Show Hide image

Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. David Cameron and Ed Miliband don't matter as much as they think (Guardian)

Both leaders are hiring Barack Obama aides for the 2015 election, but Britain will be voting for a party, not a president or a personality, writes Steve Richards. 

2. An equal society will not hinder growth (Financial Times)

Inequality damages the economy and efforts to remedy it are, on the whole, not harmful, writes Martin Wolf.

3. Whisper it, but Obamacare may be working (Times)

The health policy has been a disaster so far, but it could turn into an historic achievement, writes Justin Webb.

4. Pastor Cameron has played his hand - now it’s over to Dr Miliband (Daily Telegraph)

A community-driven health service would do the Labour Party’s prospects the power of good, says Mary Riddell. 

5. Time to invest in Britain’s future (Financial Times)

Fine words on infrastructure spending are not enough, says an FT editorial.

6. Panicked Tories are risking the UK’s future (Daily Telegraph)

Alex Salmond’s separatist bunkum on Scottish independence has triggered a case of the Westminster wobbles, writes Alan Cochrane. 

7. Let's make industrial action bigger than striking teachers (Guardian)

Parents sympathise with teachers' grievances, so they need to work out a way to take complementary action, says Zoe Williams.

8. Sacking David Moyes made no sense at all (Times)

You cannot judge a manager over a mere nine months – and you shouldn’t judge an organisation by its leader anyway, says Daniel Finkelstein.

9. Calling Ukip’s posters ‘racist’ is yet another example of shameful Westminster evasion (Independent)

It’s a classic tactic by those who want to shut down this debate, says Nigel Farage.

10. Gordon Brown: union man (Guardian)

Former PM has challenged the idea that politics and society can be neatly separated, by emphasising the question of pensions in the Scotland debate, says a Guardian editorial.

Show Hide image

Anxiety is not cool, funny or fashionable

A charitable initative to encourage sufferers to knit a Christmas jumper signalling their condition is well-intentioned but way off the mark.

The other night, I had one of those teeth-falling-out dreams. I dreamt I was on a bus, and every time it stopped one of my teeth plunked effortlessly out of my skull. “Shit,” I said to myself, in the dream, “this is like one of those teeth-falling out dreams”. Because – without getting too Inception – even in its midst, I realised this style of anxiety dream is a huge cliché.

Were my subconscious a little more creative, maybe it would’ve concocted a situation where I was on a bus (sure, bus, why not?), feeling anxious (because I nearly always feel anxious) and I’m wearing a jumper with the word “ANXIOUS” scrawled across my tits, so I can no longer hyperventilate – in private — about having made a bad impression with the woman who just served me in Tesco. What if, in this jumper, those same men who tell women to “smile, love” start telling me to relax. What if I have to start explaining panic attacks, mid-panic attack? Thanks to mental health charity Anxiety UK, this more original take on the classic teeth-falling-out dream could become a reality. Last week, they introduced an awareness-raising Christmas “anxiety” jumper.

It’s difficult to slate anyone for doing something as objectively important as tackling the stigma around mental health problems. Then again, right now, I’m struggling to think of anything more anxiety-inducing than wearing any item of clothing that advertises my anxiety. Although I’m fully prepared to accept that I’m just not badass enough to wear such a thing. As someone whose personal style is “background lesbian”, the only words I want anywhere near my chest are “north” and “face”.  

It should probably be acknowledged that the anxiety jumper isn’t actually being sold ready to wear, but as a knitting pattern. The idea being that you make your own anxiety jumper, in whichever colours you find least/most stressful. I’m not going to go on about feeling “excluded” – as a non-knitter – from this campaign. At the same time, the “anxiety jumper” demographic is almost definitely twee middle class millennials who can/will knit.

Photo: Anxiety UK

Unintentionally, I’m sure, a jumper embellished with the word “anxious” touts an utterly debilitating condition as a trend. Much like, actually, the “anxiety club” jumper that was unanimously deemed awful earlier this year. Granted, the original anxiety jumper — we now live in a world with at least two anxiety jumpers — wasn’t charitable or ostensibly well intentioned. It had a rainbow on it. Which was either an astute, ironic comment on how un-rainbow-like  anxiety is or, more likely, a poorly judged non sequitur farted into existence by a bored designer. Maybe the same one who thought up the Urban Outfitters “depression” t-shirt of 2014.

From Zayn Malik to Oprah Winfrey, a growing number of celebrities are opening up about what may seem, to someone who has never struggled with anxiety, like the trendiest disorder of the decade. Anxiety, of course, isn’t trendy; it’s just incredibly common. As someone constantly reassured by the fact that, yes, millions of other people have (real life) panic meltdowns on public transport, I could hardly argue that we shouldn’t be discussing our personal experiences of anxiety. But you have to ask whether anyone would be comfortable wearing a jumper that said “schizophrenic” or “bulimic”. Anxiety, it has to be said, has a tendency – as one of the more “socially acceptable” mental illnesses — to steal the limelight.

But I hope we carry on talking anxiety. I’m not sure Movember actually gets us talking about prostates, but it puts them out there at least. If Christmas jumpers can do the same for the range of mental health issues under the “anxiety” umbrella, then move over, Rudolph.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.