Will self pity be the Zeilgeist of this decade? 

Joseph Bulmer

I whole-heartedly believe that mental health problems have been sorely overlooked and untreated since time began and that it has been a disgrace, not only in this nation, but also around the world.

My concern now, is that serious mental health issues are getting coupled with very basic self-pity in our self-obsessed society.

It seems that nearly everyone these days is banging on about their depression and mental illness followed by sharing their ‘inner self’ with full emotional disclosure.

All well and good, but I believe that it also trivialises the illness of true clinical or chemical depression, which should never be confused with ‘woe is me’ self-pity.

I am prompted in these thoughts by the recent disclosure by Strictly Come Dancing star Aljaz Skorjanec that he has been suffering from psoriasis for the last ten years.

The press headlines have of course ranged from ‘fighting mental illness’, ‘secret struggle’ and ‘secret health battle’.

In fairness to the gorgeous Aljaz, he never quotes any of the words in the attention-grabbing headlines – he is dealing with it, albeit affecting his life.

I understand psoriasis very well, as I have had it myself since I was five years old, and in those days people were pretty clueless about what it was and the way it was treated.

It is an auto-immune disease, and I also have other off-shoots too including lupus and, until it was treated, chronic endometriosis – all unpleasant but none of which are catching!

The psoriasis was brought on by the initial stress of going to school, which was then exacerbated by my attending the Abbey School, which I hasten to add, I loved.

However, when it came to my class going swimming for the first time, the legendary Miss Fletcher and Miss Bee told my parents that I couldn’t go with the other children as my skin was too unsightly and might scare them.

My father was furious and had a few strong words with Miss Fletcher and Miss Bee and the ban was lifted.

Children being heartless, as they are, used to tease me by saying that I had leprosy. This, of course, was based on a recent viewing of the epic Ben Hur when his whole family suffered from it!

But in time, we all made fun of it, which helped no end in my coming to terms with the very real problem.

This was followed by being constantly asked through my teenage years if I had been in a car accident by well-meaning, but thoughtless, complete strangers.

Then after years of the horrid treatment of being covered in black tar ointment every night, which used to rot through my pyjamas, I found that the sun was my best friend.

It basically helps burn it off and my skin and body benefits enormously from sunshine, but so does my personality.

I find the sun liberating and that is why I have tried to spend as much time as possible stretched out in it, or on a few occasions in my life, to live in the sun.

This, plus my confidence growing as I got older, have helped to keep the psoriasis under control, but it never goes away – it lurks, and then when I get stressed, I get a flare-up.

I get depressed sometimes about this, and we all have black dog days, and normally my psoriasis is the least of my problems!

But I am not mentally ill. Thank God, because you wouldn’t want to wish that on your worst enemy, but these days it seems a large majority want to jump on the mental health platform.

It trivialises very serious mental conditions. A little more self-reflection might weed out an awful lot of ‘it’s all about me’ sufferers in our self-obsessed society who should get a grip – and then get on with life, playing the cards you have been dealt and stop whinging.