IN recent years, mental health has become an openly discussed and even fashionable topic. A raft of celebrities from Prince Harry to Andrew Flintoff have spoken candidly about their own troubles, and raised both awareness and funds.
Some of those marching against continuing Covid restrictions in London last Saturday will surely have been moved to attend after experiencing a lockdown-induced decline in their own mental health, or through being close to someone else who has.
However the desire to display public concern for those experiencing mental ill health appears to have waned.
In 2017, LBC presenter James O’Brien admitted that he was ‘embarrassed about how he used to approach mental health’ as he previously thought it was ‘just a case of pulling your socks up’. He criticised the government for seeking to stop paying out for provision of mental health care.
Regardless of this apparent enlightenment, O’Brien was quick to slur last weekend’s protesters. He tweeted: ‘Stumbled across the anti-sanity march in London today. Tragic, ridiculous, dangerous. Yet more evidence of the poison & nonsense Facebook & YouTube inject into the public blood stream every single minute of every single day.’
In case O’Brien was unaware, it does not require the use of Facebook or YouTube to notice that your own relationships, livelihood and mental wellbeing have been harmed. Maybe he thinks that those struggling with the removal of their liberties simply need to ‘pull their socks up’ and not worry about the mental health services they can no longer access.
In 2019, comic Sue Perkins spent 30 hours in isolation to highlight the struggles of those living with loneliness. Perkins admitted that loneliness is one of her greatest fears.
Yet, in response to the April 24 protest, Perkins tweeted: ‘Dear Everyone Marching in Oxford Street, Please go home, switch on the news and look at the footage coming out of India. That is what happens when the virus overruns a health system. We’ve been trying so hard to stop that happening here. Don’t piss on all our chips.’
Did Perkins not pause to think that the protesters have already spent the best part of a year stuck at home, and that the government continually p****d on the chips of those forced into isolation and loneliness? Even if she unquestioningly believes in the value of ‘stay home, stay safe’, as someone ostensibly attuned to the plight of the lonely she would perhaps empathise with those protesting for their right to see others.
To support a cause, even when it is unrewarding to do so, is surely a good marker of moral character. If Sue Perkins and James O’Brien were genuinely concerned for the plight of the lonely and the mentally ill, they would have some sympathy and understanding for those who have endured all the isolation they can manage.
Perhaps concern for those experiencing poor mental health was once a convenient way for celebrities to display virtue. However, this cause has now been trumped by a trendier means of expressing moral superiority: Covid zealotry.