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Miliband is right to say making fun of mental illness is no joke

By Gail Walker

Published 31/10/2012

Ed Miliband may be a piece of work, but he deserves to be congratulated for his comments on mental illness.

We like to think that we live in a kinder, gentler society than 20 or 30 years ago, but, paradoxically, we also live in an age of cruelty where careers can be made or extended by saying hurtful things under the guise of "humour", "banter" or "straight-talking".

One in four of us will suffer from depression. Or, put it another way, many will now experience a paralysing degree of mental/emotional anguish in our lifetime. Nearly every single one of us will know someone who is, sadly, going through a low-key hell. So, as Miliband points out, do we really need people like Jeremy Clarkson and Janet Street Porter being less than considerate in their descriptions of those in the throes of depression?

Clarkson thinks they are "Johnny Suicides" while Street Porter describes the condition as "the latest must-have accessory" - implying that much of it is self-indulgence.

Celebs like Stephen Fry and Ruby Wax may get plenty of opportunities to discuss their illness (and more power to them), but many ordinary, wonderful people can only suffer in silence.

And that's not really a subject for cheap laughs.

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