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Editor’s Viewpoint: Cool heads required

What do Brexit, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Trump Derangement Syndrome have to do with the health insurance and protection industry?

So as the Prime Minister makes her way to Brussels today to continue Brexit negotiations, no doubt we’ll all be in the grip of a “mental health epidemic” as a result. Well that’s what the surveys claim at least.

Apparently Brexit can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (which is a real-but-not-in-this-case condition). In the US (and here), meanwhile, Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS – not a real condition) continues to take hold among the irrational.

So, Brexit. A study from the London School of Economics suggests that 47% of voters aged 18-24 – most students’ demographic – cried or felt like crying in the wake of the Leave result.

Another survey – this time of 2,000 people by Kinetik Wellbeing – found that 96% of millennials are “highly stressed” about a host of factors of everyday life, with “Brexit uncertainty” accounting for a third of that cohort.

Meanwhile, another survey commissioned by the Young Women’s Trust of over 3,000 18-30 year-olds in England and Wales found that a third of participants felt their mental health had “deteriorated” in the year after the Brexit result, with two out of every five respondents naming Brexit as a cause of “anxiety”.

And then of course there’s a survey – yes, another one – of 1,300 UK citizens by the British Psychological Society which found people feel “devastated, angry, depressed, betrayed and ashamed” nearly two years after the EU Referendum.

That resulted in the Existential Academy – a “community interest company” – creating the “Emotional Support Service for Europeans”, providing prospective clients with “up to 10 free sessions with a qualified therapist/psychologist via phone and online”. Apparently these aren’t jokes – I checked.

But what does it all have to do with health insurance and protection? Well, it all sounds a lot like an employee assistance programme (EAP) for a start.

The problem, though, is that all of this is nonsense – because here’s what happens.

Internal and external comms professionals decide to capitalise on irrational fears and phobia by launching “awareness days” (or weeks or months), fanning the flames of “problems” that don’t really exist.

The fun starts in January with “Blue Monday”. Then it’s “Time to Talk Day” and “Children’s Mental Health Week” in February. Oh, and “National Sickie Day” too, if anyone can be bothered to turn up.

March sees “University Mental Health Day”, while in April it’s “Stress Awareness Month” (“World Homeopathy Day” too!).

The fun continues with “Mental Health Awareness Week” and “World Maternal Mental Health Awareness Day” jostling for position in May, when it’s also “National Bed Month” (“National Sleep Day” happens in March and “National Stop Snoring Day” happens in April; “World Sleep Day” is also planned for March 2020, so don’t forget to set your alarm for that).

In June it’s “International Fathers’ Mental Health Day” and “National Growing for Wellbeing Week” (yes, plants). June also sees “Aromatherapy Awareness Week” (erm, didn’t that happen in April? Sorry, that was a homeopathy day, not an aromatheraphy day) and “Talk to Us 2Day Day” from the Samaritans. And “PTSD Awareness Week”, because everyone’s got it now.

People obviously don’t go mad in the summer (although in July there’s “National Simplicity Day”, whatever that means, and “24/7 Samaritans Day”, which probably makes more sense, in the same month), before the real fun starts again with “World Suicide Prevention Day” in September, which also sees “International Week of Happiness at Work” (“National Work Life Week” is in the following month, obvs – can’t have them in the same one).

Madness gets even madder in October when it’s “World Mental Health Day”, while November is very busy for the madness industry, with “International Stress Awareness Week”, “National Stress Awareness Day”, “International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day” and “Anti-Bullying Week”.

Nothing seems to happen in December, though, and so it’s time for a breather when, erm, nobody has mental health problems, especially not at Christmas. No, definitely not then. Bit like in the summer when everyone goes on holiday, I guess.

Of course, one should not belittle issues around mental health – and of course one should not belittle the genuine efforts of people trying to help individuals with genuine mental health problems.

But the madness industry does seem to be spiralling out of control – and perhaps it’s worth listening to the thoughts of Professor Dinesh Bhugra.

Professor Bhugra, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, believes that diagnoses of “PTSD” are being dished out at an alarming and clinically unjustified way.

He’s definitely on to something; if you’ve got a moment, do a quick online search for celebrities that have “got” PTSD. Raised eyebrows all round.

Like everything now, it starts with celebrities – and soon workplaces will be awash with copycat mental health “problems” – and the snake oil salesmen are going to make hay.

Churchill’s black dog depression? A soldier in shell shock after seeing a child’s head blown off? Severe sexual or physical trauma? Yes, I get it. But “PTSD” because of Brexit or “TDS” because of President Trump? Get on your bike.

The health insurance and protection sector must not let itself get dragged into this virtue-signalling quagmire – for everyone’s sake.