Tag Archives: Normal

After surviving cancer I thought work would go back to normal – I was wrong

I’d never taken a dressing gown to work before. But my choice to return to work during the last stage of breast cancer treatment meant coming to the office in the morning, dressing gown in my handbag, before heading to the hospital at lunchtime for a daily dose of radiotherapy.

After nearly a year of cancer treatment, returning to work was supposed to be the straightforward bit. As senior director of communications at the water regulator, Ofwat, I knew my job, my colleagues and had a supportive, public sector employer. I’d been warned of fatigue and had a phased return to work plan from occupational health. I assumed that in time everything would return to normal. I was wrong.


My work identity had vanished; I still felt like a patient

I’d grown used to a life structured around medical appointments. In contrast, my return to work felt unpredictable. I didn’t know what support I needed, or what I would find difficult. I lasted three weeks before going back on sick leave, unable to cope.

Together, Ofwat and I had to find a solution. We set up a formal system of communication which continued as I came back to work part-time. In regular weekly calls with Ofwat’s head of HR and chief executive we talked about every aspect of my return – from the side effects of my medication to restructuring my team to help manage my workload.

I attended Breast Cancer Care’s Moving Forward course, and realised that I felt most at home with other cancer survivors. My work identity had vanished; I still felt like a patient. I’d finished my treatment, but cancer still dominated who I was.

I struggled with anxiety and every decision at work left me tossing and turning into the small hours. Having spent a year unable to watch anything more taxing than The Great British Bake Off, I found the emotional demands of managing staff impossible.

Managing fatigue restricted my ability to travel between Ofwat’s London and Birmingham offices, while evening events – a staple of any senior communications role – were also off the agenda.

I didn’t look like everyone else. My office wardrobe, unworn for nearly a year, felt uncomfortable and ill-fitting. Ongoing problems with my hands and feet meant that I struggled with buttons on blouses and wearing formal work shoes.

Having a visible role as one of Ofwat’s senior leaders meant my illness, and recovery, felt very public. Coming back to work without any hair was a difficult, yet memorable, moment. Unable to face walking into Ofwat’s open plan office alone, I asked a colleague to meet me outside. The office fell silent as we walked in. Ofwat’s chairman saw me through the open door of his office and came out, clapping his hand on my shoulder. You’re welcome, it’s good to see you, he said, in a voice loud enough for the whole office to hear. That affirmation boosted my confidence, helping me feel part of the team again.

A year on and now back at work four days a week, I still meet regularly with Ofwat’s chief executive and Head of HR to review working arrangements. What we’ve learned has led to a new way for Ofwat to manage long term sickness absence, based around open, straightforward and ongoing communication. It’s been a positive outcome from an illness too often shrouded in silence.

  • Claire Forbes is senior director of corporate communications at Ofwat

This series aims to give a voice to the staff behind the public services that are hit by mounting cuts and rising demand, and so often denigrated by the press, politicians and public. If you would like to write an article for the series, contact kirstie.brewer@theguardian.com

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Am I normal? You asked Google. Here’s the answer | Eleanor Morgan

“The camera has the power to catch so-called normal people in such a way as to make them look extremely disturbed,” writes Susan Sontag in an essay from 1973 called Freak Show. “The camera chooses oddity, chases it, names it, elects it, frames it, develops it, titles it.” Sontag was talking about photography, but this concept of naming-and-framing is a useful analogy for how we view one another in society at large.

We muscle through life constantly framing the “normality” of others against our own patchwork of knowledge, life experiences, values and opinions. We can’t help it. Yet normality is probably the most subjective concept human beings can ponder.

If I were to walk down the street and take photos of anyone that didn’t fit with my idea of normal, the pictures would reveal more about me than about my subjects because, as an individual, normal is a social construct based on my cultural values and relative norms: what I know from the life I have lived.

Like everyone else, over time I have attached my own meaning to the words normal and abnormal. This is the product of so many things: the society I was born into, childhood experiences, my parents’ values, my education, my relationships, what I read and watch, my chosen career path, etc. I can reject the notion of normal until I’m blue in the face and, like many, I largely try to, but I cannot reject the unconscious associations I make with the word. Of course, my concept of what’s normal doesn’t just affect how I view others; it affects how I view myself.

Am I a normal size? Am I normal if I’m not heterosexual? Am I normal in my sexual practices? Am I normal to get as lonely as I do? Am I normal to let my dog sleep in bed with me? Am I normal in the way I emotionally process things? Am I normal for worrying about everything? If yes is the desired response, where does that need for validation come from and what is contributing to the self-questioning in the first place?

Dog with alarm clock


‘Am I normal to let my dog sleep in bed with me?’ Photograph: Alamy

I’d wager that a significant number of people asking Google whether they are normal are doing so in reaction to a mental or emotional state. If we broadly consider the meanings we attach to normality and abnormality in society, clinical pathology is a starting point. In medicine, normal is a term inextricably bound with the diagnostic process. The parameters are set by centuries of research and knowledge that tell us what levels, rates or positions of things are needed for the body to function well and what signals a body in distress. Tests and scans can tell doctors what’s wrong: a higher-than-normal heart rate, blood glucose level or an abnormal growth where there shouldn’t be one. In this context, normality can be empirically quantified. However, “pathology” is also a term associated with mental health, which can’t be empirically quantified. Therein lies all sorts of tension.

Wondering if you’re normal or why you can’t be normal often goes hand in hand with mental distress, particularly if it’s the first time you’ve felt a certain way. It’s an upsetting, frustrating thought tangle. But no test or scan can say to us, “You are definitely depressed”. Research tells us more about the genetic components to some types of mental distress, but diagnosis is based on discussion and observation.

There is much conflict in psychology over how helpful it is to adhere to the biomedical model of mental distress (for example viewing depression as a clinical pathology that should be treated with the appropriate medication), because it limits our potential to explore contributing sociocultural factors. Critical psychologists challenge mainstream psychology and see social change as means of preventing – rather than firefighting – mental health issues. Many question the value of diagnosis altogether because of the potential impact a “disordered” label could have on a person and how they perceive their place in the world.

If someone is highly anxious and seeks help, how does a clinical diagnosis of anxiety disorder fit into thoughts surrounding being abnormal, self-esteem and the prevailing stigma around mental distress? For many, a term that names and makes sense of frightening, abstract thoughts and feelings will be very helpful. You’re told that you’re not alone in despair, that you’re part of a cohort. It is unhelpful to argue with this. For others (I include myself here), the idea that a propensity for anxious thinking somehow knocks you off the axes of normal humanness doesn’t seem fair or valid.

Controversy continues to rumble around the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the standard classification of mental “disorders” used by mental health professionals in the US and beyond. It is the bible, of sorts, for who is or isn’t mentally normal. But in its last revision in 2013 the diagnostic criteria expanded to such whopping proportions, it began to read as a medicalisation of … life. By lowering so many diagnostic thresholds, pretty much anyone could be seen as having a mental illness at any point in time. When I was researching my book, I read the DSM in the British Library and diagnosed myself with about 50 disorders. Can something like grief really be pathologised as a mood disorder? Who can tell us that we’re doing bereavement abnormally? Do “conditions” such as “sluggish cognitive tempo disorder” actually just point to, you know, laziness?

When Jon Ronson was researching The Psychopath Test he met Robert Spitzer, the editor under whose charge the DSM’s waist expanded most dramatically, and asked if he might have created a world in which the line between normal human behaviour and clinical diagnoses has become dangerously blurred. Spitzer’s response? “I don’t know.” Books such as The Psychopath Test and James Davies’s Cracked: Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm Than Good gently encourage us to be suspicious of what psychiatry considers normal and abnormal and to explore the idea of mental health as a movable concept.

Pretty much everything is a movable concept, though, right? Babies being born now will enter a world that’s beginning to have a more nuanced, compassionate understanding of the spectrums of gender, sexuality and identity than those of previous generations. Historical heteronormativity is challenged more with every passing day. It’s a similar picture with mental health – stigma still abounds, but the discourse is changing. We see experiencing mental distress less as marking someone as “other” than just a someone. It’s too easy to assume that everyone else is normal and we’re not, but as Eva Wiseman has asserted “every single other comfortable-looking fool is trying really hard, all the time”.

Human beings cannot be reduced to statistical jargon. People are not outliers on a bell curve when they don’t conform to a societal norm: they are living their own interpretation of it. Ideological power is a thick artery through so many social institutions but we must remember, as much as we can, that definitions of normal vary as much as our fingerprints. Unless we’re breaking the law or could be responsible for gratuitous human suffering, seeking clarity over whether what we’re thinking, feeling or doing is normal should also come with the inward question: “Who or what am I trying to get validation from?” The answer can tell us more about ourselves than we think.

Am I normal? You asked Google. Here’s the answer | Eleanor Morgan

“The camera has the power to catch so-called normal people in such a way as to make them look extremely disturbed,” writes Susan Sontag in an essay from 1973 called Freak Show. “The camera chooses oddity, chases it, names it, elects it, frames it, develops it, titles it.” Sontag was talking about photography, but this concept of naming-and-framing is a useful analogy for how we view one another in society at large.

We muscle through life constantly framing the “normality” of others against our own patchwork of knowledge, life experiences, values and opinions. We can’t help it. Yet normality is probably the most subjective concept human beings can ponder.

If I were to walk down the street and take photos of anyone that didn’t fit with my idea of normal, the pictures would reveal more about me than about my subjects because, as an individual, normal is a social construct based on my cultural values and relative norms: what I know from the life I have lived.

Like everyone else, over time I have attached my own meaning to the words normal and abnormal. This is the product of so many things: the society I was born into, childhood experiences, my parents’ values, my education, my relationships, what I read and watch, my chosen career path, etc. I can reject the notion of normal until I’m blue in the face and, like many, I largely try to, but I cannot reject the unconscious associations I make with the word. Of course, my concept of what’s normal doesn’t just affect how I view others; it affects how I view myself.

Am I a normal size? Am I normal if I’m not heterosexual? Am I normal in my sexual practices? Am I normal to get as lonely as I do? Am I normal to let my dog sleep in bed with me? Am I normal in the way I emotionally process things? Am I normal for worrying about everything? If yes is the desired response, where does that need for validation come from and what is contributing to the self-questioning in the first place?

Dog with alarm clock


‘Am I normal to let my dog sleep in bed with me?’ Photograph: Alamy

I’d wager that a significant number of people asking Google whether they are normal are doing so in reaction to a mental or emotional state. If we broadly consider the meanings we attach to normality and abnormality in society, clinical pathology is a starting point. In medicine, normal is a term inextricably bound with the diagnostic process. The parameters are set by centuries of research and knowledge that tell us what levels, rates or positions of things are needed for the body to function well and what signals a body in distress. Tests and scans can tell doctors what’s wrong: a higher-than-normal heart rate, blood glucose level or an abnormal growth where there shouldn’t be one. In this context, normality can be empirically quantified. However, “pathology” is also a term associated with mental health, which can’t be empirically quantified. Therein lies all sorts of tension.

Wondering if you’re normal or why you can’t be normal often goes hand in hand with mental distress, particularly if it’s the first time you’ve felt a certain way. It’s an upsetting, frustrating thought tangle. But no test or scan can say to us, “You are definitely depressed”. Research tells us more about the genetic components to some types of mental distress, but diagnosis is based on discussion and observation.

There is much conflict in psychology over how helpful it is to adhere to the biomedical model of mental distress (for example viewing depression as a clinical pathology that should be treated with the appropriate medication), because it limits our potential to explore contributing sociocultural factors. Critical psychologists challenge mainstream psychology and see social change as means of preventing – rather than firefighting – mental health issues. Many question the value of diagnosis altogether because of the potential impact a “disordered” label could have on a person and how they perceive their place in the world.

If someone is highly anxious and seeks help, how does a clinical diagnosis of anxiety disorder fit into thoughts surrounding being abnormal, self-esteem and the prevailing stigma around mental distress? For many, a term that names and makes sense of frightening, abstract thoughts and feelings will be very helpful. You’re told that you’re not alone in despair, that you’re part of a cohort. It is unhelpful to argue with this. For others (I include myself here), the idea that a propensity for anxious thinking somehow knocks you off the axes of normal humanness doesn’t seem fair or valid.

Controversy continues to rumble around the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the standard classification of mental “disorders” used by mental health professionals in the US and beyond. It is the bible, of sorts, for who is or isn’t mentally normal. But in its last revision in 2013 the diagnostic criteria expanded to such whopping proportions, it began to read as a medicalisation of … life. By lowering so many diagnostic thresholds, pretty much anyone could be seen as having a mental illness at any point in time. When I was researching my book, I read the DSM in the British Library and diagnosed myself with about 50 disorders. Can something like grief really be pathologised as a mood disorder? Who can tell us that we’re doing bereavement abnormally? Do “conditions” such as “sluggish cognitive tempo disorder” actually just point to, you know, laziness?

When Jon Ronson was researching The Psychopath Test he met Robert Spitzer, the editor under whose charge the DSM’s waist expanded most dramatically, and asked if he might have created a world in which the line between normal human behaviour and clinical diagnoses has become dangerously blurred. Spitzer’s response? “I don’t know.” Books such as The Psychopath Test and James Davies’s Cracked: Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm Than Good gently encourage us to be suspicious of what psychiatry considers normal and abnormal and to explore the idea of mental health as a movable concept.

Pretty much everything is a movable concept, though, right? Babies being born now will enter a world that’s beginning to have a more nuanced, compassionate understanding of the spectrums of gender, sexuality and identity than those of previous generations. Historical heteronormativity is challenged more with every passing day. It’s a similar picture with mental health – stigma still abounds, but the discourse is changing. We see experiencing mental distress less as marking someone as “other” than just a someone. It’s too easy to assume that everyone else is normal and we’re not, but as Eva Wiseman has asserted “every single other comfortable-looking fool is trying really hard, all the time”.

Human beings cannot be reduced to statistical jargon. People are not outliers on a bell curve when they don’t conform to a societal norm: they are living their own interpretation of it. Ideological power is a thick artery through so many social institutions but we must remember, as much as we can, that definitions of normal vary as much as our fingerprints. Unless we’re breaking the law or could be responsible for gratuitous human suffering, seeking clarity over whether what we’re thinking, feeling or doing is normal should also come with the inward question: “Who or what am I trying to get validation from?” The answer can tell us more about ourselves than we think.

Am I normal? You asked Google. Here’s the answer | Eleanor Morgan

“The camera has the power to catch so-called normal people in such a way as to make them look extremely disturbed,” writes Susan Sontag in an essay from 1973 called Freak Show. “The camera chooses oddity, chases it, names it, elects it, frames it, develops it, titles it.” Sontag was talking about photography, but this concept of naming-and-framing is a useful analogy for how we view one another in society at large.

We muscle through life constantly framing the “normality” of others against our own patchwork of knowledge, life experiences, values and opinions. We can’t help it. Yet normality is probably the most subjective concept human beings can ponder.

If I were to walk down the street and take photos of anyone that didn’t fit with my idea of normal, the pictures would reveal more about me than about my subjects because, as an individual, normal is a social construct based on my cultural values and relative norms: what I know from the life I have lived.

Like everyone else, over time I have attached my own meaning to the words normal and abnormal. This is the product of so many things: the society I was born into, childhood experiences, my parents’ values, my education, my relationships, what I read and watch, my chosen career path, etc. I can reject the notion of normal until I’m blue in the face and, like many, I largely try to, but I cannot reject the unconscious associations I make with the word. Of course, my concept of what’s normal doesn’t just affect how I view others; it affects how I view myself.

Am I a normal size? Am I normal if I’m not heterosexual? Am I normal in my sexual practices? Am I normal to get as lonely as I do? Am I normal to let my dog sleep in bed with me? Am I normal in the way I emotionally process things? Am I normal for worrying about everything? If yes is the desired response, where does that need for validation come from and what is contributing to the self-questioning in the first place?

Dog with alarm clock


‘Am I normal to let my dog sleep in bed with me?’ Photograph: Alamy

I’d wager that a significant number of people asking Google whether they are normal are doing so in reaction to a mental or emotional state. If we broadly consider the meanings we attach to normality and abnormality in society, clinical pathology is a starting point. In medicine, normal is a term inextricably bound with the diagnostic process. The parameters are set by centuries of research and knowledge that tell us what levels, rates or positions of things are needed for the body to function well and what signals a body in distress. Tests and scans can tell doctors what’s wrong: a higher-than-normal heart rate, blood glucose level or an abnormal growth where there shouldn’t be one. In this context, normality can be empirically quantified. However, “pathology” is also a term associated with mental health, which can’t be empirically quantified. Therein lies all sorts of tension.

Wondering if you’re normal or why you can’t be normal often goes hand in hand with mental distress, particularly if it’s the first time you’ve felt a certain way. It’s an upsetting, frustrating thought tangle. But no test or scan can say to us, “You are definitely depressed”. Research tells us more about the genetic components to some types of mental distress, but diagnosis is based on discussion and observation.

There is much conflict in psychology over how helpful it is to adhere to the biomedical model of mental distress (for example viewing depression as a clinical pathology that should be treated with the appropriate medication), because it limits our potential to explore contributing sociocultural factors. Critical psychologists challenge mainstream psychology and see social change as means of preventing – rather than firefighting – mental health issues. Many question the value of diagnosis altogether because of the potential impact a “disordered” label could have on a person and how they perceive their place in the world.

If someone is highly anxious and seeks help, how does a clinical diagnosis of anxiety disorder fit into thoughts surrounding being abnormal, self-esteem and the prevailing stigma around mental distress? For many, a term that names and makes sense of frightening, abstract thoughts and feelings will be very helpful. You’re told that you’re not alone in despair, that you’re part of a cohort. It is unhelpful to argue with this. For others (I include myself here), the idea that a propensity for anxious thinking somehow knocks you off the axes of normal humanness doesn’t seem fair or valid.

Controversy continues to rumble around the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the standard classification of mental “disorders” used by mental health professionals in the US and beyond. It is the bible, of sorts, for who is or isn’t mentally normal. But in its last revision in 2013 the diagnostic criteria expanded to such whopping proportions, it began to read as a medicalisation of … life. By lowering so many diagnostic thresholds, pretty much anyone could be seen as having a mental illness at any point in time. When I was researching my book, I read the DSM in the British Library and diagnosed myself with about 50 disorders. Can something like grief really be pathologised as a mood disorder? Who can tell us that we’re doing bereavement abnormally? Do “conditions” such as “sluggish cognitive tempo disorder” actually just point to, you know, laziness?

When Jon Ronson was researching The Psychopath Test he met Robert Spitzer, the editor under whose charge the DSM’s waist expanded most dramatically, and asked if he might have created a world in which the line between normal human behaviour and clinical diagnoses has become dangerously blurred. Spitzer’s response? “I don’t know.” Books such as The Psychopath Test and James Davies’s Cracked: Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm Than Good gently encourage us to be suspicious of what psychiatry considers normal and abnormal and to explore the idea of mental health as a movable concept.

Pretty much everything is a movable concept, though, right? Babies being born now will enter a world that’s beginning to have a more nuanced, compassionate understanding of the spectrums of gender, sexuality and identity than those of previous generations. Historical heteronormativity is challenged more with every passing day. It’s a similar picture with mental health – stigma still abounds, but the discourse is changing. We see experiencing mental distress less as marking someone as “other” than just a someone. It’s too easy to assume that everyone else is normal and we’re not, but as Eva Wiseman has asserted “every single other comfortable-looking fool is trying really hard, all the time”.

Human beings cannot be reduced to statistical jargon. People are not outliers on a bell curve when they don’t conform to a societal norm: they are living their own interpretation of it. Ideological power is a thick artery through so many social institutions but we must remember, as much as we can, that definitions of normal vary as much as our fingerprints. Unless we’re breaking the law or could be responsible for gratuitous human suffering, seeking clarity over whether what we’re thinking, feeling or doing is normal should also come with the inward question: “Who or what am I trying to get validation from?” The answer can tell us more about ourselves than we think.

Am I normal? You asked Google. Here’s the answer | Eleanor Morgan

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Every day millions of internet users ask Google life’s most difficult questions, big and small. Our writers answer some of the commonest queries

“The camera has the power to catch so-called normal people in such a way as to make them look extremely disturbed,” writes Susan Sontag in an essay from 1973 called Freak Show. “The camera chooses oddity, chases it, names it, elects it, frames it, develops it, titles it.” Sontag was talking about photography, but this concept of naming-and-framing is a useful analogy for how we view one another in society at large.

We muscle through life constantly framing the “normality” of others against our own patchwork of knowledge, life experiences, values and opinions. We can’t help it. Yet normality is probably the most subjective concept human beings can ponder.

Related: Is mental illness real? You asked Google – here’s the answer | Jay Watts

Related: Why don’t people like me? You asked Google – here’s the answer | Anouchka Grose

Continue reading…

All-powerful Theresa dispenses with normal rules of human interaction

There was a time when Theresa May cared that the public considered the Conservatives to be the “nasty party”. That time has long past. Now Theresa is ruler of all she surveys. She has created the world in her own image and it is good. With Labour posing little threat and surrounded only by flatterers, the prime minister has absolute power.

And with that absolute power has come an absolute lack of self-criticism. She no longer notices nor cares what people think. She even imagines that saying the word “Inc-red-i-ble” in the manner of a 1970s comedian on the sex offender register is funny. Prime minister’s questions has come to this.

Jeremy Corbyn had chosen to use all six of his questions on the prime minister’s decision to override a court judgment to extend personal independence payments to people with mental as well as physical disabilities. It should have been a good call on the Labour leader’s part, as picking on people with dementia and mental illness is not generally a good look for a government. Theresa, though, was outraged that anyone should dare question her judgment.

“No one is going to see a cut in their payments,” she said, wilfully missing the point that the real issue was the 120,000 people who wouldn’t now be getting the money that the judiciary had said they should have.

Corbyn then accused her of trying to sneak the changes in legislation through parliament without consultation. The prime minister narrowed her eyes. How dare he talk to her like that? How very dare he? Any member of her cabinet who took that tone would be out of a job.

“We made a written ministerial statement to the house last Thursday,” she replied, her voice pure ice. “And the work and pensions secretary left a message on a voicemail.” She didn’t sound entirely sure whose. Or when.

By any normal standards a written statement and a dodgy voicemail could count as sneaking, so Corbyn had another go. “The government has over-ridden an independent court decision,” he repeated. Theresa shrugged. So what? What was he going to do about it? She wasn’t that bothered what the Labour leader did or didn’t think.

Yes, it had been a bit unfortunate that her policy chief had appeared to rubbish people with mental health issues as pill-popping timewasters who sit around at home all day, but he probably had a point. There were too many people moaning and droning about feeling depressed and anxious who just needed to do a decent day’s work. Far better to cut inheritance tax rather than add to disability handouts. Anyone could see that.

As it dawned on him that the prime minister wasn’t in the slightest bit interested in people with mental health issues, Corbyn began to lose some of his focus; the normal rules of human interaction clearly no longer applied and he had no frame of reference. Most people would at least be a little embarrassed at having their indifference shown up, but Theresa was now borderline sociopathic.

Theresa drummed her fingers on the dispatch box. She was tired of talking about people with disabilities. What she wanted to talk about was her fantastic byelection victory in Copeland. Could someone ask her why she was so marvellous? There were any number of Tory sycophants only too willing to oblige.

Andrew Bridgen got in first. Did she agree with him that the Tory success in Copeland was entirely down to the prime minister’s own brilliance? This was much more like it. “Yes,” she replied. It was entirely down to her own magnificence. The idea that winning the byelection might have more to do with Labour being completely useless was just absurd.

But even talking about herself wasn’t enough to conceal her sense of boredom. She wasn’t the only one. As she went on to yawn her way through a tough question from the SNP’s Angus Robertson on devolved agriculture and fisheries powers, large gaps began to open up on both benches. PMQs used to play to a packed house, but May and Corbyn have turned it into something entirely missable.

Children need to know stress is normal, not necessarily a mental health problem

There is a statistic often quoted by children’s mental health campaigners: 10% of children and young people (aged five to 16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem. It comes from a 2004 report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) (pdf), but its methodology is questionable – the diagnoses were made using transcripts of ONS interviews, by clinicians who never met the children in question. But what’s really revealing is the researchers’ broad definition of a mental health problem.

More than half (5.8%) of those diagnosed with a condition (9.6%) had what are described as conduct disorders – antisocial behaviours, such as aggression or deceitfulness. More than a third (3.7%) had emotional disorders including anxiety and depression, but also phobias – for example, a fear of dogs. The remainder were judged either “hyperactive”, “impulsive” and “inattentive” (1.5%) or had less common conditions (1.3%) such as autism.

In other words, a large part of the children’s mental health problem in this country is antisocial behaviour. What would have once been put down to a child being naughty is today turned into a need, and grounds for potential psychological or even psychiatric intervention.

That’s not to deny that there’s a problem. According to a survey conducted by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), more than half (55%) of schools report increased stress and anxiety among their pupils. Over the past five years, 40% have seen a large rise in cyberbullying; four out of five (79%) report more self harm and suicidal thoughts among students; more than half (53%) rate their local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs) as poor or very poor, and 80% want to see those services expanded. This is despite most schools already offering on-site support with for mental health problems.

Young people are typically waiting months and even years for treatment by their local Camhs. But instead of asking how we meet these needs, we need to ask what has given rise to them.

No distinction

As a society, we are encouraged to understand the challenges children face as mental health or emotional problems – no distinction is made between the two. Behavioural problems at nursery and teenage use of social media are spoken of in the same breath as eating disorders. The impression is that a big and growing problem exists and that these very different concerns are somehow related or on a continuum – and that the apparently unprecedentedly challenging world of today is to blame.

The ASCL interim general secretary, Malcolm Trobe, said earlier this year: “Children today face an extraordinary range of pressures.” These include “enormously high expectations, where new technologies present totally new challenges such as cyberbullying”.

Nihara Krause, a clinical psychologist and founder of teenage mental health charity Stem4, says that young people today experience “levels of competition and performance anxiety unknown to any generation”.

“The increase in mental ill-health among our young people is exacerbated by our trophy culture. Outside school, our body-obsessed, share-everything culture subjects them to a new form of scrutiny,” she says.

There is a real problem here, but perhaps it’s not that young people are increasingly mentally or emotionally unwell, or because the difficulties they face are uniquely challenging. Maybe the issue is that we’ve adopted this narrative of vulnerability, and affected the way young people understand themselves and what they are capable of.

Young people are picking up the message that they are defined by their vulnerabilities, and that they are unable to deal with with what in the past would have been regarded as unremarkable facts of life. But what does it do to children if they are told that they can’t cope, that they must seek professional help? It means children and families feel less able to draw on their own informal ways of working things out – not least because families themselves (and parents in particular) are often seen by the experts as part of the problem.

If we want to prevent the problems campaigners describe, we need to hold the line – as parents, as teachers, as adults. We need to teach things that bring children out of themselves. We should give them something to aspire to or embrace. We need to prepare them for adulthood, and let them know that a certain amount of stress and feeling down is just part of growing up.

When teachers become glorified therapists rather than educators – by trying to treat young people rather than instruct them, by massaging young minds rather than filling them up with the knowledge – they can unwittingly contribute to the problem. And worse, they are being distracted from the one thing that they are qualified to do and that will help the young flourish and grow into well-adjusted young adults: teach.

Dave Clements (@daveclementsltd) works in health and social care and is convenor of the Social Policy Forum. He will be speaking at the Battle of Ideas on 22 October on Young People and Mental Illness: A growing problem?

Firefighter feels like a ‘normal guy’ year after unprecedented full face transplant

A Mississippi firefighter who received the world’s most extensive face transplant after a burning building collapsed on him said Wednesday that he feels like “a normal guy” for the first time in 15 years.

Patrick Hardison, 42, said he can now eat, see, hear and breathe normally, thanks to last year’s surgery. He even has a full head of hair and hits the gym twice a week.

“Before the transplant, every day I had to wake up and get myself motivated to face the world,” Hardison told reporters at NYU Langone Medical Center. “Now I don’t worry about people pointing and staring or kids running away crying. I’m happy.”

Hardison was a volunteer firefighter in Senatobia, Mississippi, when a building collapsed on him in 2001. He had 71 reconstructive surgeries before the transplant.

While there have been nearly 40 face transplant surgeries since 2005, Hardison’s was the first to include a scalp and functioning eyelids. Doctors have since fixed up some features and removed his breathing and feeding tubes.

Hardison has no scars on his face, and although he resembles his old self, some of his features are different. His eyes are smaller and his face is rounder, but he still has sandy brown hair.

The divorced father of five said one of the best moments of his life was seeing his children for the first time after the August 2015 surgery. Four of his children attended the news conference.

His 21-year-old daughter, Allison, said she cried after seeing him because she was so relieved.

“After the injury he wasn’t normal on the inside. He was very unhappy,” she said. “Now he’s happy with himself and happy with life.”

Hardison can finally drive and live independently thanks to his new field of vision. Previously, Hardison could see only through “pinholes” because doctors had sewed his eyelids partially shut to protect his eyes, he said.

Eduardo Rodriguez, chairman of Langone’s plastic surgery department, said Hardison has not had any issues with transplant rejection, which is due to his medications, his children and his strength.

“He’s a remarkable individual,” Rodriguez said.

Hardison said he hopes to meet this fall with the family of his donor, a 26-year-old artist who died in a bike accident in Brooklyn.

“I’d like to say that I’m the same old Pat, but that would not give enough credit to the amazing journey I have gone through this past year,” Hardison said. “The road to recovery has been long and hard, but if I had to do it again, I’d do it in a heartbeat.”

Six Ideas For Employing Normal Treatment options To Enhance Fertility

Fertility difficulties are 1 of the most common wellness considerations. They can make men and women resort to an incredible amount of lengthy shots when making an attempt to conceive. The very good information is that you may possibly not have to consider the most pricey or invasive possibilities. The remedy for your infertility might be as easy as modifying what you eat or focusing on sustaining a healthful bodyweight. Let’s discover six guidelines for using normal treatment options to boost your fertility.

one. Stick to One Treatment method at a Time

Numerous individuals who try organic treatments often give these remedies also tiny time to operate just before switching to yet another. This can not only reduce the possibilities of your recent therapy functioning, but it can result in problems when you introduce many treatment options to the physique. When you pick a all-natural treatment, stick with it for a handful of months. This will give the therapy time to accumulate inside your physique.

2. Keep a Healthier Excess weight

Weight has been identified to be 1 of the most essential variables in conception. Too significantly or too small body mass can result in the inability to conceive in a timely method. When utilizing natural remedies for fertility, ensure that you emphasis on trying to keep a wholesome excess weight. This will permit the treatment options to perform greater even though escalating your probabilities of conception.

three. Consider Chinese Herbs

Chinese medicine is one particular of the couple of competitors to Western medication. It has been around for a substantially longer time, and some scientific studies have even substantiated it as offering results where Western medicine may have failed. If your present normal treatments aren’t doing work, then try out Chinese fertility herbs from reputable sources.

4. Treat the Male

Even though the girl plays a significant part in conception equation, it is a two-portion equation. By treating the male, you can help boost the odds of conception. Natural fertility treatment options for males do exist. It is crucial not to rule this out when searching for remedies.

five. Cut Out the Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant. It can significantly curb sperm manufacturing and make it tougher for the girl to conceive. When you consider natural treatment options for fertility, try out to steer clear of caffeine as much as attainable. Some research have proven that as little as 300mg a day of caffeine can impact your probabilities of conception.

6. Treat the Whole Body

Whilst organic treatments for fertility can work wonders, they can only do so a lot. You could need to have to alter your emphasis and treat the entire body instead of just the reproductive system. Physical exercise, modifications in diet and other organic therapies can securely deal with the complete body. Better well being in that spot implies much better possibilities of conception

Natural treatment options are typically effective in treating fertility issues. They require that you stick with a certain therapy for a considerable period of time, alleviate unfavorable factors, and to shift your concentrate on your total overall health. When you can do these things, you can drastically boost your fertility. Basic alterations and a all-natural therapy might be enough to aid you conceive.

Anita is a freelance writer from Denver, CO and typically writes about health, fitness, loved ones and finance. A mother of two, she enjoys traveling with her family when she isn’t writing. All-natural treatment options like Chinese medication can complement your fertility physician’s therapies, say the authorities at Radiant Wonder.