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TOM UTLEY : How to beat the blues – award yourself £10 every time you hear the phrase ‘mental health’ on TV or radio, Wiki, Bio, Facebook, Twitter



                                            TOM UTLEY Biography



Earlier this month, I made up a game to cheer me up during these short, cold January days. I’m not claiming that it will work for everyone, but readers my want give it a try.

The rules are simple. All you have to do is reward yourself with an imaginary £10 every time you hear the words ‘mental health’ uttered on the radio or TV, or read about them in the media.

I find that even on a rainy day I can scrape together a comfortable 50 or 60 fancy pounds, whereas if Prince Harry, a controversial statue or an internet influencer is in the news, I often make a triple-figure sum.

In fact, those who follow the media can be forgiven for thinking that the majority of the population is incapable of expressing annoyance or sadness about anything from Covid restrictions to price gouging or even sexism in the works of art. Shakespeare, without complaining about the adverse impact of the irritant on his or her mental health.

Eavesdrop on almost any industrial court these days and you’ll hear a fired employee complain that the boss showed him too much affection, or too little, and that this was having a devastating effect on his mental health.


Read any criminal trial report, and the defendant will most likely say that he stole his father’s credit card, or drove 120mph on the M4, high on cocaine, because he suffered from mental health problems.

Ask athletes or sports stars to explain poor performance and they will claim that mental health issues are at the root. It’s a multipurpose get out of jail card. Instant victimization for anyone look for an excuse.

God knows, it is not part of my intention this week to take genuine mental illness lightly, because I know there is nothing more debilitating. I have a great friend who was so clinically depressed that he couldn’t get out of bed for months and I have met others whose despair was so deep that they took their own lives.

I must also state how proud I am that one of my sons has chosen to dedicate her life to caring for seriously disturbed adults. It seems to me that this is one of the most noble and selfless careers imaginable.

No, what I object to is the modern habit of labeling every low we experience in the course of our everyday lives as a mental health issue, as if it were a clinical condition beyond our control.

The most obvious offenders are those misguided university students — often indulged or actively egged on by academics who should know better — who demand ‘safe spaces’ to protect their mental health from exposure to ideas with which they’ve been taught to disagree.

Tell them that the British empire wasn’t all bad, for example, or that unrestricted immigration isn’t necessarily an unalloyed good, and they’ll run for cover, complaining that we’re messing with their fragile minds.

Ask students of English literature to read Dickens, Trollope or Walter Scott — all of them riddled, it’s true, with the casual racism and sexism of their time — and they’ll wail that we’re putting their mental health in serious jeopardy.

On that point, it surely doesn’t help when a respected actress suggests, as Juliet Stevenson did this week, that plays such as The Taming Of The Shrew and The Merchant Of Venice should be ‘buried’, since they portray ‘unacceptable’ attitudes. Oh, how I wish actors and actresses would stick to acting, which some are quite good at, instead of spouting the half-baked political opinions apparently shared by almost everyone in their profession.

But this unhealthy obsession with mental health is by no means confined to Left-leaning students, broadcasters and Tweeters. Academics at University College London have even devised a ‘depression index’, which purports to measure the effects of the pandemic on the mental health of the nation, accordion to a survey according to a survey of more than 30,000 respondents.


This week, if you’re interested, UCL found that between November 1 and January 3, levels of anxiety and depression in Britain rose by 24 per cent on the scale, from 5.0 to 6.2. That’s a pretty meaningless figure, if you ask me, but then misery-mongering is all the rage these days.  @

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