Opinion: How dare Mark Latham call anxiety and depression trendy

Originally posted at http://mobile.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/opinion-how-dare-mark-latham-call-anxiety-and-depression-trendy/story-fniym874-1227256837571

March 11, 2015

Em Rusciano is not happy about Mark Latham’s latest column.

Em rusciano not Happy Latham

AT THE risk of starting an epic inter-columnist war to be fought across space and time, continued across the ages and settled via an intergalactic senate; what the actual f**k was Mark Latham on about in his most recent offering for the Australian Financial Review?

His column entitled “Give us back our anxiety” tells the story of how he went to see the Academy Award winning film Birdman with his wife. The movie was not to Mark’s liking — in fact he hated it. He hated it so much that as an alternative to watching the critically acclaimed film he chose to watch his wife sleep next to him (presumably Mrs Latham wasn’t a Michael Keaton fan either). He writes in disturbing detail: “Head back, mouth open, her nose gently reverberating to the sound of deep slumber. She looked so angelic the great love of my life.”

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on where you feel that sits on the creepy as s**t continuum. Hint: pretty high.


Mark felt the film was a trendy, lefty, Hollywood look at mental illness and it caused him to speculate how it (mental illness) has become so popular that we’re all needlessly medicating ourselves. He reminisces about an era where people just got on with things. There was no time for self indulgent pursuits like mental illness.

“Anxiety used to be seen as a regular part of life — worrying about our children’s welfare, worrying about driving in the wet, worrying when your footy team is behind at half time — but now it has become a frontline heath condition; the medicalisation of normality.”

Shazam! Hey 1 in 3 Australians with crippling anxiety. You’re probably just having blackouts and heart palpitations because the full forward in your favourite sporting team has a rubbish conversion rate. Just pick someone else to follow OK? Goals equal smiles. Problem solved.

So, according to the wisdom of Latham, if you suffer from anxiety or depression, great news- you’re in vogue! You’re so hot right now, congrats on being fashion forward you trendy head cases you. Someone needs to alert Anna Wintour yesterday: Hipsters are so 2014. Debilitating depression is now.

Mark also went into serious conspiracy theory territory as to why there are so many Australians being diagnosed with mental illness. As you well know conspiracy theories are steeped in rational thought and unbiased, researched facts. Mark’s hypothesis did not disappoint: he believes that mental illness has been manufactured by the evil left.

“Tactically, this makes perfect sense for the Left; having lost the economic debate and seen capitalism succeed, it needs to develop a new social critique — a new basis for government intervention,” he theorises.

What is this new social critique Mark reckons they want to make money off?

Yep, you guessed it — mental health. Because effective health services are a profit making machine of course.

With no scientific/medical background, knowledge or even any sort of sincere effort to understand the terms “anxiety” and “mental illness” he’s crafted his own reasons as to why neither exist. Because, you know, he’s never had them and the big bad left want people to think they have them.

At this juncture, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should alert you all to a couple of things:

1. I have suffered from anxiety and depression for most of my adult life.

2. I am a proud Beyond Blue ambassador.

3. Mark’s article was a red rag to a bull, and I’m the bull in this scenario, obviously.

Red Rag to Bull

I have re-read Latham’s column several times, trying to find at least one point of agreement, and all I can say is that it was well punctuated. That, and at a stretch, I liked the use of the ‘Zzzzz’s’ when describing Julie Bishop listening to Tony Abbott speak (that was a nice throw back Mark). But in all other respects ….

SWEET MOTHER OF CHRIST why are you weighing in on metal illness with zero empathy and zero expertise?

He also, inexplicably, went on to have a crack at author and model Tara Moss while complaining about the cinematography of Birdman:

“I was stuck with the camera angles showing the back of actors’ heads as they walked down darkened corridors. And when they finally turned around. there were more close up shots than Tara Moss’ Facebook page.”

Nice one Latham, in the week where Moss courageously spoke out about her rape in an effort to combat violence against women, you chose to use this expression?

As I stated earlier, I have suffered from anxiety and depression for most of my adult life, I am also a Beyond Blue ambassador. And I’m assuming anyone with a sliver of intelligence can see the argument is more than about my reaction.

This weekend past I spent time with women on the remote NT island of Groote encouraging them to speak up about feeling depressed or anxious. I have travelled to Karratha, Yeppoon and various other parts of the country encouraging people to come forward and get help. Many others who represent Beyond Blue also tell their stories, over and over again, in the hope that people can feel OK about not being OK.

Then someone like Mark Latham comes along and with one small minded, ignorant column and threatens to undo all that work.

Initially I didn’t want to draw any more attention to his column, I wanted to limit the amount of clicks it got and then I remembered how hard it was for me to admit I had depression, how long it took me to say it out loud and seek help. So I was compelled to provide an antidote to his words. I wanted to reach that one person who was on the verge of saying something, who may have seen his column (which is now everywhere thanks to its content) and because of it taken a step back.

To them I say, come out and get some help.

To Mark Latham I say:

Stand down mate, stand down and get a f**king clue.

Seriously, inform yourself and hope that mental illness never darkens your door because at the rate it is occurring in this country, the chances are it will.

If you would like more information or support for anxiety or depression call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Em Rusciano is a comedian, writer, singer and regular News.com.au columnist. She is currently touring her new stand-up show “The Motherload”. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

4 thoughts on “Opinion: How dare Mark Latham call anxiety and depression trendy

  1. Victoria Sawyer

    Ummm WTF!!!…this enrages me too! What he’s describing is the kind of anxiety that everyone on earth feels and yes, most people are able to get past it. What he’s completely ignoring is when anxiety cripples your life. It’s NOT A WEAKNESS!! If he were to experience our anxiety levels he would CRUMPLE into a little pile of weeping adult male. Our anxiety is NOT the same as worrying about your kids, or worrying about you job. This is IRRATIONAL life altering, I can’t stop it anxiety that is so physically and mentally exhausting and terrifying that death often seems like the best answer. To hear someone try to minimize it, in this day and age is outrageous. Hmm…let’s just assume that all mental illnesses are faked and easily overcome. UM NO!!! Mental illness is often LIFE LONG! It’s not a one time worry that you can just “get over.” This is one of those times when I wish I had a “Feeling hellish fairy” so that I could get her to gift him with just a day in the life of someone with hellish anxiety. I’m sure he’d be able to “get” right over it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. stigmafightersdu Post author

      I couldn’t agree more Victoria (Helen speaking). Mark Latham is a bit of a dinosaur but this was so incredibly offensive to me that I almost felt that there was no way I couldn’t post the opinion piece replying. From someone who has recently been having incapacitating panic attacks (no other word but incapacitating can describe them), and working with Sara who so closely identified with your piece it was so incredibly offensive. Thank you so much for commenting and expressing it so eloquently.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. stigmafightersdu

    Hi Victoria,

    Helen didn’t write this, it was written by Em Rusciano. She is a prominent figure in the Australian Media 🙂 It is an amazing reply to thoughtless comments by one of our politicians, a man who is suppose to be a legislator and role model. It highlights what a huge challenge we are coming up against as we try to remove the stigma around Mental Illness in Australia. Thank you so much for your comment, as a fellow anxiety sufferer I was equally outraged.
    We may have to remove this piece due to copyright, I am in the process of looking into that. But you can see the original article by following the link at the top of the page 🙂




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