Wednesday 23 October 2019

The myth of the mad woman

Taking female mental health seriously: Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder in Girl, Interrupted
Taking female mental health seriously: Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder in Girl, Interrupted
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

In black and white movies, agitated and upset women could be dealt with in two ways; a forceful embrace (Kiss me you damn fool!) or a good slap across the gob.

We like to tell ourselves that since then, our attitudes towards mental health and the stigma surrounding it have shifted significantly.

But in the run up to last week's referendum there was a tendency to dismiss the validity of mental health concerns and traumas.

As if it were all 'wishy-washy' guff, a flight of fancy and just a bit of silliness that would soon sort itself out.

On one level this seems completely at odds with recent national and global mental health campaigns. Sure isn't Bressie always banging on about anxiety? And sports stars such as the great Paul O'Connell have written about the need for men to open up to each other?

But for me, these conversations have always felt a little one-sided.

There has been an admirable emphasis placed on young men, the rate of suicide and the need to talk.

That is vital. Sadly, however, female illness seemed at times relegated to a lower league.

A less severe issue and a more solvable problem.

Of course, this makes zero rational sense. According to the WHO, instances of depression, anxiety and somatic complaints are three times more common in women than men.

Unipolar depression, predicted to be the second leading cause of global disability burden by 2020, is twice as common in women.

Teenage girls are more likely to self harm and be prescribed antidepressants.

Given how keen everyone is on quotas these days, this imbalanced conversation is striking, and it became more pronounced in the run up to the referendum.

People weren't being dismissive of mental health issues in general - this was specifically in relation to women and what was happening in our little heads.

At times there seemed to be an assumption that male mental illness was an affliction, something inescapable and all consuming.

Whereas female mental illness was self inflicted - a malady brought on by our own hormones, neurosis, or bodies.

It's worth remembering the first mental health condition attributable to women was hysteria.

The term itself is derived from the ancient Greek word for womb - suggesting all the anxieties are the result of an unruly and mysterious part of our bodies.

For me, Ireland's disjointed mental health conversation has always been most evident in our attitude to eating disorders - where 93pc of those affected are women.

There is one bed in the entire country devoted to those suffering for ED. That's it.

Despite the fact that nearly 50 years of research confirms that anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorders.

The debate around the referendum showcased an underlying denial of the legitimacy of women's mental health issues.

In the wake of the result, hopefully that will start to shift.

A smack round the chops, turning a blind eye, or a long hard kiss aren't going to fix it I'm afraid.

Goodbye youth, hello festival flotsam

There comes a moment in everyone's life when you realise that you have changed, changed utterly. Suddenly it dawns on you that, perhaps you don't want to spend two days binned in a field at a weekend-long music festival. That perhaps it might be nicer to pop along to the gardening fair that avuncular old man on the bus told you about? There's more parking, and you can get home in time to see the last part of The Late Late Show. Bam - there you have it. You're no longer cool. You have become festival flotsam, drifting away from your youth. It is imperative you find a new tribe asap. To help you on this journey I've identified festival perennials - consider each group carefully before infiltrating.

* The Rioja 'n' Roll-er

Spends most of his time at EP in Mindfield, eating falafels and watching community theatre. If camping, does so in a posh tipi. Irritated security confiscated his Keep Cup.

* Politicians Letting Their Hair Down:

Dresses like a member of the plain-clothes gardai. Hangs around the press tent to ensure they are photographed having a good time.

Example: Leo Varadkar going for a dip in the hot tubs at Electric Picnic in 2016, and complaining about his leaky yurt (not a euphemism - get your mind out of the gutter).

* The Good Time Grown-up Gals

Have swapped Body & Soul for Bloom, where they can soak up the culture/get drunk on extortionately priced prosecco in the middle of the day. Likes: Dermot Bannon and making generic jokes about Wine O'Clock.

* The Insanely Well-Prepared Veteran

Their tent feels like a small supply shop, stacked with yoga mats, toilet paper, and plenty of Imodium. Dull. Try to avoid.

* The Insanely Ill-Prepared Rookie

Boasts that they have neither a tent, nor a sleeping bag. Arrives with a bag of cans, and wears a refuse sack in lieu of a rain jacket.

* The Ligger

A journalist. Has 765 lanyards around their neck. Likely to say: "Got any drinks tokens?"

* The Parent Forced to Take their Teenage Daughter and Seven of her Friends to a Festival

My dad was this soldier when Witness was still going strong. Unimpressed in the extreme. Won't be doing this again next year. Most Likely to Say: "This was your mother's idea."


Mr Phobal

Pet tortoise in Coláiste Phobal Ros Cré who is helping steady students' exam nerves.


Now in vogue with Generation Z thanks to the likes of Justin Bieber and Kendall Jenner.


Bacon on milkshakes

Too much of a good thing.

Danny Dyer

Has given his daughter Dani (yes, you read that right) his blessing to have sex when she appears on Love Island.

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