Mental Illness, Katie Hopkins, and Me

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Katie Hopkins is the Craig Revel Horwood of Twitter – the designated ‘nasty one’ for the audience to boo at like a pantomime villain, and I have no doubt that her ‘meanness’ is just as much of an act as any TV talent show judge’s. Just like them, she probably has some TV producer feeding information to her through an earpiece, telling her what to say today to possibly make some headlines tomorrow. Her continued influence in the Twittersphere never fails to baffle me. Really, we still give her the time of day? Why do we still need a Hopkins in our lives? What purpose does she serve? Is there not some barely-literate fourteen-year-old out there to provide the internet with its daily dose of controversy-chasing trolldom?
Well, until the internet grows tired of her and tosses her aside like everyone else who gets some notoriety for a while, I guess I shall have to treat her opinions like they are actually worth listening to. More fool me.

The most recent ‘SUPER CONTROVERSIAL MY GOD ISN’T SHE OUTRAGEOUS’ statement Hopkins has made was in the form of a series of lovely tweets, in which she gave her typically tactful two cents on the role played by depression in the Germanwings tragedy. My personal highlights:

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Oh, that Katie Hopkins! What a card! She sure is brave enough to say what we’re all thinking, is Katie!tumblr_mpfz532WfR1qkbpibo4_1280
And I’m over here like…
All joking aside though, these opinions clearly come from a person trying really really hard to be controversial. Hark at Katie, having a go at people with depression! Who else would be brave enough to do that? But surely, in order to be controversial, one must say something that many people disagree with. And Hopkins has failed to do that becuase loads of people share her opinions about depression. She really is echoing an erroneous assumption that a lot of people hold about mental illnesses generally: that sufferers are inherently attention-seeking, or melodramatic, or just looking for a phoney label for their occasional blue days or worried thoughts. Panicking over an exam? Must be anxiety! Having a bad day? Must be depression! I have even heard a manager in my place of work telling another manager to ‘get over’ his depression, like those were the magic words for changing your entire state of mind. And that’s a very damaging way of thinking about mental illness.

I suffer with generalised anxiety disorder, which means that occasional bouts of depression are often the norm for me. I also know several people who have full-blown depression. And let me tell you: it is an illness like any other. It can affect anybody, no matter your age, gender, race, class, or whether you were beaten as a child or not. And you can’t pick out a depression sufferer just by looking at them: they don’t wear sandwich boards announcing it to the world. The sheer amount of worldwide shock and grief at the suicide of Robin Williams last year proves that.

Worst of all, because so many people share Hopkins’ toxic view of depression and other mental illnesses, many sufferers are ashamed to seek help, and instead deal with their depression all alone, trying to force themselves to stop overreacting about some unknown thing they’re apparently overreacting about. They blame themselves for something they literally have no control over. And that’s how terrible things happen.

It is for that reason that the people I know with depression refuse to talk about themselves, or why I always hold off on telling people I have anxiety. Because it feels like an admission of weakness, of a personal flaw. That we shouldn’t be bothering others with the problems we have apparently made up. Again, to compare mental illnesses with physical ones: if your leg was hanging off, would you stick a plaster on it and go to work anyway, hoping nobody would notice? No? So why, then, if we are in a vulnerable state of mind, should we pretend that nothing’s wrong? Just because mental illnesses don’t have physical symptoms doesn’t mean that they don’t cause serious problems.
Of course, Hopkins never stops to think that her beloved 500% increase in antidepressants might just be the result of people actually having the courage to speak out about their illness for once, with high-profile sufferers helping people to understand their own conditions. Heaven forfend! No, surely it’s a fashion statement. Out with the shutter shades, in with the crippling mental illness! Grab it while it’s hot, kids!
Hopkins, you’re not special. There are plenty of people out there who think that depression is a phoney illness. You really want to be controversial? Try telling your followers that mental illnesses are entirely legitimate ailments and should be treated with the same respect you’d give any physical illness. That’ll shock ’em.
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First year English student and female person.

Discussion1 Comment

  1. avatar

    This is an excellent article. The point on how the social stigma surrounding depression can affect its sufferers is very well made.

    My mother has suffered from clinical depression for over twenty years, and after I showed her Katie Hopkins’ article a few weeks ago she looked up at me and said she actually agreed with her. It’s a sad reflection of how far the termites have spread when a person who has been through what she has still buys into the public apathy towards her condition.

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