Hi. You’re being sexist.

Over the last few days, since Jo Swinson announced that she will not be standing for leader of the Liberal Democrats (since Tim Farron resigned and that’s a whole other blog post in itself) the sexism from party members has really started to surface.

And unfortunately, from what I’m seeing, the majority to be coming from those who call themselves feminists.

There has been disappointment directed at Jo Swinson for not running because we need a female leader. Almost as if her gender matters more to these critics than her skills, intellect, abilities and characteristics. This is sexism.

There have been calls for her to reconsider her position or suggestions that people will write-in her name on the ballot paper. Almost as if these critics don’t accept the decision she has made herself and think they can make a better decision for her than she can. This is sexism.

The anger at her for not wanting to lead the party after having just been re-elected after the SNP unseating her in 2015 doesn’t make sense either. She’s got to readjust to this way of life and is suddenly being hounded with tweets and facebook messages and emails telling her she *must* stand. Because we say so. Because the Liberal Democrats have never had a female leader and she just so happens to have the right gender identity and parliamentary experience, regardless of the fact she doesn’t want to do it. Attempting to force a woman to do something against her wishes is sexist, please stop it. 

Layla Moran wasn’t even on people’s radars for leader until Jo Swinson ruled herself out. That speaks volumes to me. We have people with such internalised misogyny that we think we can force women to do things because it’s what we want them to do.

Jo Swinson, Layla Moran, Christine Jardine and Wera Hobhouse are all intelligent, talented, skilled MPs who will work wonders for their constituencies. They are not your token female leadership candidate.

By all means, support these ladies if you feel they’d be great leaders and I think they all could be. But supporting them means accepting their decisions. Accepting they know best. Accepting that their decision is the correct one. Accepting that women are people in their own rights and have no obligation on them to do something just because of their gender.

Do you really want to be responsible for forcing a woman into a role you know she doesn’t want?

The Politics of Mental Health Care

It’s been a while, folks. I hope you’re all well. Since we last spoke a lot has happened. I’m currently a parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats in the upcoming Scottish elections. As part of this I attended a hustings last night. This involved myself and representatives from other parties being on a panel and having members of the audience ask us questions about our manifestos and what we would do if elected to the Scottish parliament. In discussion with folk afterwards I had one individual come to me and tell me they were particularly sick of “politicians like you[me]” politicising mental health and using it as a way to point score and make empty promises to gain support from the electorate.

I’ll be honest with you, it floored me. What this individual couldn’t know was that from that event I was heading straight to a friend’s house to spend the night because she was having a really bad day with her depression and asked if I’d come to her because she needed someone who just “got it”. I had two emails waiting for responses from people asking how I’d maneuvered the current mental health system because they were struggling and I had an ongoing facebook conversation with someone requiring support causing my phone to silently go off in my bag the entire evening.

They couldn’t know I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety after leaving school at the age of 18, after having gone to the doctor repeatedly since I was about 15. Having missed more days of school than I should have for feigning other illnesses because the reality of ‘I don’t actually want to exist right now’ wasn’t enough to warrant a permitted absence from the school.

I developed a self harm addiction after my diagnosis because the current system left me to my own devices and I couldn’t find a safe coping mechanism.

I was diagnosed in September of 2011. I was put on a waiting list for psychiatry shortly after that. I was seen for the first time by a psychiatrist in February of 2013.

I was told by the psychiatrist I needed to see the psychologist as well as regular meetings with him. He also told me the psychologist had no space so I was seeing the community psychiatric nurse. The CPN who told me I ‘failed’ every day I didn’t get changed out of pyjamas. Who gave me weird homework as part of cognitive behaviour therapy and screamed “THIS WILL WORK FOR YOU. YOU AREN’T TRYING HARD ENOUGH” when I told her I didn’t find it helpful. The CPN  who then asked if she could discuss my ‘lack of co-operation’ with my mother because she knew my her. I eventually saw the psychologist when I told my psychiatrist that I would not see the CPN again after how I’d been treated.

I have lost count of the times I seriously contemplated suicide. I was taken to hospital because of self harm. I phoned 999 because I knew I’d attempt to kill myself if I didn’t get help in that moment. I got taken to A&E where I was told I was a drain on the NHS.

I’m passionate about this and it’ll be a very long time before I’m quiet on the issue. I don’t want my future children to grow up in a world where any mental health issue is considered anything less than on par with physical conditions. If I had tonsillitis I could go to the doctor tomorrow and if the situation warranted it get medication to help. I wouldn’t need to wait until my tonsils were necrotic and posing a threat to my life. Yet I waited a year and a half to be seen by a professional for a condition that gave me compelling urges to kill myself. If I can help even one person have a less horrible time then I’ll have done something important. Is this a political issue? Yes. Is that the only reason I talk about it at length and will continue to do so? Absolutely not.

The thing is we can’t wait. Mental health funding in Scotland falling every year since 2009 and the Scottish Government’s mental health strategy expiring at the end of last year it’ll be months before a new plan is in place.

The other day my dad said to me “The thing is most people aren’t as vocal as you are on mental health” and I was reminded of Willie Rennie’s speech to Conference in February. He said “We cannot wait any longer for change. For thousands of people who are crying out for help and for the many who cannot be heard anymore because we were simply too late.”

 

(Also because I’d be a bad candidate if I didn’t mention it, if you’re interested in exactly what the Scottish Liberal Democrats are proposing please check out http://www.scotlibdems.org.uk/manifesto. If you’d like to email me to discuss anything you can do so at r.l.plenderleith@gmail.com)

Women in Politics

(Before we get started I’d like to point out that I’ve not censored myself in terms of my language in this post like I normally would.)

I don’t think I’ve ever been more angry than I am just now on such a topic.

We talk constantly about “How do we get more women interested in politics?” And we get thrown answers like “All women shortlists!”

How about we get more women interested in politics by not boiling them down to their sexuality and their body and their attractiveness? How about we see things like this and shut it the fuck down.

Frankie has done a wonderful job in defending herself and I don’t see the need to continue further. If there’s one thing Frankie Leach does not need is help in speaking her mind. She’s wonderfully eloquent in that respect. But I can’t not say something.

The idea that Frankie got anywhere by performing sexual acts on older gentlemen – like one commenter put a lot more graphically than that – is entirely the reason we do not have more women interested in politics.

Frankie got somewhere because she’s an attractive young lady, heaven forbid she has a brain. Whilst we’re at it… why HASN’T Nicola Sturgeon had children? I wonder how much Liz Kendall weighs. Psst… did you hear that Ruth Davidson is a lesbian?

You want more women in politics? You want a more representative parliament instead of it being heavily male dominated? Then don’t stand idly by when things like this happen. Don’t sit and think “Huh they have a point…” when you hear any of these things or the much worse levelled against women in politics in any capacity. Or if you do then start to ask the same damn questions about our male counterparts. Let’s question Jeremy Corbyn’s weight or why Alex Salmond has no children. I wonder who Tim Farron had to blow to get the job… or does that sound utterly ridiculous? Because it should do. It’s the exact same when you ask these questions of women.

You exist because of women, it’s damn well time you started respecting them.

Dear Ken Livingstone

Let me tell you a story.  It’s a story of someone deeply disturbed. He’s the former mayor of London and he believes it’s perfectly okay to lash out at health concerns of people who disagree with him…. oh wait… that’s you.

I was 18 when I was diagnosed with depression. The following couple of years are ones I hope to never have the equal of. I got addicted to self harm. I spent hours staring vacantly at the television from the moment my parents left for work til they came home, at least I did the days I could even get out of bed. The only thing I would watch would be America’s Next Top Model. I’ve no idea why but I think I must have watched almost every episode there is of it. Not that I’d remember since depression has robbed me of parts of my memory.

I’d go walking at 3am once everyone was asleep, in the rain, just so I could feel something. And I got ill then so be it. I didn’t care. I didn’t care about looking before I crossed the road. I didn’t care when I got horrendous oil burns up my arm from cooking. I didn’t care when I was sat in the back of an ambulance with a paramedic attending to my wrist because I’d snapped one day when I was in the house by myself.

I still have depression. It sits on my shoulder and it sucks away at the accomplishment I feel for still being alive. It’s been 3 years since I last hurt myself intentionally. Though as much as I hate to say it, there are flickers of time when I hear such moronic comments like yours, Ken, that I wonder why the hell did I bother to get clean in the first place.

The days of me sitting on my stairs in the dark, crying, bleeding and telling my mother I wanted to be dead may be over. But the impact of depression on my life is what I deal with every single day and will continue to deal with for the rest of my life. But I have a job, I’m in university and I have healthy relationships and friendships. So how dare you suggest that simply because someone has disagreed with you that their illness is behind that?

The old saying of “sticks and stones may hurt my bones but words will never hurt me” is a load of bull. Your words carry weight, regardless of who you are.

Sincerely,

Obviously disturbed and should probably see her GP (even though we have regular progress update meetings)

Mental Health – Scotland’s Massive Failure

‘CAMHS referral targets state that no child should wait more than 18 weeks to be seen. Only 78.9% of children are seen within that time frame. When you look at the statistics for 26 weeks only 7% more are seen by then. That means that 14% of children are not seen by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services after half a year. Here’s the response I received on behalf of our First Minister:

“Some successes to date can be seen in the improvement to Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS), where Scottish Government introduced a waiting times target that stated that from March 2013, no one will wait longer than 26 weeks from referral to treatment for specialist CAMHS – and no longer than 18 weeks from December 2014….We appreciate that there is still much room for improvement and we are working with NHS Boards to support their working in this area.”‘

This is an extract from my blog post after I got a response from someone on behalf of our first minister. Continue reading it here.

It’s World Mental Health day so once again I highlight the huge issues Scotland is facing. Not just in its services for children but across the board. Out of a cross section of 100,000, 14% of adults admit to having a mental health problem. That’s those who have been diagnosed. 10% admit to being alcohol dependent and 18% admit to having attempted suicide.

That’s almost 1 in 5 adults in Scotland having attempted suicide if these statistics are accurate. Once again I call for the Scottish Government to seriously look at mental health care in this country and for Nicola Sturgeon to think before she says things like “If you don’t think we’re doing enough in regards to mental health I have to convince you we are.”

Convince me then. As it certainly doesn’t look like we’re doing enough to me.

Weak Foundations

“I don’t think I can fight this anymore. I’m listening with one foot out the door.”

I’m on the train, as I usually am since I work 2 hours from where I live. I originally wanted to write this for the libdemvoice but since I’ve only got access to my WordPress app this will need to do. The quote at the start of this post is from a song I’ve been listening to on this commute. It inspired me to write and whilst normally I’d not leave it in, it’s more than appropriate to how I’m feeling.

I joined the Lib Dems about a week or two before the General Election. I knew we were going to suffer badly but that didn’t change the fact that they seemed to be the party that made the most sense to me. I wear my pin on my jacket every day. There was a period of time I was really proud of being a liberal democrat.

Apparently we now stand for fighting and internal arguments over those who support one statement made by our new leader and those who oppose it. It’s almost like we’ve forgotten our numbers in parliament have been decimated or that we’ve got another election in Scotland (and possibly Wales? I can’t remember) next year that we need to start fighting for and should have already been fighting for.

Instead we’re fighting with one another and being vile and spiteful to someone who dares have a different opinion to us. Liberalism will die if we keep holding our hands over its airway. And that’s what we do when we fight with one another and suggest that others would be better suited in different parties.  Those who have joined the Lib Dems have done so because they feel it’s right for them. It’s actually not your place to tell them they don’t belong.

We need to shape up or ship out. A party is more than its leader and as members of course it’s our job to hold them accountable to the things they say. But the hatred and vitriolic attacks on one another do nothing but weaken an already damaged foundation.

Let’s end mental ill-health stigma by … ignoring the mentally ill!

This blog post is going to be the angriest you’ll have read from me in a while. If you follow this blog you’ll remember when I wrote “An Open Letter To Nicola Sturgeon”. I also send that directly to her. Well, not quite. Today I got a response from someone who had been asked to respond on her behalf.

For those of you who haven’t read it and don’t intend to, I’ll sum up quickly. CAMHS referral targets state that no child should wait more than 18 weeks to be seen. Only 78.9% of children are seen within that time frame. When you look at the statistics for 26 weeks only 7% more are seen by then. That means that 14% of children are not seen by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services after half a year. Here’s the response I received on behalf of our First Minister:

Some successes to date can be seen in the improvement to Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS), where Scottish Government introduced a waiting times target that stated that from March 2013, no one will wait longer than 26 weeks from referral to treatment for specialist CAMHS – and no longer than 18 weeks from December 2014….We appreciate that there is still much room for improvement and we are working with NHS Boards to support their working in this area.”

How is that in any way a response? I know all of this, that’s why I included it in my original letter. But don’t worry, they’re “working on it”.

I also mentioned that in the last 5 years – under an SNP majority government – the number of children being hospitalised because of self harm had doubled and that in Scotland alone Childline were reporting a 34% increase in calls from suicidal or depressed children in just one year. None of that was picked up on in the response. I did get this lovely closing statement though:

NHS Health Scotland, the See Me programme and other agencies have been working over recent years to raise awareness of mental health issues and to tackle the stigma which can be associated with mental ill-health. They are currently working together to develop and implement an engagement strategy to influence public perception about suicide and the stigma which can be associated with these issues. The aim here is to continue to raise awareness of mental health and of prevention of suicide and self-harm, and to help people to feel more confident about coming forward for help when they need it.”

If we’re tackling the stigma of mental ill-health then why did I not get a response from Ms Sturgeon herself since I said that her comments specifically were worrying as she had said “I have to convince you we are doing enough” when it comes to mental health provisions in this country. Why does this read like a straight up copy and paste from the government spin book when mental health is concerned? 

I wanted to know what was going to be done to solve the issues I brought up. I was told the work they’re doing – which is failing – is a success. How do we expect our kids to grow and prosper if we can’t give them the help they need now and we call our inadequacies in that respect ‘success’?