A Royal Change to Mental Health?

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When Diana, the Princess of Wales, died in a tragic car accident in August 1997, the world went into shock. Britain had lost a favoured icon, a symbol of beauty and kindness, but more importantly two young boys lost their mother. They did not have the ability to grieve the private, and instead was frogmarched to view the masses of flowers that became a shrine. Their grief was all of the public’s grief. The Queen’s decision to stay quiet to shelter the boys came at a cost of headlines like “Where is our Queen?” in the Sun. Her decision to stay quiet appeared to be a shun of the ‘stiff upper lip’ culture that goes hand in hand with being a royal. Yet she would later to return to this frame of being, and grieved with the public.

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For William and Harry, they were just two young boys who lost their mother. Yes, they were surrounded by privilege so why their pain should be seen as more important than the average Joe who lost their mother? They hid their emotions to do their duty or their country, but nearly twenty years after her death they have decided to shun this ideology to stay professional to the public. Along with the ‘Heads Together’ campaign, both Princes and the Duchess of Cambridge have publicly discussed their emotions. Harry was seen as the wild party animal during his youth- seen in a Nazi uniform; smoking cannabis; and those infamous nude photos in Vegas. In reality, were these a cry for help? Harry appeared to be leading in some cases similar to the average life of a young British boy- but instead in the public eye. Every single move of his was well documented by both the national and world press. Now as he has aged, he has reflected on the emotions that came about from his Mother’s death.

By discussing these emotions, this goes against royal protocol. The Royals have never been seen to discuss their feelings with the public, they remained silent and was a vision of strength to the country. Harry has admitted he sought counselling after his mother’s death, and by doing so he showed to the world it is okay to discuss our feelings. The charity Mind has called this ‘a true turning point’ in the discussions of mental health, as it ends the stigma surrounding mental health. Up until now various celebrities including Lady Gaga have discussed their issues with mental health, yet many did not feel that this was acceptable. We the British do not discuss our feelings, the Royal’s don’t so why would we? But now members of the royal family have signaled it is okay to do so, and thus will inspire so many out there to reach for help.

Today, mental health is a growing concern and so many people in Britain are affected- approximately 1 in 6 people will suffer with a mental health issue every week. Many people suffer will suffer in silence, as opening up about mental health is such a hard topic to do so. Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge have stated that they intend to ensure that both Prince George and Princess Charlotte will feel comfortable enough to be able to come to them and discuss their emotions. Whilst this may seem an obvious thing for a parent to do, here in Britain we do still have this ‘stiff upper lip’ culture- and it is hoped that by members of the Royal family talking out it will encourage many in the UK to do so.

With William soon to be King in the next few decades, it is hoped his reign will be a modern approach. He and his brother’s actions to promote help for mental health issues can be seen to be a signal for the new era, in which it is okay to talk. Both Harry and William now provide a strong role model for people who do suffer in silence- two young boys who in wealth and property have it all yet they too suffer. Grief is a common cause of mental health problems in the UK and so by the Princes being vocal with their emotions to the public it is hoped that we will shun this ‘stiff upper lip’ culture in order to really grasp and help the huge issue of mental health problems in the UK today.

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No Man Left Behind- Or are they?

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Feminism is described as the “advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of the equality of the sexes.” Yet, on our rise for equality are we forgetting about male rights? With regards to mental health, people of the male gender feel at risk as they are not able to discuss their issues without losing their ‘masculinity’ and often the mental health of men is dismissed for women’s mental health. Patriarchy in various forms can affect men as well. There is a stigma in society that does not allow men to voice their emotions, and this is something that needs to be challenged as much as fighting for equality for women.

Statistically, men are more likely to commit suicide- in 2013 in the UK, 78% of suicides were by men. Typically, men of around 40-50 are left feeling a burden on society. With the economic crisis of 2007, around 15% of the male work force were made redundant in comparison to the 7% of women. Yes, it can be argued that there are more men in the work places, yet this sharp rise of unemployment helped to raise the suicide levels of men in their middle ages due to the sensation that they were not living up to their roles as men and the ‘breadwinners’ of the household. This, however, has not made national news unlike if it was that of a woman, so what makes a man’s rights less than a woman’s?

In addition, sexism against men exists just as much as women. Within many countries, men are not given paternity leave to spend time with their child and it is as if a father figure is not as important in comparison to a mother figure. It can be seen that mothers are more likely to be given custody over a child, which in itself dismisses the rights of a father. Campaigns such as ‘Fathers4Justice’ highlights the concern for the lack of equal parenting and emphasises the segregation between men and women with regards to parenting. For the ‘Fathers4Justice’ founder, “Matt told a judge in the Royal Courts of Justice that the treatment of fathers in the family courts was a violation of their right to family life.”[1] It is these violations to parental rights that effect men and can lead to depression and other mental health issues by restricting their access to their own children.

Furthermore, the support for female victims of domestic violence is again statistically higher than for those of the male gender. It appears that men who are abused by their spouse are ‘weak’ and ‘not real men.’ Men too are raped and victims of various sexual assaults yet these issues are not as widely highlighted in comparison to women’s. Men are also made to feel weak like women with regards to rape, and again did not deserve it due to what they were wearing. For Akeemjamal Rollins, a rape survivor, he was repeatedly told “men can’t get raped”- yet he was. His response was “I didn’t want it- but it happened.”[2] Should we assume sexual assault to only happen to one gender? One in six men will be the victim of sexual assault and regardless of their gender, people are being violated. This shouldn’t be happening to any one regardless of their gender or sex.

As we fight for equality, is it really fair to forget about men? Men, whilst it is statistically lower, also face forms of abuse and sexism and their rights are just as important as ours in order for us all to be equal. One UEA undergraduate stated that he “he had been told his entire life that [he] should feel privileged to be a white man, but [he] still feels that with certain issues men are just being left behind and ignored.”  Let us not forget that we are all equal whatever we identify ourselves to be and so for us all to be truly equal, let’s not forget about the boys!

[1] http://www.fathers-4-justice.org/about-f4j/our-story/

[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/a-powerful-response-to-people-who-say-men-cant-get-raped_us_55f9a469e4b0b48f670199af

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“In Flanders Field the Poppies Blow”- In Defence of our Red Poppy

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My response to the branding of a red poppy “offensive.”

When I heard that the Student Union here on campus had branded the wearing of a red poppy on Remembrance Day “offensive”, I thought it was a disgrace. The wearing of a poppy is not a political symbol- as the ludicrous by FIFA when they banned players from wearing any form of poppy on the pitch. The poppy instead is a symbol of solidarity to which we will remember those who have lost their lives at war.

The wearing of a poppy originates from Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae’s poem ‘In Flanders Field’ after being inspired the funeral of a friend who died during the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915. The poem received great popularity and became synonymous with those who gave their life for war. The poppy was not there as a political message to go ahead and fight but was rather visioned as a way to remember the dead- as it has been worn ever since 1921.

For many soldiers during the First World War, fighting was not a choice and they were often conscripted against their will to fight for the country. At the time of the first remembrance, inaugurated by King George V in 1919, the war was still in living memory for many across the country and poppies were first worn a few years later echoing the chilling words of McCrae’s poem- did they really see the wearing of a poppy as a political sign or more so as a way of remembering their loved ones who were lost at war?

By the outbreak of the Second World War and even later wars involving Britain, men and women continued to lose their lives for their country. Whatever your standing on war, to brand the remembering of them is offensive is in is tell offensive for the families and loved ones who suffered from grief of losing their loved one in war. Every night in Ypres the dead are remembered at the Last Post Ceremony under the Menin Gate- is this also offensive? For those who remember their loved ones by wearing a ribbon that resembles cancer, is this also offensive?

The work by the British Legion- the primary seller of the poppies- is there to support the soldiers who’ve seen battle, as well as those who’ve lost. The charity is not there to encourage warfare nor is it a political group glorifying war. Instead the charity acts as a support symbol for those affected by warfare.

At a time where nearly everything is deemed offensive, should we really be discarding the memories of those who fought for us to bring us protection and the freedom we now live in today. As a proud supporter of the British Legion, I wear my poppy with pride for those who fought and at each Remembrance service I attend and  every letter I have read from a desperate loved one writing to their solider at war, I am saddened by the sacrifice they made. At UEA we hold vigils for every attack deemed unfair and unjust, so why is it we forget to remember those who gave it all for our freedom? I cannot help noticing the unfair brandishing of the poppy as ‘politicised’ by only a small minority who only emphasise the importance of remembering our armed forces. The simple wearing of a red poppy “that mark our place”- as empathised within ‘In Flanders Field’- is there to remind us in the great number of lives lost as highlighted by their blood stained red colour  and not to as a celebration and glorification of war.

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Grammar Nazis: Equality, Division and Opportunity in the Education System

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This was my first ever article published for the Student Newspaper ‘Concrete.’

Theresa May has only been Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since July, yet she has already managed to anger many with her plans to relax the long-standing ban on new grammar schools. Nowadays a large percentage of state-educated students attend a comprehensive school over a grammar, yet still very few grow to become influential members of society.

Whilst it may be argued that the grammar school system offers a greater education for the society as a whole, it must be noted that a large proportion of those in attendance are from middle-class backgrounds. To pass the eleven plus many students need tutoring to be able to follow both the verbal and non-verbal reasoning aspect that is not taught on the national curriculum. This therefore gives an unfair advantage for those who come from wealth because many cannot afford the high cost that comes with just passing the eleven plus.

With the increase of grammar schools comes an increase of mental health issues. For students today the pressures of the education systems have driven the rise of health issues such as bulimia and other forms of self-harm. Nonetheless, the pressure at grammar schools is increased with the constant strive to be in the elite. Students are left feeling degraded unless they achieve top grades at both GCSE and A Level; with their being a higher amount of subjects taken within a grammar school compared to a comprehensive.

Yet without grammar schools many young students are faced with no better choices in education. In deprived and poorer areas, local comprehensive schools are most likely to be graded poor or inadequate by Ofsted. Many from affluent backgrounds are able to relocate to better areas to ensure better quality education; and so for many from less financially stable homes are only left with the option of grammar school in order to have a decent education. The increase of grammar schools will mean that many underprivileged students who are bright enough will be able to afford the travel costs to school.

However, entry to grammar school will still pose as a blocker for many who cannot afford the tuition to gain access to the ‘better education. So any comprehensive schools are lacking funding to improve the quality of education for their students; whilst grammar schools are able to fund so much more in comparison. Should we really make children feel inadequate in so many ways for not giving them options to face if they are not academically gifted? The money spent on creating and improving grammar schools is redirected from the schools who need it most; to help children with learning difficulties or to help inspire a young child to attend Oxbridge equivalent universities-whose parents were just unable to afford to tutor their child through the eleven plus.

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