Thankfully, World Mental Health Day, like Christmas, only comes once annually because for authentic, dedicated, year-round depressives it’s particularly galling to have every person who’s ever sent a sad face emoji trying to climb aboard your private compartment in the jam-packed bullet train to perdition. It’s a dilettante’s gimmick and the day after the event, when the bunting has been taken down and the television cameras packed up and stowed away, these charlatans will revert to shallow, mindless serenity while the doggedly despondent stay the course.
Having his space suddenly invaded by all those emotional counterfeiters was clearly too much for one poor soul on the Tube platform a few stations along from mine yesterday because rather than boarding the train they threw themselves under it onto the Bakerloo line which presumably did for him. Despite being exhorted by media sources everywhere to take a moment and think about others afflicted with the terrible blight of mental illness, I did not sense a huge amount of compassion for their fellow man and passenger from other commuters when the guard announced our train would be terminating and everyone was turfed out at the next stop.
I looked around the overcrowded station concourse and the serried ranks of city workers hunched over their phones, with the occasional anxious glance up at the electronic screens displaying no information or a lean forward and hopeful look left along the tracks on which no service was trundling towards them to bring relief.
Expressions on faces were uniformly grim but how many among them, I wondered, genuinely felt like joining the sad soul on the live rail half a mile along? It would be difficult now, I appreciated, the power having been deactivated and no trains moving in any case. How many fulfilled the civic duty imposed upon them by the government agency yesterday, cast a thought in his direction and speculated on what sadness, what misfortune, what societal failings had driven him to this point?
Tolstoy took eight-hundred relentless pages to make Anna Karenina’s compulsion to leap under a Russian locomotive seem inevitable. From the evidence of the two punters crushed up against me, one playing solitaire on her phone, the other looking at something deviant, not many wasted a second’s thought. TS Eliot:
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
By the time I made it to the sodding office, there were already several emails from Salvation Bank’s touchy-feely Human Resources team detailing events taking place to celebrate the occasion. These ranged from lectures to workshops and even drinks after work on the rooftop terrace where presumably people would discuss their various personality disorders with perfect strangers over peanuts and warm, New World chardonnay.
We live to know that we are not alone and perhaps one can derive succour meeting Debbie in accounts who spends all day at work keeping lachrymose urges in abeyance or having a natter with back-office Dave who shares your chronic hypersexuality. Chances are though, you will leave having exposed your innermost feelings to people you will ultimately conclude are neither sincere nor genuinely depressed but of the ersatz, fair-weather variety, Fake Blues, who put on and take off their existential angst like a coat. You might have revealed your core and all your defects with the unflinching candour of Rembrandt’s late self portraits but everyone else sports a mask. Most likely you end World Mental Health Day even more convinced than ever that only you are truly mad.
In the course of three days this week, I lost my credit card, my mobile phone and a tooth (well, I think two were stolen and one was swallowed) and that combination would make even the Dalai Lama lose his marbles. My credit card was stopped on Saturday morning with First Direct citing a suspicious Indian transaction which I assumed was a takeaway curry from the night before. "I go there a lot, nothing suspicious about that, unblock the card," I demanded. A lengthy exchange eventually revealed the "suspicious Indian" was actually a longstanding monthly donation to a Rajasthani charity not a dodgy balti. The card was unblocked. My daughter promptly lost it en route to the bakery and we definitely had to stop it then.
The phone was lost/stolen in suspicious circumstances when taking Pablo the husky puppy for a soulful, riparian walk on Monday. I traipsed back to where I think I dropped the phone when chasing that mutt to get him back on the lead and found a shifty-looking Liverpudlian standing on the very spot and taking great umbrage to my enquiry and then outright accusation of theft. "Just because you hear my accent and I'm from Liverpool you think I've robbed it." I replied it was precisely because I was from Liverpool I thought he had robbed it.
The irony of all this, of course, is that while so much attention and so many resources are lavished to ill health of the mind, the leader of the free world, the globe’s most instantly recognisable orang-u-tang whose angry orange face is ceaselessly beamed across all media, is demonstrably insane. This is a proven megalomaniac with chronic narcissistic personality disorder, a man who lies like most people breathe about things which are visually verifiable falsehoods, ADHD sufferer with a messiah complex, a satyromaniac if accounts are to be believed, someone who allows a small woodland creature to sleep on his head and, lest we forget, “a very stable genius”.
I don’t think it makes sense for society to set so much store by emotional candour, ratiocination and solving mental or emotional difficulties through therapy and transparency when the most important person in the world is an Oompa Loompa with tiny hands forever curled into angry, tiny fists which he shakes at everyone. It’s hard to expect everyone to behave normally and adopt the mores of political leaders when the guy at the top, calling the shots, contains trace elements of all the great dictators and nuts.
The bloke who went one under yesterday morning, the president of the United States and your humble correspondent here… we’re all on the spectrum somewhere between refreshingly normal and certifiable whackjob. Four centuries on, we still haven’t made up our minds on Hamlet. In the City I’ve always lived by the dictum: “To thine own self be true/ Thou canst not then be false to any man.”