Man versus Institution – the Narrative of Despair

Photograph: ©John Stadnicki 2018

In recent months, I have been visiting my local surgery on a weekly basis and it has become a matter of routine to book visits and then wait my turn to be seen and checked. A matter of luck to have so many appointments, but not so lucky to have to report the effects all this prescribed medication have on me and then to find out that everything has been recorded, that the doctor has noticed if I washed my hair or not, or if I wear black, too much of it, or if I smiled or not. But then who cares anyway. I am the number written in all my medical history and my number defines my apprehension to allergies and infections.

It is the flu season, therefore busy. This morning a woman takes her nail file from her handbag and finishes her manicure just before she is called in. A man in his thirties, in a dark grey suit, with muddy brogues, on the phone with someone called Helen organises his daily appointments. The person sitting next to me finishes a BLT and wipes his hands on my chair then keeps on texting.  The waiting room, packed. At 11 o’clock, twenty-two people in waiting, talking, texting, arguing, having coffee. Busier here than the bus station just across the road. And these people, most of them, look lonely. And for this, we now have a new solution and a new scope.

The cabinet announced this week a new appointment. A minister for loneliness in response to a documented increase in mental health cases, to a reported sense of disconnection and social isolation. According to figures published by The Guardian, we are talking here about nine million people, which is a significant slice of loneliness in the British society. Furthermore, NHS Digital shows that prescriptions for antidepressants reached an all-time high with over 64 million items dispensed in 2016. And this represents a massive 108.5% increase in a period of ten years.

This is a clear indication that we now institutionalise loneliness spending billions on pharmaceutical companies when very few alternative solutions are available to the local communities. We witness a serious lack of professional support for people suffering from mental health issues, although it is statistically recognised that one person in five is affected, at some point in their life, by mental health issues. Yes, about the time to do something about it. But what the government is choosing to do is to add to the amount of bureaucratic garbage the ministerial departments produce on a weekly basis, without concrete results or impact at the deeper levels of our society. Let’s talk further numbers.

A cabinet minister cashes in over £141,000 a year, without bonuses, travel and communication expenses, without the support staff and other technological aids. You could double or triple the sum and easily get over the half a million threshold. A mental health nurse’s annual income, at the beginning of their career, barely touches £22,000. My local surgery, or others across the UK, could easily benefit from employing further ten newly qualified nurses or a few therapists. I live in a small community where resources are stretched and stretched further and where, at times, waiting for hours to be seen by a practitioner has become an acceptable rule.

Who benefits from a new ministerial portfolio when it is historically demonstrated that no institution has ever protected the individual, when, actually, the institution is there to protect itself through complicity to a policy of silence against corruption, error and monetary gains?

I want a Ministry of Despair!

©Maria Stadnicka, 2018

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Who We Are

Nobody belongs, de facto, to just one place, one culture. Our existence is defined by the involuntary interactions with the world in a continuous change, but we like to believe that we do belong. To a place, a space which can be defined and referred to. And when one belongs ‘somewhere’, everything seems easier to quantify, categorise. And, then, it becomes familiar. The common familiarity which emerges through similitude in language, taste, points of view, landscape brings people closer and it helps to build that sense of togetherness.

Most tragedies have been born out of rejection, out of a deep sense of ‘non-belonging’ and people felt mostly bereaved when they realised their uprooting. The recent developments in Europe, with Brexit, in North America, with Trump’s Wall, and across the world in Myanmar, Sudan, Congo, Somalia, Ukraine, Syria, Peru show that we are ‘on the move’ at a global scale. Politics and economics drive the migration at unprecedented levels and can cement a deep sense of social instability.

Millions of people move from one place to another and remain trapped in the complex process of social migration. In 2017, nearly a quarter of a million people came to Britain. And each person brought in a new narrative with elements of uniqueness and subjectivity. We could say that, in 2017, hundreds of thousands of stories came to Britain too. Untold life experiences, unheard voices; hundreds of years of education, culture, music and skills.

And this is the main focus of ‘Who We Are’ a project initiated by the artist Jen Whiskerd from University of Gloucestershire (UoG) supported by many art students, University of Winchester, illustrators, bookmakers, printers, writers, researchers, photographers. Using eight stories about migration (told by Adelaide Morris, Shelley Campbell, Fumio Obata, Anita Roy, Dolores Phelps, Maria Stadnicka, Ro Saul, John Stadnicki), the UoG art students (undergraduate and postgraduate courses) have produced a brilliant book which will be launched this weekend at Museum in the Park, Stroud, Gloucestershire.

Photograph: ©Emma Evans, 2018

The book, printed by Emma Evans UoG, Pittville Press, is a collection of poetry, photography, drawings, journal notes, animation.

The event is free and will take place at the Walled Garden Room, Museum in the Park, Stroud, Gloucestershire /

Saturday 20th Jan. 2018, at 2pm.

Come along to share your story and enjoy the launch or just to listen and to be inspired!

It has been my privilege to be part of this.

Maria Stadnicka, 2018

Britannia Libre

Photograph: ©John Stadnicki 2018

 

Teach me how to read Rublev’s majestic blue,

everything written on my skin

over so many years,

 

the omnipresence of all the irrelevant victories

you had and

you washed with blood-red water,

 

look back at the world with

the same tenderness I

look at an infant,

 

give way to a requiem for the pilgrim

fallen indoors like a moth negotiating

its destiny

with each letter.

 

Unknown thy name.

 

For the first time, I

walk. Blind, absent.

I become tomorrow.

 

©Maria Stadnicka 2018

 

 

Gloria Mundi

II – MMXVIII

I – MMXVIII

 

 

 

 

 

 

III – MMXVIII

IV – MMXVIII

V – MMXVIII

 

 

 

 

 

 

VI – MMXVIII

VII – MMXVII

IX – MMXVIII

 

 

 

 

 

 

X – MMXVIII

 

XI – MMXVIII

XII – MMXVIII

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photography: ©John Stadnicki 2018