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An example of the media in it’s brutal stigmatisation of depression.

You’ve probably heard the terrible news recently about Andreas Lubitz, the Germanwings co-pilot who orchestrated a terrible suicide-murder that killed everybody on his flight.
Perhaps you heard the news through a newspaper such as the Sun. The media has also heavily reported on the fact that Lubitz suffered from depression and attributed this as a large factor contributing to his actions.

Whilst it is certainly the duty of the media to report on disasters like this, headlines such as “Madman in Cockpit” do nothing but unfairly stigmatise a health condition that is already misunderstood and often awkwardly avoided in conversation. This is despite the fact that 1 out of 4 people each year will experience some form of mental health problem.

Despite how the media may make people feel, depression is nothing to be ashamed of. I personally suffer from depression and anxiety and I refuse to be shunned by society on the basis of a chemical imbalance in my brain.
In light of this I have decided to write about my own experience with depression as I believe that the only way we can break down this stigma is to be open about it rather than being ashamed of things outwith our control. I’ll start by explaining how depression affects me personally, I will then describe my experience in seeking help with my depression and I’ll finish off with how I cope now on a day-to-day basis.
This is particularly difficult for me to write as I know that my friends and family will read this, a lot of them may not even know of my depression. However this is the kind of openness that we as a society need in order to progress and give sufferers of mental illness the support that they need.

So here goes nothing, for those of you that I’ve never met, this is me:

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This picture was taken 1-2 years ago. Whilst I look extremely happy (probably too happy), this was possibly one of the lowest periods I’ve had.
You’re maybe wondering what was so bad at this point in my life, and I’ll be frank, nothing.
I was studying HNC Social Sciences at Dundee College, and doing really well in all of my coursework, I had (and still have) an amazing family and I was in a relationship at the time which I was pretty happy with. There was genuinely nothing in my life that should have upset me.
Yet I was miserable.
It’s pretty hard to explain but I’m going to try and describe the feeling:

Think about the last time something upset you; perhaps the death of a cherished family pet, or you were dumped in a relationship that you were really happy with.
Well when that happens, your brain registers that something bad has happened and releases the relevant ‘sad hormones’ which then gives you the feeling of being upset.
Well that’s how depression feels, except nothing happens to trigger it. Your brain just releases these sad hormones for reasons best known to itself.
With this in mind; when something bad actually  happens, even something minor, it can feel pretty damn catastrophic.
So there’s something to think about when asking why somebody is depressed, there isn’t necessarily a reason.

Contrary to what you might believe, depression isn’t just feeling sad. There are many symptoms of depression and they vary wildly between different people.
For example some people might lose their appetite and subsequently lose weight. On the other hand some people gain weight instead.
Some people, such as myself suffer from insomnia caused by their depression, I’m currently writing this at 5:30am.
Other people find that they sleep too much or can’t get out of bed due to depression, this is also a problem for me and I tend to miss a lot of lectures at university as I physically can’t move myself from my bed, sometimes I’m not even tired, I just don’t feel able to leave my safe haven to go and face the intimidating outside world that awaits me.
This brings me to another symptom of depression that has affected me greatly, apathy.
It can be very difficult to motivate myself to do things and it’s often misconstrued as laziness which is very frustrating for me.
My Dad in his well-intentioned attempts to help me do things will often say “you just lack motivation!” Well thanks Dad, I kind of know that.
He’ll often then tell me that I just need to motivate myself. Let me tell you, while he means well, that’s like telling a crippled man that he just needs to get up and walk.
It’s hard to understand depression if you’ve never experienced it yourself, it’s like trying to imagine a colour you’ve never seen before, but we need to make an effort to empathise with people suffering from mental illness, it can be just as hard for them to put it into words as they often don’t quite understand it themselves.

At some particularly low-points of my life I have resorted to self-harm. There was one night in 2013 where I felt particularly hopeless. It was  like nothing I could do would ever be of any importance. I attempted to take my own life by overdosing on Co-codamol (strong painkillers).
Obviously my plan failed and I woke up the next morning feeling very ill. I spent the rest of the day violently vomiting but managed to convince my family that it was just a bug. They believed this until a few weeks later when I finally admitted what happened to my parents, this brings me to my experience in seeking professional help.

I was referred to a psychiatrist in Arbroath. When he asked me to explain to him how I felt, it was difficult to know where to begin.
Sad, apathetic, lethargic, hopeless, detatched, like I’m watching all of my actions through a TV screen but it’s not actually me that’s doing them, I’m in autopilot.
I left the appointment with the psychiatrist feeling just as confused about me as I did. He told me he was struggling to understand my problems as I didn’t seem to understand them myself. My next appointment would be in 4 months time.
After 4 months of feeling crazy because I was someone who needed a psychiatrist, yet not actually receiving the support of a psychiatrist over these months I finally had my second appointment.
In all honesty, the psychiatrist seemed disinterested in me and seemed eager to just put me on anti-depressants.
I don’t want to go on medication when the doctor doesn’t even seem to be sure of what’s wrong with me!
If I went to the GP with a weird lump, would they give me chemotherapy if they were unsure of what was wrong?!

I refused the medication and insisted on a more therapy-based approach to which the psychiatrist finally agreed.
After waiting a month I finally had my first appointment with a counselor, a lovely and friendly women who I quickly opened up to.
However it didn’t last, after my second session with her she seemed equally as confused about my feelings as the psychiatrist had been and recommended “a slightly higher level of care”.
I was then sent back to seeing the psychiatrist once every four months.
I eventually became very frustrated with the whole system, accepted the anti-depressants and then told the psychiatrist that I felt “perfect” so that I wouldn’t have to travel from Monifieth to Arbroath once every four months just to have some guy make a half-assed attempt of figuring me out, as if he was trying to solve a sudoku puzzle whilst watching the telly.
After reluctantly taking the medication, I found that it did help to ease my anxiety and panic attacks (which were a big burden to me at the time), but it did not help with my depression. It also seemed to fog my mind, it’s like it helped my anxiety by throwing a big wet blanket over my brain.
Basically, we really need to look at the treatment of mental health issues in our healthcare system as in my experience, it’s not nearly good enough.

I came off of the medication fairly recently, whilst depression is still a problem for me, I’ve managed to find some meaning in my life which has really helped me cope. I’m studying psychology at the University of St Andrews with an aim to eventually become a psychotherapist. I plan to use my experiences of depression to help me in supporting those going through similar problems.
After all, who’s better suited to save those who are lost in a sea of depression than one who is already wet?

Sadly, in the world of politics I have not seen many people working towards the better treatment of the mentally ill.
This is why I support the Liberal Democrats, the only party I have seen who are really making an effort in this area.

Thank you for reading my story, I hope it encourages other people to speak out about their own experiences with mental health issues.
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If you are feeling depressed or suicidal and need to talk to someone you can call Samaritans (08457 90 90 90) or Childline (0800 1111).

By David May

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Lib Dem Candidate, Sanjay Samani said, “The Lib Dems warned of the dangers of a single police force in Scotland. We are now seeing our worst fears realised.”

“With Police Counters closed, armed police on regular patrol in the Highlands and excessive stop and search we are seeing a one-size-fits-all police force in action. Many Angus towns are feeling the effects of Glasgow policing priorities being applied in rural communities.”

“The single police force was supposed to save money and yet we are seeing front line policing services like parking enforcement and police counters cut in Angus.”

“The SNP Government has taken its eye off the ball on local, community policing with their focus on independence. They now need to address the failings they have created, increasing accountability and working on local priorities.”

Angus lIb Dem cllr David May comments”As an Angus councillor I totally back the comments from Alison McInnes as in Angus we have suffered from this SNP policy. We have lost our traffic wardens and parking in our town centres is a nightmare. Many of our police offices have now closed and the role of the police is now dictated by the chief constable in the central belt. Our local police committee no longer plays a role in determining priorities for our area so it might as well not exist.” David May

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Alison McInnes said new calls for a review of the one-size-fits-all approach to policing and the codification of the chief constable’s powers show the SNP’s centralisation agenda is “unravelling”.

The northern branch of the Scottish Police Federation has put a motion to its upcoming conference in Ayrshire, warning of a diminished frontline and calling for a “bottom-up” review of how resources are distributed.

The warning also comes as former HM Chief Inspector of the Constabulary Paddy Tomkins, who drew up the plan calling for a single force, echoed Alison McInnes’ repeated calls for the powers of the chief constable to be set out in law.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie will also speak to SPF members at the conference next Wednesday (1 April) on the second anniversary of the national force.

Mrs McInnes said: “When creating the single national force the SNP refused to listen to the concerns of parliament, charities and civic Scotland. Will they listen to the experts, and to rank and file now?

“Scottish Liberal Democrats consistently opposed the centralisation of our police because it would only result in a one size fits all approach. The erosion of the accountability of the national force makes it harder to see where the problems lie.

“Without codification of the chief constable’s powers, he has proven exempt from any meaningful checks. This has led to more powers being drawn away from communities towards police central headquarters. The SPA has been left playing catch-up, only examining decisions months after they have been taken by senior officers.

“The SNP’s centralisation agenda is unravelling. Why should frontline officers and communities pay the price?”

From:: David May

Mar/15

28

High Street waste

By David May

I have been in touch with the local council waste manager as as result of the mess left in the High Street as seagulls have been making with the bags left out by local shops/residents. The council staff have previously distributed “Seagull” sacks but it seems that these are not being regularly used and so the council will now make contact with some local residents /shops by doing some door knocking and letter sending. I certainly hope that this helps to resolve the problems as the mess in our high street some mornings has been appalling.

From:: David May

Mar/15

26

Integrating health and social care

By David May

I am delighted that today I was nominated to serve as an Angus council representative on the very important board which will play a vital role in implementing the Integration of health and social care services in our area. This is a very critical programme of reform to improve services for people who use health and social care services. The aim of integration of these services is to ensure that health and social care provision across Scotland is joined-up and seamless, especially for people with long term conditions and disabilities, many of whom are older people. This scheme is something I am very committed to ensure works as well as possible and although I regret the fact that the Scottish Government highly prescribed the system I do back the desire the need for more of the resources to focus more on prevention than intervention.

From:: David May

Nigel

Whilst reading through the comments sections of UKIP’s Facebook posts it’s clear that many people are currently less than impressed with the European Union.
And with all the horror stories being spread it’s not hard to see why. According to Nigel Farage and his Eurosceptic party, not only are we paying an immense amount of money just for membership; we are also seeing a ‘massive oversupply’ of foreign labour forcing British wages down.

But is the EU really that bad? Here are five facts that Nigel really doesn’t want you to know:

1. European workers aren’t a threat to your job.

In the last few years, 9 out of 10 British Jobs have gone to British people.
Contrary to what far-right parties such as UKIP and the BNP would have you believe, immigrants aren’t that big of a threat to the employability of British people.
If however you do find your job threatened by people moving here from Romania in search of a better life, armed with with no money or qualifications and a limited grasp of the English language, then perhaps the EU’s free movement of people isn’t what’s holding you back…

This may leave you wondering, “what about that one job in ten that’s not going to a hard-working British person?”
Well calm down you inquisitive devil! That brings me to my next point…

 

2. European workers actually create jobs.

1 out of 7 of every new business formed in Britain is created by people who move here from within the EU.
Believe it or not this means that people migrating here from Europe are actually creating jobs, 9 out of 10 of which will go to British people.
So if you think it’s hard enough finding a job now, just try it without all of those companies created by European immigrants.

So now you know that British jobs are safe, but what about the benefits tourists that you’ve seen on shows like ‘Benefits Street’?
Admittedly there are those who wish to take advantage of the generosity of our welfare system, however…

 

3. We profit from immigration!

There’s no denying that things like benefits tourism are a problem. The NHS currently spends £1.5 billion a year on non-active EU migrants. However from 2001 to 2011, Britain gained £22 billion in tax from the EU migrants who do work.

Basically, immigration pays for itself and more.

Whilst I wont suggest for a second that abusing British benefits and our world-class health service is acceptable, leaving the EU and thus slashing immigration would see the country lose a lot of money. Our NHS would then subsequently struggle more than it currently does with allegedly lazy immigrants. In a time of so many cuts; could our hospitals, our military and our police force really cope with even more cuts to funding because we no longer have the same volume of immigrants working hard and paying their taxes?

Speaking of our police force… did you know that one of our best crime-fighters comes from the EU?

 

4. The EU helps us catch bad guys.

The European Arrest Warrant is “an essential weapon in the fight against organised crime”.
Those aren’t my words, those are in fact the words of Sir Hugh Orde who just so happens to be Head of the Association of Chief Police Officers.

It plays a pivotal part in making European countries work together so that they can extradite foreign criminals to be shipped home and punished in their own country.
Leaving the EU would mean giving up the European Arrest Warrant and therefore delaying the extradition of foreign criminals on British Soil.

Finally, the last fact that Mr Farage really doesn’t want you to know is…

 

5. Ed Milliband isn’t the only political leader who doesn’t look that good whilst eating a bacon sandwich!

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You saw it here first folks!

 

UKIP’s campaign relies on you believing that the EU is a terrible thing for British people when in reality, it may be imperfect but it still benefits us massively.
This is why the Liberal Democrats take an unashamedly pro-EU stance whilst also recognizing the need for reform.

Don’t let Nigel fool you in the upcoming general election, learn the facts!

Mar/15

21

Franks Law at Scottish Lib Dem conference

By David May

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There was a Q and A on Health in the big hall, at the Scottish Lib Dem Conference in Aberdeen and I spoke about Franks Law. I informed the panel about my motion, which was unanimously passed, to Angus Council ” This council calls on chief executive Richard Stiff to write to the First Minister to introduce a ‘Frank’s Law so that free personal care is extended to under-65s with dementia and the reply which was received that indicated that clear guidance” is in place to ensure no one in the last six months of a terminal illness should be charged for the care they receive at home. I was delighted with the support from the delegates at the conference and it was clear that the panel were appalled at the Scottish Government’s reply, and supported the need for action to get the law introduced.

From:: David May

By Sanjay Samani

Sanjay visiting D&A College

I was delighted to be invited to the first General Election hustings hosted by Dundee & Angus College’s Arbroath Campus. The hustings, organised by students took place on Wednesday at the Keptie Street Campus. Sanjay took the opportunity to meet with students at the college on the Introduction to Construction course.

It was an excellent first hustings for the election campaign, with great chairing by Student President, Marc Winsland. It was also a real pleasure to meet students taking the Introduction to Construction course.

Questions focussed on the job opportunities for young people, the impact of welfare changes, the lack of affordable housing and low pay. In addition there was a frank discussion about Further Education funding.

During the debate, I discussed the Lib Dem’s record in Government, delivering on our front page manifesto pledges from the 2010 election. We discussed the 1 million jobs created by the coalition along with 2 million apprenticeships. To tackle low pay, can point to the record increase in the minimum wage announced yesterday.

Lib Dems promised a £700 tax cut every year for workers, in today’s budget we announced that we have over-delivered, with a £900 tax cut every year from next April. I also pointed to our record on house building across the rest of the UK, with 190,000 additional affordable homes built.

I expressed disappointment that the Lib Dems have not been able to do more in blocking the Tories’ idealogical attacks on the Welfare and Benefits. I highlighted the need for the two main parties to end their rhetoric of treating those on benefits as being burdens on our society. Only then can we change the target culture in Job Centres that is leading to deeply unfair sanctions.

On Further Education funding, it was clear to everyone in the room that SNP could not lay the blame for massive cuts in College places and bursary funding on Westminster. The SNP Government have prioritised Universities at the expense of Colleges funding.

Colleges provide keys skills that Angus students need to get the jobs being created across the whole government. Skills that our local businesses desperately need to thrive. They form a crucial part of the economy and education for Angus and Scotland.

That is why the Scottish Lib Dems have placed guaranteed education funding from nursery to College on the front page of our manifesto. As with the front page of the 2010 manifesto, the Lib Dems can be relied on to deliver on our headline commitments.

From:: Sanjay Samani

By Sanjay Samani

I was very saddened to read in The Courier on 9th March that 1/4 of Angus Council Staff and Angus Teachers who are off sick are suffering with stress. Many of them will not be met with the understanding and sympathy they deserve as Mental Health is poorly understood and there is such a stigma attached to it.

Having been off work with stress myself last year, my heart goes out to all of them and hope that they are able to receive the support and treatment they desperately need. Personally, I was fortunate that I was getting support from the magnificent Maggie’s Centre in Dundee and they have helped considerably in my recovery.

The figures published highlight the need to treat Mental Health on an equal footing with physical health. As the Lib Dem candidate for Angus in the upcoming election, I was delighted to see my party put Mental Health front and centre by adding it as one of our top five priorities on the front page of our manifesto.

However this is an issue that should cross all party political lines as Mental Health effects so many people across Angus and the rest of the country.

I have therefore written to my fellow candidates to politely request that we all agree on a simple set of commitments, if we are elected at the forthcoming election:

  • Challenge the stigma around Mental Health so that anyone effected by it feels able to come forward and seek support and treatment as early as possible.
  • Treat Mental Health on an equal footing with physical health, with maximum waiting time targets and additional funding for treatment.
  • Provide education at schools so that young people are better equipped to understand mental illness should they be effected by it.

If we can dramatically improve Mental Health treatment we can help sufferers to recover more quickly and, as a secondary benefit, help to improve Angus Council’s sickness rates.

From:: Sanjay Samani

Mar/15

18

Dropped kerb in Rosehill/ Wishart Gardens area.

By David May

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A constituent contacted about the problems faced by mobility scooter as well as wheelchair users and others in the Rosehill/ Wishart Gardens area of the town. Following a site visit it was clear to me that a dropped kerb was needed so I made contact with the council roads department. Although it has taken very much longer than I had hoped, I am delighted to see that the dropped kerb is now in place. I am aware that this already been welcomed by many people as crossing from the Wishart Gardens to the other side of the road to the path/ cycle track will be much easier.

From:: David May

Mar/15

16

We are letting our young people down.

By David May

CllrMay commented that he backed the comments from Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume MSP who has called on the Scottish Government to act urgently to relieve pressure on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Scotland. Cllr May added “It is clear that the Health Minister has not made this a priority and our young people deserve better as shown by the targets in waiting times being missed time and time again.”

Mr Hume’s comments came as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced £1.25 billion in funding that will help treat 110,000 more children with mental health issues, and provide rapid access to treatment for new mothers. Mr Clegg’s announcement was made at Liberal Democrat spring conference in Liverpool.

Lib Dem Candidate for Angus, Sanjay Samani said, “I was delighted to see Nick Clegg’s announcement of £1.25 billion in funding for children’s mental health. We have put Mental Health front and centre of the front page of our manifesto. At this weekend’s conference, we adopted a policy to improve Mental Education education, so that children are better prepared if they do face mental health issues.”

“In Scotland we are letting down young people with mental health issues, with nearly half waiting for six months or more for treatment.”

“Scotland needs to take up the gauntlet of treating mental health equally with physical health, tackling the stigma around mental health and in particular providing children with access to the treatment they desperately need.”

Commenting, Mr Hume said:

“The extra investment in mental health services for young people that Liberal Democrats have announced today will make a big difference and we need to see similar urgency here in Scotland too.

“We know that CAMHS services in Scotland are under real pressure. Waiting time targets have been missed and missed again. It is time that the SNP government started taking this issue seriously, starting by enshrining parity between physical and mental health services in law.”

From:: David May

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