Mentally unwell

Date: 20th July 2020

The latest blog from SFSA writer Donald Stewart:

It’s mental, just mental…

Leigh Griffiths is a player who has managed to draw his fair amount of criticism. That he has returned unfit is surprising for an athlete but for one who has come forward with tales of his mental struggles?

Is it really?

You see whilst I see lots of people doing push ups for mental health and sending messages of public comfort to all that can read their Tweets, Posts and Insta messages, I wonder if our attitudes have really changed?

I know people who have struggled mentally in this lockdown and they have reached for more than just the cookie jar for aid. Routines have been disrupted and they have felt that their entire being, their reason for being themselves has been challenged if not removed. To them they have been replaced by a monster that is not who they were meant to be. So now what do they do? Turn up at their work to be publicly ridiculed?

And this is not a go at Neil Lennon. He has made public his own battles with the black dog so has sympathy with Griffiths. He gave Griffiths time when others might have flung him out the door. He also has a point – if you don’t want abuse on social media – keep aff it! After all, if you keep get beaten up in a pub, you soon realizes you shouldn’t go in there.

But the media is once again, with ill disguised glee, getting themselves all hot and bothered as they highlight the fact that Griffiths is “once again” out the picture.

Actively canvassing opinions about the striker from former teammates or people who have been rented just to have an opinion is no use for those who suffer from mental illness. Or even if Griffiths is all right and he is struggling with fitness because of something other than his mental frame of mind, why the obsession? Patryk Klimala and Odsonne Edouard could occupy your superlatives for far longer if you can be bothered.

In amongst some of the more frenzied pieces, one of the most difficult things to contemplate for me was the comment made by Shaun Maloney as reported on the BBC website, “The ball is in his court so hopefully he comes back in a better condition. He’s got time to rectify it.”

Now again I am not having a go at Maloney because he gave an honest answer to an honest question but ponder this. Maloney had already talked of this being about something about which we don’t have all the facts. Consider further that consistently the way we look at mental health is to see illness as illness and not anything else. So, would we tell someone with a broken leg, the ball is in your court? Would we expect someone with a long term physical condition to shake themselves out of it. No, because ill people need sympathy and support…

That’s the modern view because of the lessons of the past. It’s clear to see why Maloney was asked as he is a footballer who has been there and done quite a bit of that so knows the game. Given who Griffiths plays for there will already be one half of the biggest city in Glasgow throwing vitriol and nonsense at Griffiths without supposed intelligent people laden with intelligent comment throwing theirs.

For the media it has to be asked – WHY it is even a question, if we are looking to change the way we approach mental illness?

Carolyn Flack once tweeted – “I’m lucky to be able to pick myself up when things feel s**t. But what happens if someone can’t. Be nice to people. You never know what’s going on. Ever.” People used “just be nice” as a hashtag for a while. Seems that is all it ever was for some. Can we not all be others?


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