Sunday August 14 saw The Daily Telegraph publish an article from one of Australia’s leading columnists, Ms Miranda Devine. It was a provocative, bigoted, and entirely irrational piece on…well, on a number of issues that don’t really correlate and have no business even being discussed in the same article really Miranda what are you even doing are you serious you crazy person did you really actually type and form these words I cannot even – I’m going to stop myself here. Chances are, you’re well aware of all this, so I’m not going to bother with a recap. For those of you who haven’t seen Ms Devine’s article, it can be found here.
I’m also not going to bother refuting it and giving an in depth look at the things she’s raised. I’ve done quite a bit of that over the few days, as again I’m sure you have, and really anything I say will be said ten times more eloquently and brilliantly by this man, Mr. Tom Ballard, who’s video response is here.
What I think has been an interesting issue raised in light of Devine’s piece is the idea of the media in general. The free media is one of the foundations of democratic society, and certainly of Australian society. No one’s refuting that. And along with the few pieces of great journalism this produces, and the fair amount of indifferent, not-long-forgotten pieces, we also get served up with pieces like Sunday’s. Bullshit. Writing that is, for starters, just factually incorrect, but also damaging to those who are vulnerable and to those whose prejudice is now only further ingrained.
This is nothing, just a letter I am considering sending my principal in terms of the Zumba debacle (see my other blog). Not sure though. (Names taken out because I don’t want you to find me and things.)
Her face slammed into the cold metal, and Catherine woke with a start. The bus shuddered and lurched off into the twilight again. Her face tingled upon impact, but it didn’t hurt. Nothing hurt. Nothing could. Why hadn’t the girl in front of her redone her hair? Her shiny black waves were wrestled into a braid, winding down to the middle of her back where a garishly pink hair tie held it tenuously together. A stray lock had been tucked into the back, carelessly. Why had she not redone it? The walls were a dull grey and the seats were a lacquered tartan and the floor was an even white. But the girls’ lock of hair was out of place.
I’m done. For this week at least, I’m done with opinions and trying to appear highbrow and up with social happenings and the world. In case I wasn’t self involved enough, what with two blogs dedicated entirely to myself amongst other things, I thought I’d use #3 to talk about my family, or at least, a few of it’s more odd members. These people are as much a part of me as my political opinions and untamable curly hair, so I suppose they’re worth a write up of sorts. You’re under no obligation to read this, there’s no lovely little moral or point at the end, but without further ado, welcome to just four members of my extended family:
So I was going to write properly about the end of Potter, but I don’t think I will ever be able to. Also note, both of the following links contain spoilers of some sort, if you’ve read the books, then obviously it’s nothing new, but steer clear if you don’t want to be pre-influenced.
Here are my ramblings about the ending and the series as whole. It’s all I can muster.
If you want actually literate and articulate speak, here is Paul Verhoeven’s purely brilliant review. Read it.
Disclaimer: This is not about the carbon tax. I just mention at the beginning for a while. Bear with me.
At this point, there is something you should know about me – I am a politics junkie. My family is very politically astute and I have followed in the footsteps of the old parentals, to a degree anyway. I often walk into my Dad’s office and find some politician or another there, several of them being close family friends, one being a relative. I’ve grown up in a very political culture, and I love that. What I really love though, is politics on days like Sunday, where no one really knows when things are happening, journalists are being crossed to like crazy, everyone is slightly out of breath and the entire country really takes notice. That vibe really floats my boat, if you will. As I listened to the ABC broadcast last weekend (typical), I soon became sure that I wanted to work in politics. Not as an actual politician, but as someone behind the scenes, a chief of staff or a speechwriter, perhaps. Forget about writing, journalism, media, or law, I thought. This is where I want to be! It was an hour or so later that I struck a little hiccup in my grand life plan – I don’t really believe in any political party enough to want to work for them.
Shattering stuff, I know. Hold all tears, though, this will hopefully be quite uplifting at the end.
Well let’s get into it. I wrote this over the last couple of days, for no particular reason, the whole issue has just been playing on my mind a bit. It’s not perfectly polished, but I hope you get the idea. As you’ll see, concision isn’t my strong point, but we’re working on it.
I am currently experiencing my worst break out in years. If you saw me on the street, you would probably pull out your little smartphone to figure out exactly which animal bite causes such a hideous infection. As someone who really doesn’t care too much if I’m having an off day, I’m quite surprised as to how much it’s affected me. In addition to bringing back memories of self-esteem crippling acne of my tween/early teen years, I’ve started applying amounts of make up that are really only appropriate if you’re a Year Eight girl going up to Westfield to impress the boys on a Friday afternoon, before looking at myself in disgust and washing it all off, thus rendering my face ever more red. It’s not particularly fun.
That being said though, acne is probably one of the worst things I have to deal with right now, aside from school and the odd catfight here and there. And it’s becoming clearer that I’m one of the lucky few. Currently, four of my closest friends, ranging from 16 to 17 years old, are taking a mixture of anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and anti-anxiety medications. As someone who doesn’t really enjoy the company of many people, that’s a frighteningly large statistic for me to look at. One of those people also has an eating disorder, along with at least ten other girls in my 100-strong year group, some of whom have been hospitalised. Numerous times. One of those girls has attempted suicide. As someone who would prefer to stay inside and watch Spooks DVDs than go out and strengthen my relationship with my peers, I can only imagine how many other people I know facing similar afflictions.
The Q&A episode that aired Monday July 4 was really the first time the issue of mental health was bought to the forefront of my mind (excuse the pun). After fifty minutes of what was – oh so surprisingly – reduced to snappy little digs at each other, the panel were finally asked a question on mental health. After a short, platitude-filled answer from each member of the panel, the show drew to a close and that was that. The one question from the entire night about mental health hadn’t scored much more than three minutes air time. Again. This happens routinely, even when Australian of the year Professor Patrick McGorry, the most prominent mental health pioneer in this country, was on the panel. Don’t get me wrong; I love the ABC, and Q&A (not just because I can live tweet it). These figures just seems a little disproportionate, to say the least, when – just to pick out one statistic – 1 in 4 deaths of 15-24 year olds comes as a result of mental illness.
Talking to a similarly confused friend of mine about this, she sent me a draft of a question she was going to message in to the program. “I’m only 15, yet I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of friends I have who’ve suffered depression, anxiety, eating disorders or self harmed.” That really grabbed me. It was only hours later, when I was trying to figure out why exactly this had stuck with me, that I realized – this applies to me, too. We live on opposite sides of the country, are in different grades and have no friends in common. It’s not a niche issue. The last part of her question was “Why isn’t more done in schools to educate about mental health?
It’s an interesting notion and it raises too many issues to list – and I’m sure the Q&A panel will say the same. I found out just a week ago that my family has a strong history of depression, with my paternal grandfather and great-grandmother both being sufferers. My mother only admitted this to me under duress during a doctor’s appointment, after I was advised to take some medication that was not recommended for people with a family history of depression. I was stunned. My grandfather is a man I see every single weekend, give or take the odd soccer, netball or hockey final, music recital or Maths Olympiad (my sister) or severe allergic reaction (me). After thinking about it though, I realised that my parents, and indeed my grandparents, are of an era where to have a mental illness was the worst social stigma possible. But, as is pointed out often, they weren’t educated, they didn’t know the facts, there was limited medical knowledge about the issue. It’s being rectified, everyone, relax!
Having just experienced the four years of mandatory Personal Development and Health classes, I feel somewhat entitled to say that the education today is not a lot better. Sex? We don’t stop hearing about it, and while some of the advice is questionable, that’s a story for another day. Drugs and alcohol? Consider me fully equipped to get out of any illicit-substance-related situation without the group thinking I’m ‘uncool’. Puberty? Took up the entire first two years of said PDH program. But mental health? Not so much.
I’ve never so much as read a definition of depression in class. A definition. I could list you ten forms of contraception, I couldn’t tell you the name of any anti depressants (except the ones in Wombats songs). I’ve learnt how to “just fill a glass with lemonade instead of vodka at a party” (which seems slightly un-foolproof), but I was never taught with how to cope with my (then) best friend’s mother calling me and interrogating me about her daughter’s bulimia. Not to mention the litany of other mental illnesses that are lucky to get a name-drop between people tearing up their booklets and the obnoxiously loud kid up the back heckling the teacher, like this was a tight five at the Comedy Store.
I appreciate that in the time and funding allocated to what are sensitive areas to teach, especially to young kids, it’s hard to cover everything. Nothing is going to be flawless, and it’s hard to get proper depth and insight into every issue facing teens today. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that such a chunk of vital information is simply excluded. From my experience, more kids are faced with mental illness, directly or indirectly, than they are with sex, especially in younger years. The same goes for drugs and alcohol. Yes, many kids deal with these things young, yes they need to be taught. At the expense of valuable, and often used information on mental health? No. Because I know for a fact that for me, my peers and thousands of others, that information would have been the most useful out of anything we’ve ever learnt at school. And if the stigma that still faces older generations today is to be properly removed, at some point, people need to start learning.