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Editor’s comment: April 2017

PUBLISHED: 10:03 21 March 2017 | UPDATED: 12:56 21 March 2017

"Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough."

Archant

Following our interview with Barry Hancox, editor Mike Lowe discusses the importance of supporting mental health and also Britain’s big problem with “tree rats”

It would be difficult to think of a more exuberant and effusive man than Barry Hancox. It is always a delight to be in his company and he is the last person you would ever suspect to be struggling with internal demons. Yet he was. In his usually light-hearted blog, Barry suddenly announced that he’d been having problems. Thankfully, as Katie Jarvis relates later in this magazine, he seems now to be over the worst.

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Mental health problems are more common than any of us would suspect. One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem this year. Seventeen in 100 will have suicidal thoughts during their lifetime. Three in 2,100 will self-harm. And these figures don’t include data from prisons or hospitals. The unacknowledged prevalence of the issue explains why we have recently featured it quite often in this magazine.

People are understandably concerned about going public with a problem like this. They worry about what others will think of them; they worry about keeping their jobs. But speaking out really is the best solution. For goodness sake, don’t bottle it up – talk. Talk to your family and friends; talk to your GP; talk to your boss – today’s employment practices are much more compassionate than you might think.

And if you’re on the receiving end, then listen and help. Talk isn’t cheap in this instance.

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I don’t like grey squirrels. Horrible things. Coming over here, eating our nuts and passing on a virus that is wiping out the native red squirrel population. They’re just about the only immigrants I don’t welcome.

Now some weighty bodies have decided that Something Must Be Done. The Wildlife Trusts are planning to recruit an army of 5,000 volunteers to undertake training to trap and kill grey squirrels which are caught in a cage-trap, put in a bag and “knocked over the head”.

Whether or not this will put a dent in the 2.5 million population (as opposed to an estimated 140,000 surviving red squirrels) remains to be seen, but it’s fair to say that the policy (funded by the Heritage Lottery and the European Union – which is why all the greys voted Leave) hasn’t gone down too well in certain quarters.

Writing in the Guardian (where else?) a gentleman from Kent is “completely appalled” by the plan and worries that “the recruitment campaign will attract thugs and deviants who get enjoyment from harming and torturing wildlife”. Bit harsh, I would have thought.

Others have different plans. The Prince of Wales is said to favour the use of some form of contraception drug, tucked away in peanut butter. This in itself is problematic. For a start, how do you make sure that only grey squirrels eat the tainted peanut butter? What about other wildlife? And our dogs, most of which would happily mainline peanut butter all day given the chance. My whippet had his knackers whipped off as a precautionary measure when he was poorly last year, but even if he hadn’t, I wouldn’t necessarily want to put him on the Pill.

But let’s be clear – Something Must Be Done. Grey squirrels are nothing more than tree rats. The pesky blighters raid your bird tables and annoy your hounds. And their continued growth threatens the very existence of one of our more delightful native animals. If that means that extraordinary measures must be taken, then so be it

For more from Mike, follow him on Twitter! @cotslifeeditor

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