This News in Mentalists – Poor Little MPs Edition

Hi everyone! It’s sanabituranima of Sanabitur Anima Mea here, and I can’t think of a witty introduction, so let’s get started.

Firstly, the BBC reports that the new system designed to stop politicians fiddling their expenses is harming MPs’ mental health. Bless their cotton socks!

Following the expenses scandal of 2009, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority – Ipsa – was set up to more closely monitor MPs’ allowances.

But MPs have complained that the new system is costly and bureaucratic, and has left many of them out of pocket.

Dr Madan, consultant occupational physician at the House of Commons, said Ipsa was being raised by more and more politicians as a source of pressure.

“The frustrations and difficulties that members are experiencing with Ipsa are contributing to poor mental wellbeing,” she told the expenses committee.

Considering that all three major parties have supported the Work Capability Assessments carried out by Atos Origin, which have been roundly criticised by the mental health charity Mind, I don’t think they’ll be getting much sympathy here.

While we’re on the subject of benefits, the  Mail has been making some allegations about ADHD and free cars:

Iain Duncan Smith has ordered a crackdown on thousands of families with youngsters diagnosed with ‘naughty child syndrome’ who get new cars paid for by the state.

The Work and Pensions Secretary has been shocked to learn that the families of more than 3,000 people suffering Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are believed to have been given vehicles under the £1.5 billion-a-year Motability scheme.

Mr Duncan Smith is determined to stop what he regards as abuse of free cars for the disabled as part of his campaign to curb the UK’s annual £192billion benefits bill.

These allegations would be very serious indeed, if they were actually true. However, FullFact takes the Mail to task on these claims:

There are 39,500 people receiving the mobility component of DLA for whom ADHD – referred to by the DWP as Hyperkinetic Syndrome (HS) – is their main disabling condition.

Of these however, only 100 are in the Higher Mobility Component of the DLA and therefore eligible for the Motability scheme.

This would seem to wholly refute the claim that there are 3,200 people with ADHD/HS who use the Motability Car Scheme. It should also be noted that these figures have been rounded to the nearest hundred, so the figure may be even lower.

Indeed the DWP itself warns that figures under 500 are “subject to a high degree of sampling error and should only be used as a guide.”

Moving on from the Mail’s “creative” journalism, The Telegraph has a piece by James Rhodes (which is slightly more than a week old, but which I’m shoehorning in anyway because it’s interesting) on mental illness and creativity:

During a stint in a psychiatric unit a few years ago I attended a few art therapy “classes” that, no matter how well-intentioned, made me feel hideously uncomfortable and hopelessly untalented (“using crayons, please draw a picture of your happy place where you feel safest”). Since leaving hospital I have thrown myself into a creative career and spent many hours a day rigorously practising the piano in pursuit of that career. Whilst there is of course a huge distinction between a career as an artist and art as just a hobby, I’m still very much in two minds as to whether music or art is a good therapy or if it is in fact a potentially dangerous downward spiral into madness.

Aristotle said, “Poetry demands a man with a special gift for it, or else one with a touch of madness in him.” Schopenhauer wrote, “there is a side at which genius and madness touch, and even pass over into each other, and indeed poetical inspiration has been called a kind of madness.”

If there is a link between creativity and madness, why use it as a treatment? Is it similar to giving someone a small dose of a virus to build up resistance to the same virus?

The performance artist Bobby Baker has also explored mental, as well as physical, illness through art, and the Guardian has a video of her diary of drawings which chart her journey through mental illness and breast cancer. The Guardian also has a round-up of various World Mental Health Day related things.

At the Independent, Dr Sima Barmania used World Mental Health Day to discuss underinvestment in mental health services in developing nations:

In July of this year, the journal Nature published a report by ‘Grand Challenges in Global Mental health’, a global conglomerate of researchers and clinicians specialising in mental health. The report outlined some of the key research priorities and called for “urgent action and investment”.

It also highlighted some of the key challenges concerning global health, including the “need for research that uses a life-course approach”, building mental capacity, drawing attention to the impact of poverty and war and the need to draw attention to social exclusion and discrimination, to name but a few.

Co-author of the paper, Professor Daar believes that the precise extent of mental health illness has been “grossly underestimated” and that resource allocation is insufficient due to the fact that there is “not much in health budgets in developing countries for mental health”.

A case example is Somalia, 20 years of war has resulted in an estimated prevalence of one in three having some form of mental illness, but with only three trained psychiatrists in the entire country equipped to deal with it. Furthermore, those with mental illness face severe discrimination and stigma, including being chained up. In fact the WHO claims that 90% of those mentally ill in Somalia will be chained at one point in their life.

A sobering statistic indeed.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that the Dutch government is considering banning high-potency cannabis due to fears that it is more likely to cause mental illness:

The Dutch government said [on] Friday it would move to classify high-potency marijuana alongside hard drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy, the latest step in the country’s ongoing reversal of its famed tolerance policies.

The decision means most of the cannabis now sold in the Netherlands’ weed cafes would have to be replaced by milder variants. But skeptics said the move would be difficult to enforce, and that it could simply lead many users to smoke more of the less potent weed.

Possession of marijuana is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but police do not prosecute people for possession of small amounts, and it is sold openly in designated cafes. Growers are routinely prosecuted if caught.

Economic Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen said weed containing more than 15 percent of its main active chemical, THC, is so much stronger than what was common a generation ago that it should be considered a different drug entirely.

The high potency weed has “played a role in increasing public health damage,” he said at a press conference in The Hague.

This week’s wildcard is from Passive Aggressive Notes, and features some very sad butter:

Two notes on a notice board. The first is written in pink and reads “FUN FACT: Butter is a dairy and dairy spoils! Unless you want to kill us all, please stop leaving the butter out!” and then adds a drawing of some butter with a sad face. Note 2 is typed and reads “Fun Fact: Clarified butter has preservatives in it that preclude it from spoiling. Although I enjoyed your artistic interpretation of the dairy in question, they wouldn’t have been able to eat butter in 12th century Scandanavia if it was fragile enough to spoil overnight. There’s no need for the butter drawing to look so sad.”

Personally, I think the butter is sad because it’s stuck in a house with such petty people. Either that or it doesn’t want to be eaten.

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About sanabituranima

I have sharp edges, but a soft centre. Catholic, female, white, middle-class, mildly socially conservative and economically lefty, nerdy, Classics student, 23, differently-brained.

One Response to “This News in Mentalists – Poor Little MPs Edition”

  1. Thank you for this information, I appreciate reading what you have to say.


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