Having just gone past the fifth anniversary of starting this blog, something happened here for the first time yesterday: I was trolled. Whilst I’ve always thought that could happen on social media, particularly Twitter and to a lesser extent Facebook, unless you make your posts private, I’d never really considered that it might happen to me in the blogosphere. If I were writing controversial stuff maybe I could expect it, but apart from occasional jibes at Trump and Brexit my posts are, I think, uncontroversial to the point of complete blandness! So I wonder what prompted someone to attempt to post this comment on my recent reblog of Mental Health Matters:

I say ‘attempt’ as my blog is set up so that I have to approve any first time commenter, so it is entirely at my discretion what to do with this. I gave it some thought, and wondered whether I should just approve it in the interests of free speech. But I rejected that, as I wanted to make more of it. I have edited the screenshot to remove the identifiers, but as he/she/it (hereafter referred to as ‘it’) only identified itself by a set of letters that makes it difficult to follow up. I searched the WordPress Reader and found one blog with the same set of letters as its name: as it had no posts and just one follower it was a bit of a dead end, though. But opening up a blog in that way would give it access and the ability to comment on other WordPress blogs, so that may well be it. I wonder if any other mental health bloggers have also been visited by this charming individual?

The troll isn’t identifiable by country, but the way the comments are worded, with all the typos and errors, is redolent of the typical commenter who supports the likes of Britain First, is rabidly pro-Brexit and/or a Daily Mail reader so if I had to bet on it I’d go for the UK. Then again, a lot of my readership is from the US so that’s also a possibility. Beware, they move among you!

Now here’s a strange thing. Either the commenter was too stupid to realise it – or just didn’t care – but, as any blogger will know, comments when viewed in your Dashboard identify their email address. And someone with that exact same email address followed my blog yesterday. Go figure! I must be so ‘hillarious’ that it wanted to get repeat laughs. Or maybe it wanted to see what I’d say about them. Sorry, troll, but I’m not going to give you your 15 nanoseconds of fame by identifying you to the world. Nor will I be approving any comments you make in response to this, so save your knuckles the effort of dragging them across your keyboard.

Now to address the points it made. There is nothing fashionable about mental health, and a trope, by the way, is a figure of speech, such as a metaphor, and mental health definitely isn’t that! It’s good to know that for five years I’ve been tedious and wallowing in self-pity: somehow, that realisation had passed me by, as it had to everyone else who has ever commented on my posts. If such posts are so laughable to the point of annoying you, why read them? There can only be one answer to that: because you are an uneducated bully who likes to attack people you think are weaker than you. Sorry mate, that isn’t me. The reason I write about mental health issues and occasionally draw on my own experience is to highlight the need for much more support to be provided for sufferers. I worked in the field for 20 years, and came across many instances of how damaging such illnesses could be, not just to those who were ill but also to their friends and families. Too little is done about this, far too little. Mine is just one small voice: I have no influence on this other than to share my views in the hope that this becomes part of a groundswell of opinion to ‘encourage’ governments to devote much more resource to mental health treatments.

On the charge of being self-centred, I plead guilty. But then again, apart from blogs which post fiction or are themed to a particular topic, that charge could be levelled against a huge number of bloggers. We write about things that are familiar to us and that we believe to be important: there wouldn’t be much point in doing it otherwise. So maybe, troll, you haven’t quite yet grasped what blogging is all about. Come on, give it a go; I’m sure we’re all sufficiently tempted by the words you wrote to me to see more from you.

Feeling sorry for myself? I don’t in any way feel like that, thanks, and if you had taken the trouble to read what I’ve posted you’d have seen that I first wrote about my own illness a year after it was diagnosed, and four months after I was well enough to be back at work – so I was way past that stage by then. But you don’t want to know that, do you? Like all bullying trolls, you wouldn’t want facts to get in the way of your prejudices, would you?

I’ve said in several posts that one of the things that needs to be done is to provide education on mental health issues. This is both to help people recognise it in others to whom they are close, so that they can support them, and also for a wider audience, to enable them to understand how debilitating mental health problems can be. My troll could clearly benefit from this, if it had a sufficiently open mind to take it on. I hope that happens, but I’m not holding my breath.

The troll branded those of us who blog on this as ‘mentalists.’ Just for the record, this is what a mentalist is:

I’m now off to practise my mind reading and telepathic skills – all part of turning myself into a superhero! After all, I need to be strong and powerful, not self-centred and self-pitying in my me-me-me world, don’t I? I hope no one else who writes about mental health comes across this idiot, or anyone else like them. I’m way past the time where this comment could have been hurtful to me, but others might not be so fortunate. I really pity the person who made this comment: their ignorance is now displayed for all to see, and if anyone needs help it’s them, not me. I’m not going to change because of one negative, uncaring comment, and I hope that every other mental health blogger can ignore this type of thing and carry on doing what you do. I’d rather read your words than those of morons like this.


Mental Health Matters – Reblogged for WMHD

I wasn’t planning on posting for World Mental Health Day today, but rather late in the day have decided to share again this post from September 2016. This has become, by a distance, the most ‘liked’ of all of my posts and, reading through the comments for the first time in ages it is clear that it touched a chord with many people. So, for those who haven’t seen it before, here is a second chance to catch up with it.

The post was prompted by my horror at the reports that service commissioners in England were diverting money supposedly ring-fenced for mental health services into other services. In the year since then, the situation does not appear to have improved, and I have seen no evidence that mental health is any higher in the commissioners’ priorities. I find this scandalous, and hope that the Government can find time in its busy agenda of wrecking the country to deliver on the commitments they have made to improve mental health services. I saw last week an estimate that an additional 10,000 mental health practitioners are needed across the country, and that specialist Mental Health Trusts in London currently have 25% vacancy rates, or worse. Urgent action is needed to begin rectifying this, as even a start now will take years to filter through as improved services.

On a personal note, I know that despite my own treatment finishing four years ago, I am never far from tipping over the edge and needing help again. I was well looked after, up to a point, and the final piece of the jigsaw was provided by my employer’s Occupational Health Service – I worked for an NHS Mental Health Trust at the time. I have since retired, so that is no longer available to me, and I know that local services where I live are limited. The prospect of needing their support again worries me, not because I don’t have confidence in their skills, but because they are under huge pressure and depression – which I had – isn’t exactly a high priority in the great scheme of things.

I hope you can take a few moments to read my original post. Whilst it isn’t themed for WMHD it raises important issues. We shouldn’t allow these to be swept under the carpet.

Take It Easy

At the risk of repeating myself, I started this blog to share my experience of depression in the hope that it would help others. I worked for more than 20 years in the NHS for a large mental health Trust and although I haven’t blogged much about it recently mental health is still a subject about which I care deeply. Last week there was a story in The Times which alarmed me about the way mental health is supported, and which I felt I had to share. This post is about the situation in England but I suspect that the issues are common to many other countries around the world.

A little bit of background: when the Tory-led coalition government came to power in 2010 they embarked on a major restructuring of the NHS. There had been no mention of this in their manifesto, but that’s another story. One of…

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