Saturday, November 11, 2006

A world gone mad?

THE WORLD is in a pretty sad state if one of the lead stories on the lunchtime news is that a four year old in England is suffering from depression.
I clicked on the link to the story with the trepidation only a mother can feel at reading sad and moving stories about children. I wondered what her story would be.
Was the poor wee thing getting bullied? Was she ill? Was she the product of a broken home?
No. Mollie Murphy from Sunderland didn't get into the primary school she wanted.
So that begged the inevitable questions- was this because of some sort of prejudice or bigotry? Is that why the poor wee lamb is contemplating Prozac at such an young age?
My maternal heart strings were twanging like never before until I found out, that Mollie didn't get into the primary school she wanted because her mother didn't submit the form in time. Instead of encouraging her daughter to settle into her new primary school, make friends and get on with her young life, Mollie's mother has taken it upon herself to go to the national media and tell them how her daughter is suffering because she is going to a different school than her wee nursery pals.
She has even taken poor Mollie, talked her into pulling a very sad and depressed looking face with a petted lip that would put even my own wee man to shame, and allowed umpteen photographers to take her picture.
This has encouraged people throughout the country to feel sorry for the wee love while at the same time feel utterly horrified that any child could suffer from such a 'grown up' condition as depression.In my opinion what this mother has done is disgusting beyond words.
I've no doubt the girl was a little sad that she didn't get to the same school as her nursery school chums. My own niece was a little sad that she wasn't placed in the same P1 class as her best friend Aoibheann.But was she depressed?
To use a popular Derry expression- Was she feck?
With encouragement from her family my niece managed to get all excited about the new friends she would make in her new class and, at the same time, we helped her stay in touch with her old best friend from nursery.Her mammy didn't phone down to the 'Journal' and demand we run a story about it, because she, like most sane and rational people, realises that sometimes life doesn't go exactly to plan and you have to make the most of what you have.
To brand a child 'depressed' over this most basic of things sets that child up for a victim mentality the rest of her life.
Depression is a very real, very horrible and all encompassing illness that can paralyse a person mentally and emotionally. It's a far cry from a wain who has a head on her because she didn't get into the class she wanted for primary one.
Shout loud enoughThis episode simply serves to teach the world that if you shout loud enough, and use scary words like 'depression' you will get what you want. In other words- huffing gets results. What a fabulous life lesson to teach your child.
As regular readers of this column will know I have a two-year-old son. Being of that certain age he has, in recent weeks, developed the ability to be a stroppy wee monkey and thinks nothing of throwing a full scale tantrum if he doesn't get what he wants.
Much as I don't like to see any child unhappy (especially not my own, after all it will be me who has to listen to the whinging and crying) children have to learn the lesson that the world does not owe them a living and they just have to get on with that.Trust me, it's perhaps easier to give into a huffing child. It would certainly be easier to buy yet another Thomas the Tank Engine toy than put up with embarrassment of an off the scale tantrum as I drag him, legs flailing, out of Smyths.But if I buy that toy, I won't have taught him anything and I think Mollie Murphy most certainly won't be learning anything from this sorry episode either.
What happens when she starts secondary school, or university, or work? Will there be the same outcry of depression if she doesn't get what she wants then?Being a bona-fide card carrying member of the press, I don't often slag the profession off- but I am amazed this story made the headlines in the first place.
There are hundreds if not thousands of children out there who have real problems, who live with abuse, violence, neglect and illness.
They don't get their voices heard in the same way this family have and I'm genuinely baffled as to the reasoning behind the whole thing.If Mollie Murphy were my own child, I would sit her down and give a firm but kind talking too. I would walk down to school with her, sit in on a class if necessary and perhaps invite some of her new classmates round for tea.In short, I would get over myself and help my child move on.
But as I am not Mollie Murphy's mother, I'll just sit with my head in my hands and wonder what on earth the world is coming too.

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