an idea of the reasons for my absence the last few months.Continue Reading

IF I WERE IN CHARGE…

by Alice Thomson

Let’s be honest – I’m sure if I was actually in charge of the country I’d be rubbish at it. The role of Prime Minister does not appeal to me. It’s not exactly your 9-to-5 kind of job. The stress and responsibilities you’d have, not to mention the impossible decisions you’d have to make, would turn me into a quivering wreck. And that’s before your character is picked apart by the media. As a disabled person, roles like that of PM are particularly inaccessible. Trying to live your own life with chronic pain and minimum spoons is hard enough without attempting to run a county as well. That doesn’t mean I can’t spent time on trying to imagine a better world. And I reckon I have a few good ideas from such imaginings – though everything is always much easier from the comfort of your armchair. Sports fans shouting advice through their televisions at some of best trained athletes in the world comes to mind.

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RUNNING AWAY

by Alice Thomson

I moved to Norwich five years ago. Well, actually, I didn’t move to Norwich at all. When I relay the story of how I came to live in Norwich I always jokingly say I came to visit and never left. For me Norwich was great – love at first sight. The reason why I came to stay in Norwich was a lot less great and a lot more painful. I came down for a week to visit my mother and celebrate our birthdays (they’re six days apart). I was living in Aberdeen at the time, so at the end of the week my mum drove me up to the Scottish border as planned. She was going to see friends, and I was going to carry on my journey from there. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. The prospect of continuing my journey filled me with crippling fear. It became obvious to my mum that I couldn’t go home. And so we turned around, and came back to Norwich. I ran away.

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MORE THAN A BEST FRIEND

by Alice Thomson

We’ve all heard it said that dogs are man’s best friend. It appears to hold true – in the UK one in two households owns a pet and in 2015 it was estimated that the pet population stood at 8.5 million dogs and 7.4 million cats. With so many of us owning and loving our pets, the idea that dogs can be more than faithful companions isn’t that surprising. The ones who know that the best are likely the 7000-plus disabled people in the UK who depend on assistance dogs for care ranging from alerting those with epilepsy of an oncoming seizure, guiding the blind, or helping someone with limited mobility to perform daily activities. They are even used for therapeutic needs, often for those suffering with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety or depression.

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REVIEW – TRANSGENDER KIDS: WHO KNOWS BEST?

by Zoe Harding

On the same night Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best? aired (Thursday 12th), an apparently rather excellent documentary named Hospital exposed the difficult conditions under which the modern NHS works, bringing it to the attention of the nation that if you get sick and go to an NHS hospital, you’ll be treated by a doctor who’s working shifts more commonly seen in 19th-century coal mines while the Prime Minister calls them lazy. It was quite good. The subjects of Hospital (doctors) seem to have loved it. No such luck for the subjects of BBC2’s other documentary that night, however. Continue Reading

MY CONFESSION

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by Alice Thomson

It’s January, and we all know what that means. Short days, cold weather, no money and January Blues. For many, this can be a tough, unhappy time of year. For some – especially those with mental illnesses – it can be even worse. One in four people suffer with depression. I am part of that one in four. This is for them, and for those want to try to understand.

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LONELY THIS CHRISTMAS

by Alice Thomson

For many, the festive season can be a stressful time of the year as well as a joyous one. There’s all the gifts you have to buy, making sure to post presents and cards in time for the big day, getting the whole family around a table on Christmas day – and these are just a few of the many things you have to deal with. There are many people who don’t celebrate Christmas, of course, but for a number of those who do Christmas can actually be the loneliest time of the year. They might not have families or friends to go to. Amongst these were the 300,000 elderly who spent Christmas day on their own last year – but loneliness and isolation can be one of the hardest things to overcome for other people too. For someone with a disability or a rare or invisible condition that others struggle to comprehend, loneliness can be exceptionally hard.

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WHITEWASHING OF MENTAL HEALTH

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By Julian Canlas

TW: Mental health, racialised violence, racism

The first session at the psychotherapist is always tough. Your psychiatrist is a lanky white man presumably in his 50s. There’s a mosaic of framed medical certificates hanging behind his desk. You’re an 18-year old brown-skinned boy slumped back on this armchair that’s supposed to feel comfortable, but really the fake leather sticks coldly against your sweaty back. He asks about various aspects of your life to get a better evaluation: family history, school, suicide, self-harm, homelessness. He tries to sound nice—this condescendingly sweet falsetto undermined by the mechanical typing in of your diagnosis. Every time you spill yourself, you feel the room closing in.Continue Reading

WE ARE ORLANDO, BUT PERHAPS WE ARE OMAR MATEEN TOO?

by Emmanuel Agu

Content warning: mass shooting, homophobia, mental health

In the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting, myself members of queer societies and wider society are yet again pulled into self-reflection in this time of despair. The tragedy stands as a solid reminder that those who live queer lives are aberrant; there are those who can never accept us — our death is the only thing that can appease them. A solid reminder that when these atrocities strike our communities — those who are struck hardest will be the queer people of colour, our trans siblings and disabled siblings. It was a solid reminder of the extent of homophobia within our society leads to; whilst simultaneously exposing the exclusion of faith within our spaces of activism and self-organization. It is entirely uplifting to see people from across the world and many facets of society declare their solidarity following #weareorlando trend; I am filled with pride and affirmation that the life style myself and my kinfolk live are valid, we deserve recognition, we deserve to be able to celebrate our cultures — to simply exist, without fear of decimation and harm.

I do not mean to detract from these displays of solidarity, but it is necessary to also ask one another to what extent are we responsible for the development of Omar Mateen?Continue Reading

RADICAL MENTAL HEALTH, AND WHY WE NEED IT NOW MORE THAN EVER

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by Emma Draper

Disclaimer: mentions loss, bereavement, depression

Until 2013, the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) incorporated a ‘bereavement clause’ into the criteria for major depressive disorder, excluding patients from a diagnosis of clinical depression if they suffered bereavement in the last two weeks. Put simply: if someone you love has just died and you cry all day and can’t eat and everything is terrible — well, that’s a healthy and expected response which we call ‘grief’. The removal of the clause by the American Psychiatric Association was contentious, with accusations made that psychiatrists were trying to ‘medicalise’ mourning. One commentator called it the most controversial decision since the removal of homosexuality from the list of psychiatric disorders in 1973.

For me, this illustrates a lot of pertinent questions about how we think and talk about mental illness. What does mental wellness look like? How do we draw the distinction between the normal fluctuations of a healthy mindset and ‘pathological’ functioning? Does having the authority to categorise what mental states are ‘normal’ give psychiatrists social and ideological influence beyond their remit?Continue Reading

MY AFTER DARK EXPERIENCE AS ANOTHER STUDENT’S LIFELINE

Disclaimer: mentions suicide

by Olivia Davis

Nightline is unique.

A phone call at 3AM under normal circumstances as a regular student would result in a sigh or occasionally, slight frustration. However, at Nightline it is an opportunity for a student to reach out when they may be feeling at a low or a vulnerable point in their life. As a volunteer listening service operating at over 50 universities in the UK with over 2000 student volunteers, Nightline operates as a reliable network for fellow students.

Norwich Nightline is open for both UEA and NUA students, 8PM-8AM everyday of term, regardless of exams or holidays. “We’ll listen, not lecture” is the main policy volunteers abide by in our mission to provide others in need of guidance.Continue Reading

STUDYING YOU: STUDENTS WITH GRIEF AND MENTAL ILLNESS

by Candice Nembhard

When I was in my last year of primary school, I experienced the death of a pupil in the year below; her name was Demi. She had epilepsy and was known to have regular fits, but they were often manageable and not entirely life threatening if responded to sufficiently. I distinctly remember one lunch time as I headed towards the playground, that I passed by Demi having another fit. Teachers and paramedics cornered me off, so as not to make a bigger scene and I ran off to the playground to inform others. Of course we were all concerned, but were mostly pacified in the knowledge she was in the best possible care.

The next morning at school, my teacher informed us that Demi had died. She was only 10 years old — they had been unable to restart her heart. In that moment, I felt a level of responsibility.  I saw her in her last moments and passed it off as another episode that would soon rectify itself to see Demi in good health.  Counsellors came into school and assemblies were given, but they did nothing to attend to the hurt and regret I felt for not being able to do more. I know that Demi’s condition was never my immediate concern, but there was always that part of me that took on the blame for witnessing her final moments. For many pupils including myself, it was their first experience with death and consequently grief.Continue Reading

THE TRANSLATABLE NATURE OF ANXIETY

by Liam Hawkes

There’s something about the nature of anxiety which makes it a distinctly personal, solitary thing. Anxiety in its many forms is an insidious creature which so easily permeates even the most confident of personalities. We can see in the press about the terrible nature of mental health care in the UK at the moment, and the pledges towards the improvement of the system. When we see that 75% of people receive no help with their disorders, or on average people wait for up to 10 years before treating their anxiety. Is it not time to think a little more deeply about our own experiences and whether they are translatable?

Things change, people change, and anxiety is a coping mechanism. It is a method of mourning for past experiences or uncertainty future events. Existentially speaking, it is inescapable. It is the acute awareness of one’s own mortality. In this sense then, existential anxiety and anxiety in general seems to exist for a perfectly understandable reason. However, the debilitating nature of the disorder can sometimes be so intense that it cannot be expressed. And does this suggest something which is not inherently social about the experience? Which could perhaps make it untranslatable.

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EQUALIMANIA

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by Sunetra Senior

For my first article, I thought it would be fitting to explore the relationship between two neglected areas of society that I feel passionately about: the representation of women and mental health issues. Deep down, the thought of a connection existing between emotionality and the female sex might evoke those uncomfortable, backward cultural connotations – women as fragile, women as prone to hysteria, and on the softer side of it, women as the ‘gentler’ sex.

However, bringing Freud into the discussion in general might not be so wrong because the real problem, the ongoing obstacle for both those with depression, bipolar, borderline personality disorder and the whole host of legitimate clinical disorders that I couldn’t possibly all list here, and the limitations that women still face day-to-day, is the wider, ideological practice of repression: namely society’s refusal to acknowledge the significance of psychology itself. Continue Reading

WHEN RESPECT GETS PREJUDICED PART 2: PEOPLE WHO CALL OTHER PEOPLE NEGATIVE

by Robyn Banks

Last time I ranted about people in the corporate world who hold everyone to extraordinary levels of time management and efficiency because the God of capital accumulation dictates that it must be so. This week I want to rant about the flip side of that coin, self-care culture. You know what that is. Articles that pop up on your newsfeed such as ’10 ways nobody should make you feel’, ‘tips for looking after yourself’ and ‘How to get negative people out of your life’, right? People involved in this crap might call themselves ‘highly sensitive people’ and talk about other people as ‘energy vampires’ or as ‘toxic’. You know who they are.

This might sound all fine and dandy, if it wasn’t just as dogmatic and unyielding as corporate culture and also just as susceptible to replicating societal inequalities as every other movement. And the people who suffer most when others act on this ideology are the very people the movement claims to be protecting- people with mental health issues. If you struggle with low moods and feel that it’s important to keep negative or toxic people out of your life, think about how it feels to be struggling with low mood and characterised as a negative or toxic person.

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THE HORRORS OF HORROR

by Alex Valente

In the beginning, there were giant evil gods. Then we arrived, and started telling stories of things that go bump in the dark, of what lies between the cracks, of what lurks under the bed. Fears began to take shapes, looking more like tales of caution and of danger. They took the shape of bogeymen and chainsaw wielding killers, nightmare creatures and monsters from the deep. Afraid of sexuality? Vampires, werefolk and secluded cabins will tell you not to. Alcohol and drugs also covered. Religious terrors? We have possessions, exorcists, ghosts and devils aplenty. Coulrophobia, arachnophobia, nyctophobia? Here’s a clown-looking spider that waits for you at night.

Whatever new things we discover scare us, we create a monster for them. We try to impose order, and keep it under control. We give it a recognisable, if unsettling and still scary, frame. Then, at some point, we pushed too far.Continue Reading