Letters: Stigma around depression affects all of society

These letters appear in the 28 March issue of The Independent

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The apparently deliberate crash of the German jet sends shivers up and down the spine. It is truly something extraordinary, something beyond the imaginable.

This calamity seems to highlight the heavy burden of depression. We human beings are bound to experience colossal events in our lifetime that could lead us to depression.

Depression is widespread in the world. Scandinavia, for example, has one of the highest rates of depression and psychiatric disorders in the world, despite being wealthy.

Regrettably, depression remains a taboo for most people. Mental health patients are often stigmatised, negatively stereotyped and ostracised. These societal ills lead them to hide their illnesses, and subsequently deny them fair access to treatment facilities, and deprive society of the full potential of these individuals.

We need to break out of the shell, break down the taboo of depression and rid our societies of the stigma surrounding mental health issues; all are prerequisites for healthier, fairer and more productive societies.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

London NW2


Was the Germanwings crash really a suicide or an example of “Shipman syndrome” – someone using his power to kill as many people as possible, and in this case making the ultimate sacrifice in the process?

Robert Davies

London SE3


Why is it assumed that the accusation against Andreas Lubitz is a proven fact? Is the sound of his breathing behind the locked door sufficient evidence to show that he was in good physical health?

Surely, in justice to him and his family, it should be admitted that it is a hypothesis that he deliberately downed his plane?

Of course, the bereaved relatives need an answer as to what happened. But sadly, in this case, as in others, an absolute answer may never be forthcoming.

Jean Gallafent

London NW1


The aviation security expert cited by Simon Calder (report, 27 March) is incorrect to say that post-9/11 aircraft security measures enabled the Germanwings disaster.

The crash appears to have been enabled by poor management.  Properly run airlines, such as Ryanair, have, for years, had procedures in place whereby before the cockpit door is opened the seatbelt sign is lit and passengers have to sit down with their seatbelts on (to make it more difficult for a passenger to “rush” the cockpit). Then a member of cabin crew has to go into the cockpit before a pilot can leave, remaining there while a pilot is using the toilet etc.

Only when the pilot returns to the cockpit can the cabin crew member leave and the seatbelt sign be switched off.

With Ryanair, there is never an occasion when there is only one person on the flight deck, so a similar tragedy to that which has occurred in the French Alps could not have happened on a Ryanair flight.

I am not a Ryanair employee or affiliate – just a frequent flyer around Europe.

John Stratton



Richard guilty until proven innocent

The hyped-up send-off for Richard III (“Now he’s Richard the reinterred – to star-studded acclaim”, 27 March) apparently “accord[ed] this king, this child of God, the dignity and honour denied to him in death”.

So the alleged murder of the princes in the Tower should be let go now?

There really are no other candidates quite as plausible as Richard if his nephews were murdered – and that won’t be forgotten. As soon as he had them under his control, he stole their birthright. Fanatic fans won’t hear a bad word said against him, but Uncle Ricky had no true right to be king himself with those boys alive... and then they conveniently disappeared.

The fact that Richard III locked up two people who were never seen again reverses the burden of proof. If he had ever been placed in a court of law, he would certainly have had to answer that question.

Eric Carpenter



Richard III has been laid to rest with Philip Moore’s beautiful setting of Psalm 150, Carol Ann Duffy’s poem read by Benedict Cumberpatch, a tactful message from the Queen, and a eulogy by the Orator of Leicester University outlining in detail Richard’s awards and career moves up to becoming “an anointed king” with no explanation as to how it came about. It was a deliberately uncontroversial CV, applying gilded whitewash to a controversial man.

The bloody events of 1483 remain historical facts, not fiction cooked up by the Tudors and Shakespeare. Certainly their ruthlessness is surprising in a man, who, as medieval kings go, was unusually benevolent, but maybe that was because he was a pious man with a guilty conscience attempting to save his soul by good deeds.

In his favour, it can be said that he may well have prevented a further outbreak of civil war by eliminating Edward V and his brother and their powerful but unpopular Wydeville relatives, but was his usurpation for England’s peace or to save his own skin?

The fate of the princes in the Tower was so universally believed that their mother supported Henry Tudor, the complete outsider who won the Battle of Bosworth because the nobility declined to back saintly Richard.

Peter Forster

London N4


Mary Dejevsky (27 March), commenting on the reburial of Richard III, points out that he was the last of the Plantagenets. It is more relevant to point out that he was the last English monarch England ever had, having been succeeded by a gang of thieving Welshmen, a complete Mafia-ful of grasping Scots, interspersed with a Dutchman, and a dysfunctional family of illegal German immigrants?

Peter Croft



Cameron shows he is a coward

One thing that was clear from the so-called television debate was that David Cameron is a coward. Despite being in the same studio at the same time as Ed Miliband, he didn’t have the courage to defend his policies head to head.

Mind you, once it was clear that Jeremy Paxman would not accept Cameron dodging the question, as he so often does at PMQs, you could see why his party would not want him going head to head with a “weak” opposition leader.

John Mitchell

Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire

Blame Thatcher for blood scandal

David Cameron’s pledge of £25m to help Scottish sufferers from the effects of contaminated blood has raised an unresolved issue.

I wish all haemophiliacs and others suffering from serious infections following treatment within the NHS from infusions of contaminated blood, success in at last getting adequate compensation.

Perhaps they should consider suing Mrs Thatcher’s estate. In the early 1980s she closed down a major British lab engaged in making Factor 8 and other blood products, and imported replacement supplies from the US.

At the time, Aids sufferers were few in Britain, but in the US it was different. It was known that many drug addicts in the US sold their blood, and that Aids and hepatitis were being spread via infected needles. The consequences were predictable.

Mrs Thatcher’s pivotal role in this disaster has never been given the publicity it deserves, nor has there been anything in the way of an acknowledgement of her culpability by her or by the Tory Party which masterminded this early example of NHS provision being awarded to a US company.

Eddie Dougall

Walsham-le-Willows, Suffolk


Hain’s ‘antics’ helped end apartheid

Francis Beswick (letter, 27 March) dismisses as “antics” Peter Hain’s protests at rugby grounds in 1970. Mr Beswick fails, however, to specify that those protests were a way of showing opposition to a regime that treated the majority of its people as second-class human beings. However small a role the sporting boycotts of South Africa may have played in helping to bring apartheid to an end, they did at least have some effect.

Ashok Bery

London N4


Did 1 april come  early this year?

I try to keep up with the signs of the times back in Blighty, but this week’s headlines have left me even more baffled than usual.

Snarling debate rages on the fate of a broadcaster who likes fast cars and thumping a colleague; hundreds line the streets for the burial, 500 years late, of a bag of bones that may have been Richard III; the nation grieves as a singer leaves One Direction (is that some fancy new political party?); and a televised electoral stand-off appears to ponder which future leader is better at eating bacon sarnies.

What can it all mean? And how will I tell which are the real April fool stories next week?

Rod Chapman

Sarlat, France