Wednesday 29 May 2013

Rise of the Headclutchers

It was recently brought to my attention by Twitter user @sectioned_ that there is an alarming new breed of mental health sufferer called the Headclutcher. So prevalent are these people that the media have started to use them to illustrate nearly every story they run about mental health. As a way of documenting emerging cases I have started to upload them to this blog. Please get in touch (in the comments section) with any new examples and I will add them here. The disorder seems almost exclusively to effect women, so any cases recorded in men will be especially helpful. 

Is this lady distressed because of an undisclosed mental health problem or because she has been chosen to illustrate such a laughably dichotomous and poorly put together debate piece about mental health diagnosis?

This photo almost certainly does not actually depict the suicidal lady in this report who was told to have a cup of tea when she phoned an NHS helpline, unless perhaps she is holding the phone extremely close in order to hear the operator.

Like something out of The Ring, the pyjama'd child, who was used to illustrate this story on Mental Elf, is perhaps lamenting the fact that she is so small she can fit in the palm of an enormous hand.

The Mail reported that women experience 40% more mental health problems than men, and used this picture showing two women playing hide and seek to try and cheer themselves up.

The Guardian reported on the same study and used this photo of a 1960s Californian folk musician trying to compose a song about the issue.

This lady is trying to hide her identity so that we don't associate her with this sloppy comment piece in The Mail arguing for the societal exclusion of mental health patients, under the false premise of "breaking the taboo".

The BBC was lucky to find this lady who was willing to pose for a photo and was just as dismayed about the publication of DSM-5 as Peter Kinderman in his piece on their website.

This lady's headclutching began, if The Guardian is to be believed, when the DSM-5 was published. The disorder has not yet advanced to clutching with the second hand, so there is still hope for her.

Twitter user @suzyg001 alerted me to the fact that, what with this example from The Guardian and the lady at the top of my post: "Deep ribbing on the sleeves of one's jumper appears to be associated with this condition"

This example from a therapy website would seem to offer confirmation of the link.

Yet more evidence of the ribbed-jumper-headclutching link, courtesy of @chasingdata, who found this article on The Daily Mail. Of course this looks like headclutching, but given this lady's attire it may well be a dance or yoga position. She may also be dismayed that The Mail has only now cottoned on to the over-30 year old change from "Manic Depression" to "Bipolar Disorder".

Rare Male Headclutchers:

Thanks to @Sectioned_ we have documentary evidence of a male headclutcher! However, this poor chap only seems to have been used by the BBC because he illustrates the fact that men were more likely than women to kill themselves in 2011:

Stories about students are often an excuse for a picture of a female undergraduate, so hats off to The Guardian for using this guy to illustrate a story about mental health in universities. He is sad because his headclutching renders him unable to pick up any of the books surrounding him:

Is this gentleman clutching his head because his cup of tea has gone cold, or because he's perversely dismayed that a law has been passed to tackle mental health discrimination?

And Finally:

There is new hope for the treatment of Headclutchers, documented in this photo used by The Guardian, which appears to show a sufferer with her hands successfully restrained just behind her head. Presumably they were tied there by the blurry young man now gazing so intently at her:


  1. I face-palmed. Does that count?

  2. Hilarious post: I was side-clutching when I read it.

    No doubt there will be more manifestations in the media of the headclutcher phenomenon to boost your blog's collection. In the meantime, here's an example of headclutcher man:

    There are also more on twitter using the #headclutcher hashtag.

    Happy headclutching!

  3. What's funny is that you think you're joking when you refer to "rare male headclutchers".

    What's not funny - what's tragic - is the sheer number of male headclutchers who don't seek help because the media don't acknowledge their existence. So well done for perpetuating a damaging myth. Nice job, "satirist".

    And FYI:

    And, @Sectioned_ - what do you mean, "Happy headclutching"? This isn't a joke. All those men are DEAD.

  4. Here she is in a ribbed jumper again. But, this being the Daily Mail, she's decided against wearing trousers.

  5. Could Blake's Los be the first ever headclutcher that set the precedent?

    1. Ah, very possibly! There I was thinking that it was Munch's "The Scream", but Blake predates Munch by over 100 years.

  6. Great post. Headclutching is a serious and growing condition, and we need people like you to champion the cause and raise awareness. We also need organisations like the Centre for Social Justice, who work tirelessly to lobby the government on this issue. For example, they've chosen man-with-bag-sitting-on-steps to represent the "mental health" section of their website:

    He may or may not be a professional who has taken to headclutching on his lunch break.

  7. I was recently clutching my hay'ed in the Breslin Hotel
    at 1 AM in an attempt to hear an I-Pad Jon Stewart segment
    due to the fact that the music was head banging loud.
    A security fella gave me a shoulder tap, "are you alright"?
    I proceeded to tap him on his shoulder to reassure him.

    I had also just came from a hospital by way of being
    asked to leave a bar. I was tipsy but in no way disorderly.
    I wasn't talking or disruptive. I refused. A knee to the back
    of my leg & I was down with 3 morons holding down a
    thin 67 year old. They called an ambulance, I was hand-
    cuffed with ID taken for my address & probably a bill.
    I wasn't yelling about "freedoms & liberties" or any of
    that nonsense b/c I know that stuff never existed now
    or in the past. So yes I got caught holding my head
    and, off course, the security inquiry was just coincidence...
    Did someone say social justice? Ha! Life ain't fare.-(
    And I'm waiting for the bill that says so.