COMMENT: The opposite of talking about mental health is not 'mental strength' - and Piers Morgan knows it
Piers Morgan loves to cause a stink.
His intention is not to encourage debate but rather to cause furore. He enjoys sitting there with his pursed lips and insouciant smirk whilst a storm of controversy swirls around him. Nothing is off limits for a man who lives to agitate and is clearly indifferent about the resulting hurt and upset his words will cause.
Whether it's defending Donald Trump or fat-shaming or his obsession with how much flesh particular women have on show, Morgan is never happier than when his purposely controversial remarks are jumped upon by the masses. He can then incredulously complain of virtue-signalling and snowflake hysteria.
The obvious response is to ignore him and deny him of the attention he craves. That's an eminently sensible course of inaction and rids him of much of his power, but it is hard sometimes when you know that his platform and huge following will cause many to be swayed, and others to question their own personal truths.
On World Mental Health Day, Morgan decided to rattle the hornet's nest by blithely commenting: 'I think it’s time to change the language on ‘mental health’. Let’s start using the phrase ‘mental strength’, and teach our kids the power of resilience.' The reference to 'kids' is pertinent as the theme of WMHO 2018 is young people.
I think it’s time to change the language on ‘mental health’.
Let’s start using the phrase ‘mental strength’, and teach our kids the power of resilience. 👊
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) October 10, 2018
From this tweet, and subsequent follow-ups, the implication is clear: those openly struggling with mental health issues are exhibiting signs of weakness. It's a really unhelpful and damaging contention to put out there as various charities and health groups work hard to save lives and encourage people to address their private torments.
The irresponsible nature of Morgan's words are compounded by the fact that he cannot possibly be stupid enough to believe them. It shows a cruel disregard. Being contrary for the sake of it may be his schtick, but on this occasion such faux let's-have-it-right posturing is highly damaging - and saddest thing is he knows it.
The truth of course is that 'mental health' and 'mental strength' are not antonyms. There is no weakness in opening up, and no inherent strength in keeping quiet. It is a well worn comparison, but failing to share or address a mental illness is as detrimental and dangerously counter-productive as ignoring a physical injury.
You know this, I know this, and Morgan knows this.
He knows that opening up about something you may feel acutely embarrassed or even ashamed about takes huge reserves of strength. He knows that the old idiom that there is strength in numbers is true, and contradicts his paper-thin premise. And he knows that addressing a 'weakness' is the definition of being 'strong'.
He will also be aware that a significant percentage of his following is male, and that men in the UK remain three times as likely to take their own lives than women. He may also be aware that the highest suicide rate is for men aged 45-49, which is bang in his demographic. And yet he is happy to cause them damage.
In terms of focusing his attention of 'kids' in particular, and the need to teach them the 'power of resilience', he must surely know how incredibly resilient young people are, but also how vitally they require our support and love and some sort of pressure valve when things become too difficult for them to deal with on their own.
Piers Morgan is many things, but he's not an idiot. And that just makes his inflammatory comments so much worse. He will whine and moan and stand his ground; he will question what's wrong with teaching our kids to be strong - whilst deliberately misunderstanding the nature of mental strength and resilience.
If you need help, speak out. If you think someone needs help, ask them. And whatever you do, don't be a cunt for the sake of it. Especially when lives are at stake.