We’ll hold you in some unit where
Your rights are stripped away
You’re bound to beds and locked away
A shameful place to be, and yet
We still don’t see the change we called for
Still we’re just hysterical, a mess
That just requires a shushing from our men.
So, one of the biggest news stories in the UK at the moment is the disappearance of Nicola Bulley. For those of you who are not in the UK, Nicola is a woman in her forties, a professional and a mother. Two weeks ago she just vanished after dropping her kids off at school and taking the dog for a walk.
Police have searched the river she was walking along and there is absolutely no sign of her. It has become a mystery that everyone has an opinion on. And then, yesterday things took an unusual turn.
The police decided to release to the public, the fact that Nicola had alcohol issues that had begun in response to the symptoms of menopause.
Now, to me, it feels a little bit like we are victim shaming. After two weeks of no leads and saying that this is totally out of character we are now told that this woman has mental health issues that caused trouble for her husband and kids. It seems a bit like we’re now saying that hormones are the issue, and this feels like a bit of a step backwards in the acceptance of people with mental health issues.
There are people who are furious that Nicola’s reputation has been tarnished because people now know that she has alcohol problems – and that is a fair point. But my concerns lie with the way the ‘menopause problems’ are being presented.
Are we still in a place where women are considered hysterical or suicidal when their hormones go out of whack? And why can’t women get help before it does get to this point?
There have been so many amazing leaps forward with public conversations about the menopause, but perhaps the narrative we are seeing at the moment, suggests that there is still more work to do.
2 thoughts on “what are we saying about mental health?”
I hope Nicole is found and she’s all right. I hope the family is all right, together. I thought, too, we had moved beyond the diagnosis of hysteria (in effect) and the use of that as justification for treating women differently, derogatorily. Your poem speaks powerfully to this unjust dilemma.
I truly hope she’s found alive and well, Rachel. And it is really sad that there’s this urge to put it all down to something wrong with her – almost blaming her. It reflects a lack of understanding of mental health issues, and a lingering way of putting a stigma on anyone who even hints at a mental health issue. We don’t seem to want to understand it as we do physical health. What if Nicola had, instead of mental health issues, a broken leg. Would her treatment in the media be different. I think so.