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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  September 20, 2017 12:30am-1:01am BST

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killing at least 100 people. many more are feared trapped inside collapsed buildings, some of which have caught fire. the magnitude—7.1 quake struck in the early afternoon, after city authorities carried out an earthquake drill. president trump has said the international order is under threat from a small group of rogue nations. addressing the un general assembly, mr trump said he would totally destroy north korea if it threatened america. and this is trending on the us hurricane centre is warning of a potentially catastrophic impact of hurricane maria, as it heads towards the british virgin islands and puerto rico. the category—5 storm has intensified, with winds now reaching 260 km/h. stay with bbc world news. now on bbc news, it is time for hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk.
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mental illness is the invisible scourge of modern life. it comes with a stigma. to admit to depression or any other illness of the mind has been to risk being labelled as weak, self—indulgent or mad. my guest today wants to change that. ruby wax made her name as a comedian and entertainer. a long experience with depression took her into neuroscience and psychotherapy. mental illness raises difficult questions. where did she find the answers? ruby wax, welcome to hardtalk. thank you.
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you have made one heck of a career shift from tv star to student of the brain and neuroscience. does amusing and entertaining people no longer matter to you? i am still entertaining them. but now i am talking about the brain. i think people now crave information. what could be more interesting than the three pound size of a macdonalds, can i say that, that is on the top of your head? there is nothing more fascinating. now i take it on tour. it is ted talk squared. i explained the journey, but i have to say it because nobody else is. so your mission, if i can put it that way, is to try and explain to people how the brain works
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and how that can be linked to issues of mental illness in an entertaining way. i had a show that was about mental illness that i toured for the last seven years. that was a little bit about mental illness. this new one is really about everybody‘s brain. shall i tell you how that started? go on. the other show started because comic relief said, could they take a photo of me? they were giving some money to the charity for mental illness. i thought it was going to be small, but it ended up a gigantic poster of me everywhere that said, this woman has a mental illness, please help her. i was mortified. so we are going back to this money raising campaign. you literally became the poster woman for mental illness. you were mentally ill, let's get that out on the table right now. you have suffered from, at times, sometimes very severe depression. the thing about depression is that you do not have it all the time. this is why people think,
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it comes and goes, perk up. it is an episodic illness. luckily i was not working when i had it. that would be impossible. people say to me, does it have to do with working on show business? read my lips, one in four. that is somebody in a mud hut, that is around the world. it is not about sadness, it is about deadness. it is no movement, it is no feeling. it is like being filled with cement. so, to move an arm would be impossible. it is a disease of the brain. you have talked about the dead shark eyes that you see in people who have depression. do you really think you can look at people, me or anybody else you meet, and know pretty much for sure whether they are suffering from depression? 0h, completely. that's why, when i am together with my people,
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because we can see it, we do not have to endlessly say, i am fine, with somebody asking you how you are. that is how you feel about people who share this affliction? you do not have to explain endlessly about why it is difficult to get up. they know. teachers should have photographs of eyes that look depressed. so when they spot it in a child, they know that it is not sadness, it is not puberty. this is an illness. and to get them help quickly. you have a number of ideas about how the public can better deal with mental illness and depression particularly. but before we get into that, i would like to take you back. it seems that what you have done with writing about it extensively in memoirs and a book that is specifically about the workings of the brain, what you have done is examine yourself very closely. i wonder when you look at your own life from the beginning until now, do you feel you understand yourself pretty
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completely? well, this is what neuroscience is — there is no self. you know, all the therapy you want. we are not like a plane crash where there is a black box and that is you. there are many selves. everything is constantly changing. that is something i would like the public to know. you certainly learn it at university. it is what i studied at oxford. this little mass is constantly changing and we are not slaves to our genes. the fact that i went to oxford and did not graduate nursery school is more proof of nueroplasticity that i can ever put. when you get curious it is about curiosity, rather than saying, this is what i am. we love to label ourselves. i am a victim, i am a loser, we are not. everything is possible. you grow in a forest of information. the idea of the brain as play—dough,
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that can be shaped and moulded is a powerful one. you stress the ability to change. you say we are not slaves to our genes. but are we slaves to our upbringing, to our environment and particularly to the way in those early years our parents raise us? i ask that because of your own upbringing. i happen to have the a list of madness. you can't top my parents. this is the oscars. why? hysterical, my mother spoke like this, civilised people do not bring sand in the building. this was the voice. she wanted me to take a shower outside the house. she and your father escaped just before the nazis took over austria. they came to the midwest of the united states. you were a midwestern girl, but you were living with parents who never mentioned what went on. that was the thing. they could not understand why
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they were playing mental volleyball with me. so, if they had explained it a little bit. you can say people are traumatised from the war. but they got out early. i have met people from the holocaust. they say, listen. if you are sane before you go and you're not traumatised, that will reflect on your personality. after the war. but to have both parents, we used to call them the scud missiles. they would shoot over from america. i tried most of my life to get into europe. my parents tried to get out. but maybe because of the fearfulness they felt throughout their lives because of what they knew of what they had escaped and the loss of their community and their homeland, did that mean you never felt their approval or their affection or their love? it could be that they were jealous. i was a child of the ‘60s. imagine, you're totally persecuted,
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then the party starts. and my mother was very beautiful. she lost her heyday. she was running. i can imagine that they were quite envious. and i do, i mean, iforgive them. i now know that they were mentally ill. there was no label. they'd say, your mother is having a change of life, and i'd say, for 87 years? that is so important in a sense. you say that you now accept and know that your parents were mentally ill. did they make you mentally ill? if you do not have the gene, if it's not expressed, you can have parents hanging from the trees, you will not get it. but if you do have it lurking, i am making it simple, and then there is an abusive parental upbringing, i would say, bingo, chances are big. something will happen. trauma is something else. depression certainly happens when it is a combination of upbringing and nurture—nature.
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so you were a child in the us who for many years was pretty insecure, quite shy, didn't have a whole lot of friends. and yet, something clicked with you. you found a way of reaching out to people and becoming popular. and it seemed to revolve around making people laugh. and comedy. that is a safety net. with my background, i would have ended up a comedian or a serial killer. there wasn't a chance. but because i found a way of expressing myself i could relieve the poison and also entertain people. if you whine, whine, whine, "i'm this," people turn away. if you are funny, everything is acceptable. that is why i can do a show about mental illness. i did it for people in institutions, and they accepted it. because i was honest about mine and they knew i was one of them. i want to get onto reaching out to people who have mental illness
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in a moment, but i am fascinated by this career you got into and made a huge success of. you did comedy, you were in sitcoms, you became a major tv star. giving interviews, funnily enough, that were amusing and entertaining. you create a persona. your first one does not have a chance. especially if the parents say, you're a sad sack. these voices were at some times, either you go under or you put the throttle into first gear. you proved them wrong. my act was of revenge. it is great, but you can also crash into a wall. none of us know our tipping point. would you have been a success if you were a happier person? many comedians are from perfectly normal backgrounds.
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it is about the rhythm. it is about hearing jazz, rather than a steady beat. you don't have to be unhappy to be a good comedian. no, it has to do with rhythm. no, you don't have to be unhappy. you were unhappy. at 16, i knew that i was not going to be prom queen. but i knew that comedy was my route in. i could get all the attractive boys to stare at this area. i did not have to have this going on. that was my seduction. it worked when i came to england. i was a pathetic actress, but i was funny. you were funny when you are not feeling low. when you are low, you are over and out and in a full coma. you were a driven person, i mean you call yourself a rottweiler. when you are a coma, you are forever. you wrote things that suggested you are not a nice person at the height of your success. you said that if you see somebody
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with more than i have, i get a kick in the stomach. envy, a career insecurity, a massive desire to be better and get more than the other guy. was that driving you? we live in this kind of society. magazines have all these images. we live with a disease called entitlement. now everybody thinks they have a shot. that is why you get people on tv with the talent of a toothpick. girls with the long fingernails. everybody wants a shot at it. i do not think it was different for me. everybody goes for show business for some reason, because they, well... your narcissism is fed and you don't have a lot of money. i did not have more than anybody else. what pushed you over the edge? over the edge as far
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as mental illness? no, in as far as deciding for yourself that while i have this career, it is actually doing me great damage, i have got to stop trying to entertain people and trying make them laugh and be the joker. i need to reassess and what you decided to do was go to university and take the study of the brain very seriously. that is a heck of a decision. i want to see what made you change. i wanted to leave the party before the party left me. there is nothing more tragic than somebody in show business who is so addicted that they cling on for dear life and say, please make a documentary about my gallbladder. i am begging you. you did for a while. i do not want to go through difficult stuff with you, but you did for a while. that was my farewell to show business. you know, you have to go that low before you can get off the heroin of being in television.
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seriously, when they put you in a cage, with sharks... with sharks in a cage with richard e grant? it was humiliating. some people don't mind eating bugs, or showing their insides inside of a house. that is when i knew this was going to have to change career. this is important — why on earth did ruby wax say yes to celebrity shark bait? because i was so addicted to being famous. it becomes an addiction, you don't even have to do anything for a living. people say one line — you want a cup of tea? you want a lie down? you are infa ntilised. you haven't got the muscle to even do a job. you say it was the lowest of the low. no, that's not why i left. at a certain age, you betterjump to the next invention of yourself. unfortunately, we live so long, you know, itjust goes on and on and on.
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you know, ishould have been dead by now. you have to do something else to keep the brain going. you consciously thought you were going to change and reinvent yourself. and i'm going to get smart. when i was young, because of the trauma, i couldn't remember things. so i didn't really read, i was terrible in school, because when you live with that kind of stress, the first thing to go is the memory. by the way, kids should — teachers should know that. when they push their kids for exams, the first thing that goes down is the memory. so this was the chance. i now knew i was liberated, i could go back and fill that void, and suddenly become academic. you did, and reading your book, sane new world, which interestingly is quite a lot of science, and you go into some detail about the way the brain works, the circuitry, the key chemicals. but it's funny. well, it's funny, but it is very personal, and it informs
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about the way the brain works. going back to the plasticity and the flexibility of the brain, you seem to be saying that we all have the capacity to rewire ourselves, to change the way our brain works. i think a lot of people will be puzzled about how we could do that. well, it's very difficult unless you put it in, kind of, simple, kind of, stick figures. well, be as simple as you like, because that works for me. there's something called epigenetics, that states you come into the world and you're not hardwired, you don't necessarily have to go out the way you came in. that your experience, and how you think about life, actually changes, first of all, the neuron connections, which actually are who we are. you know, if i do something over and over again, my neurons connect. and so, if i don't constantly change that, i'm at the mercy of every time this happens, i react that way.
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some women say all men are bustards. i'm always a victim. well, yes, sweetheart, you went on a serial killer website, what did you expect? we have to see how stuck we are. so you change behaviours by..? becoming aware, watching how you think, not making a judgement and leaving a gap before you do your usual trigger or your usual reaction. you start to watch it a little bit, and so it gives you a chance to unwire those heavy habits. i think i'm getting this. so you're saying, by being very conscious of the way you respond to challenges, the way you apply your thinking... without giving yourself a hard time. can change the physiology of your brain.
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what's interesting about that, and people around the world will be interested in this, you seem to be saying your approach is much more behavioural, and changing the way you see things and think about things, than it is about drugs. i am on drugs, yeah. did you yourself never use drugs? of course — i'm on antidepressants. you are? of course, it's like saying to a diabetic, "are you kidding, you're on insulin? !" it is a disease of the brain. if it was alzheimer's, you wouldn't say, "come on, you can remember what happened yesterday." so you can't even do cognitive therapy and mindlessness if you're in a depressed state. when people say exercise, that's ridiculous. you're in a box, you can't move. when i'm better i will find something preventative. the drugs and the therapies work together? drugs don't work for everybody, therapy doesn't work for everybody. i'm putting all my eggs in — not all in one basket. something is going to work.
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here's a personal question. you describe the degree to which your parents‘, and particularly your mother's behaviour, did a lot to shape your early mental development. you've got kids of your own. how have you used what you now know about the brain and the mind to try to shape your kids in the best way? i can feel the urge and urges that maybe were passed from my mother or father, which are quite aggressive, which is — i feel myself even wanting to strike them. and the words they used to say, "how dare you, you know what i've given you". i can feel it, but because i understand it's not really me, it's a habit. it worked in the past because of my aggression, making me knock down doors. but when i feel that urge, i don't act on it. thoughts aren't facts. i realise it's a trait. but if i pull myself back and actually be kind to myself and realise that it is just a tape recording. you can't whip yourself, because then you're stressed about stress. do you think you're a good mother?
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i made sure my kids never saw me, when they were young, when i was seriously depressed, i didn't want them frightened. so my husband would say mummy is on holiday, or she's making a documentary. i was lucky. when they were 16, they were allowed to come to the institution. they didn't have a fear of it. there are people who listen to you, and your sort of missionary efforts to get people to understand depression. and the brain. and the brain, all of our brains. yeah, because all of us are suffering now. i understand that. it is notjust people acknowledged as mentally ill, it is about all of us, who in one way or another have issues. negative voices, the frenzy of not finding any breaks. i get that. but your belief that depression is such a pervasive thing. one infour.
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one in four, you said, that has actually frustrated and annoyed some people. i mean, there's the well—known british journalist janet street porter. i know janet. i don't know if you have discussed this with her, but not so long ago she wrote a powerful piece, not directed at you personally, but basically she said she is sick of the misery movement. how many of these high—profile sufferers of mental illness are middle—class, highly successful, most important of all, she says, comfortably off?. there's something slightly repellent about this epidemic of middle—class breastbeating, she said. by saying that, do you know the highest suicide is for young men under 30? by putting even more shame on top of this, and she's from yorkshire, tell her to knock on somebody‘s door, it will be their mother or their cousin,
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are they breastbeating or complaining? they're not even coming out of their house, because someone put shame like that on it. highest suicide rate ever, kids that are cutting themselves. i want to bring this back to you personally. you have spent so many years thinking about the brain and the way that our minds work, and about how to try to repair minds that aren't functioning well. what about yourself? after all this talk of living in the moment, the mindfulness that you try and keep, are you really at peace with yourself now? no, i'm not — there is no bliss. there is no phone call from oprah. this doesn't exist, that's a fantasy. you can't get to a point where you say, i've left my mental illness behind? your mind will never be empty, when it is, you're dead. there's all these fallacies about being in the present, you're not always meant
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to be in the present. if you were, you would be a head of lettuce. with all this incoming bad news and needing to be twerking as well as miley cyrus, being beautiful, where there's an onslaught, we can find our own breaks. we don't stay in that break, but we have to know where's our tipping point. i can't be bill gates, ok? i'm not going to kill myself for it. we have to say, this is where i'm going to rest. when you rest, you've got more energy to go back in again. a kid shouldn't be up all night studying, he should pull back for 20 minutes, sit there, eat something, but taste it. listen to music, but listen to it. i know that's cliche. i hope we eventually go to survival of the wisest rather than survival of the fittest. that's a nice thought to end on. ruby wax, thank you very much for being on hardtalk. thank you. thank you very much. hello there. we are starting wednesday
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on a fine note for many, bright with some sunshine, largely dry. across the north—west corner, another weather system moving in bringing thickening cloud, outbreaks of rain and strengthening winds. by the end of the night, it could be quite wet in places, same for western scotland. towns, temperatures by the start of wednesday, temperatures in double figures but cooler in the countryside with mist and fog. this is the way the system responsible for bringing that that weather front. this is something we will see for the rest of the week, lifting mild airfrom the south, picking up south—west winds. starting off on a fine and bright note this morning, good spells of sunshine. cloud increasing across western
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areas, showers developing ahead of this rain. that will get going this afternoon across northern ireland and in too much of scotland, getting into western wales and the south—west of england. ahead of this, waking up to brightness. 19,20, maybe 21. warmer than it has been over the past week. wednesday into thursday, that rain continues to spread east. some heavy bursts through the night, especially in south—west england and wales, north—west england and scotland. by thursday afternoon, across central and eastern areas, the far south—east seeing some warm sunshine, 20—21 degrees, cooler and fresher further west. low pressure moving off into the north sea as we head into friday. a brief ridge of high pressure before the next weather system comes in off the atlantic. starting friday on a brighter note with some sunshine, especially in central, southern and eastern parts. in the west, downhill with wind and rain pushing on. across northern ireland,
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then into scotland, england and wales, fairly heavy bursts. fairly warm across east and south—east areas, 19—20 degrees, fresher further west. looking at the caribbean, hurricane maria ploughed through dominica and martinique on monday night into tuesday, causing devastation. the storm is continuing to maintain its strength, ploughing across the british and us virgin islands and puerto rico, it could cause on devastation on wednesday morning as a major category five, and thereafter pushing to the north of espanola. i'm babita sharma in london. the headlines: a powerful earthquake strikes central mexico, toppling buildings and leaving more than 100 dead. many people are feared to be trapped in the ruins.
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i don't know the extent of the damage. what i do know is that dozens of people are desperately removing rubble here because they believe that someone here is trapped. some people have been found alive, but, as the frantic search for survivors gather pace, officials warn the death toll may rise. i'm rico hizon in singapore. also in the programme: president trump warns the un that rogue nations threaten world security. he attacks iran as a murderous regime and denounces north korea's nuclear ambitions.
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