VERSA | Oxford Women Self Care is at best ridiculous, at worst dangerous

In a world of terrorism and tribulation, thank goodness the brightest young women in Britain are holding down the fort with the Facebook group and virtual world Oxford Women Self Care, where pusheens are the currency and everyone purports to be suffering from some form of PTSD.

According to its description, this is a group where people ‘help each other out’ with general tips about mental health and coping with the difficulties of finding a yoga teacher in the Oxfordshire region. In reality, it is a dangerous group where people are encouraged to form an identity based around suffering, and seek solace in the comfort of strangers and cartoons of cats.

I am the last person to advocate a British stoicism that favours the idea of people pulling themselves together and carrying on through difficulties of mental health. In fact I believe that the way mental health is dealt with in this country is one of the most unforgivably ignored disasters of our time. People suffering from eating disorders are forced to give into their negative thoughts and lose weight in order to have continued access to eating disorder support clinics. Sufferers of depression are forced to try and control the external factors influencing their life, despite the fact that this will have no effect on their inner turmoil. Waiting lists for NHS therapists are ridiculously long, and the stigma of even talking about mental health is as pervasive as it has always been. But the majority of people who post on this group are not mentally ill, they are drama queens.

Before I am too disparaging, I must note that there are some people that seem to genuinely need help and have legitimate concerns. But even justified problems make me feel unsafe. It is wrong for the mentally ill to find help online with people who seem to be resigned to their unhappiness with no desire to improve. If a therapist is hard to come by, there are still networks of support available. Peer supporters, the chaplaincy, a friend or national groups such as The Samaritans are equipped to deal with the most serious of issues that crop up on this online forum. These untrained students are not a good source of help and cannot sufficiently direct people to sustained resolutions for their problems.

Posts about abuse, rape or mental illness are often overlooked and swamped in a sea of people seeking advice for their period pains or itchy head. I wonder if they are then getting the attention that they deserve. I also wonder what becomes of a society where a rape case is discussed on equal footing with how to treat hiccups. It creates a race to the bottom with everyone seeming to try and prove how upset and damaged they are. In a society in which serious problems are already overlooked, it is wrong to let them be crowded out by these misguided women. They appropriate the language of the mentally ill and in doing so almost glamourise it.

Somehow I don’t think Nurofen will go out of business any time soon…

The group encourages the ridiculous notion that the world is out to get to them. Yes, getting an essay back with comments that assault our carefully nurtured egos is rough. But to need virtual love in response? It is swapping the source of validation that they failed to find in their tutors, for the validation of strangers on the internet who are quick to profess that the tutors are stupid and jealous and that the student in question’s essay was probably amazing.

Firstly, people need to take responsibility for their feelings and problems and try to deal with them accordingly. More importantly, people should be encouraged to have an innate sense of self-worth independent of external variables. Hence, the circle jerk of love and care that seeks to try and stop the members of the group from feeling ‘unsafe’ is contributing to this perpetual insecurity that plagues them.

I refuse to believe that 1,400 students who have completed their A- Levels, and got through the rigour of an Oxford interview suddenly reach adulthood and take on the fragility of a pane of glass, lacking the ability to cope with life.

I wonder what will happen to these delicate little flowers as they progress through life, without the promise of these ghastly ‘pusheens’ at every corner. I do not dare to let my mind turn to what happens in a -TW: – power cut, when these sensitive souls are forced to reach comfort not transmitted over a social network.

But above all, I worry about the culture that is created by this group and others like it. Sometimes there are problems that cannot be easily solved with a Facebook sticker.