About 12 years ago now, I remember my sixth form boyfriend enthusing wildly about the band Biffy Clyro. We shared a lot of musical interests – or rather, I’d stopped only listening to Suede, Britpop and 60s compilations and started listening to his – but their name was so curious I chalked them up as yet another one of his adored comedy ska bands, and went back to my Idlewild albums.
But it turns out I should have paid more attention. Not that I would have known back then, with minimal dial-up internet, and phones that could only store 10 text messages at one time – then, all you knew about bands was what went into your favourite magazines. And back when I read and loved Kerrang! (I even worked on their website briefly), I just wanted to read what inspired the bands I loved.
I wish I had had this week’s Biffy Clyro feature to read when I was 18. Or 17. or 16, 15, 19, 21, 22, any of the years when I was a Kerrang! reader crippled with the absolute mortifying hell that is depression: undiagnosed, and then diagnosed but only sporadically treated. But I am so utterly thrilled that this generation gets to have that.
As I wrote in 2011, shortly after the suicide of my schoolfriend S who gave me my very first 60s compilation, we are getting better at talking about mental illness. But my God we need to get even better, and magazines like Kerrang! and Glamour putting depression and mental health in their content alongside fashion, music and interviews, is so unbelievably crucial to making people aware of it, just as forums and social media are.
Sorry. I’m sitting here, at my desk, and getting really quite emotional remembering the time when we didn’t have this awareness, these options, this sense of it being ok. We really didn’t. I don’t really think about it very often, because I’ve been clear of it for nearly six years, and have nearly polished off the traits and habits it left behind (all of which neatly dovetail with those described in ‘Andrew’s blog here). But dear God: when it was completely natural to stand around at a party in Hampshire, matter of factly discussing the ways you cut yourself with boys you went to school with, each going through their own thing, and none of us knowing that this wasn’t actually normal. That is not something that should happen.
People today should not have to go to their doctor desperately hoping for a diagnosis of something, because all they can see otherwise is a very short ending.
They shouldn’t have to feel alone, whether at 4 o’clock in the morning, or while having a panic attack at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
People in 2013 should know that there is help and support available if you have a mental illness, just as there is for physical illness. And that just as you’re not a weak person for having a broken leg or cancer, you are not a weak person for having depression, schizophrenia, or OCD. Today, I sit on the media advisory board for the charity Mind, precisely to discuss how we can get this across.
I am so unbelievable grateful to Kerrang! today, and to its editor James McMahon for kindly sending me the piece to read. And to anyone who thinks someone they know might be ill – talk to them. Love them. And help them.
UPDATE: I do very much recommend ‘Andrew’s blog again, here, because not only is it clear, well-written and helpful, but it helped me realise that the memory loss I’ve had over the past years is actually a side-effect, and not just an irritating character trait. (thank you @adamrubins)
UPDATE 3: The new Start Your Conversation ad from Time To Change is great (thanks @FarmFeatures)