Pull yourself together – reflecting on Boris’ appointment

Roberta Hope ponders what does Boris Johnson’s appointment as Prime Minister mean for mental health? So Boris it is. But what does that mean for the nation’s mental health? Despite Boris’ ‘pull yourself together’ attitude to mental health, as outlined in his Telegraph column last week, the subject should in fact be close to his […]

Pull yourself together – reflecting on Boris’ appointment

By Roberta Hope

Roberta Hope ponders what does Boris Johnson’s appointment as Prime Minister mean for mental health?

So Boris it is. But what does that mean for the nation’s mental health?

Despite Boris’ ‘pull yourself together’ attitude to mental health, as outlined in his Telegraph column last week, the subject should in fact be close to his heart.

In 1974, ten year old Boris witnessed his mother Charlotte, an artist, being admitted to Maudsley psychiatric hospital, where she spent nine months being treated for the obsessive behaviour that had begun to dominate her life.

Boris’ mother had an extreme form of OCD in which she had a phobia of contamination, often washing her hands until they bled.

She was a guinea pig for aversion therapy. A new, brutal approach which involved confronting compulsive behaviour in order to overcome it. Among the ‘lets deal with this head on’ activities were washing bans and enforced dunkings of her hands into urine.

Charlotte documented her experiences through 80 large painted canvases. Also painting her way through her 1978 divorce. In Boris’ Telegraph column, he cites his hero Winston Churchill, as having used work to ‘chase away’ the black dog of depression.

Johnson wrote: “It is work that sometimes stresses us out, and work that causes anxiety; but it is also work that can absorb us and take us out of ourselves until the clouds have gone. If work is the cause, it is also part of the cure,” concluding that employees need to be able to stay in their roles, while receiving psychological treatment.

Whilst work and a sense of purpose are undoubtedly elements of staying or getting well, along with other interventions such as exercise, nutrition and therapy – Boris’ stiff upper lip insinuation suggests mental illness is something that can be shaken off, like a flying ant. 

Let’s hope that during his tenure Boris looks close to home for empathy around mental health, leading to an effective stance on mental wellbeing from his new cabinet.

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