IS the current political turmoil affecting our mental health? Is that actually a question?

I’ll personally admit that, after a long adulthood of grappling with politics at all levels – from nuclear bombs to arts funding – my reserves are running at an all-time low.

Twitter undoubtedly does not help. It’s like a vending machine serving up junk political debate, with the coin slot stuck at “dispense”.

After especially intense hour-long thumb-trances, I have found myself literally throwing the damn phone across the room (safely, of course, into a nearby couch).

Away, Satan! Arguments are occasionally sharpened up there; otherwise, nothing much is achieved.

The disjunct between the daily stramash, and our existential threats, also stuns my brain. Florid chaps in gothic palaces assert their God-given right to distance themselves from meddlesome Eurocrats. Meanwhile, millions die, and millions more are on the move, under extreme weather conditions caused by the West’s legacy of global warming.

Of course, the first situation is a poor, dim and defensive recognition of the implacable advance of the second. But at the level of the general public discussion, I see no-one joining these dots together. Or if they do, they’re waved away as irrelevant radicals (those “ultra-Nats” or “neo-Marxists” or “unrealistic Greens”).

So I drop chunks of dense, dark irony onto social media, awaiting likes, replies and reposts from fellow sufferers. We’re like characters in a cafe in Weimar Germany, except huddled round a phone app with a bird on it.

It’s not good enough, and I know it. I need to be doorstepping, leafleting, joining in actions and hustings. But after a lifetime of engagement (as I said), it’s actually quite interesting to wallow around in the shallows of cynicism and dyspepsia for a bit. Somewhat like smokers cast out into the rain, I’d imagine: you find yourself surrounded by the haunted, hunted and mordantly witty.

However, that’s still not good enough, and not just for me either. It’s easy to find info on how much the Brexit shit-show is trashing our mental wellbeing.

Britain Thinks polled 2004 citizens the other day and found that 64% felt that “anxiety about Brexit is bad for people’s mental health” (83% were “fed up with seeing it on the news everyday”).

The prominent words associated with Brexit have shifted from “confusing” or “uncertain”, to “broken” and “chaos”.

The anti-racist organisation Hope Not Hate (HNH) has been keeping an index on optimism and pessimism levels among the UK population since 2011. After Brexit, Remain-voting areas reported a rise in pessimism, and Leave areas a rise in optimism. But in January 2019, Leavers registered as majority-pessimist too, with both sides registering a massive distrust of politicians.

Is it different in Scotland? According to HNH, we had already slid from the most optimistic in the UK about the future in 2016, to the most pessimistic in late 2018 (no recent figures available). We have stray stats on rising levels of mental ill-health (anxiety and depression) among students and teachers.

But on the other hand, the Bank of Scotland happiness index in late 2018 gave us a score of 44.9 points out of 100 – that’s 5.9 points more cheerful than three years ago. (Lesson: never run your life by pollsters).

Some comparisons can be more qualitative. We can sense a little how Scots might be managing their political emotions differently if we compare BBC1’s Question Time to BBC Scotland’s Debate Night.

The first is often a bear pit for grandstanding, rabble-rousing and vituperation of all kinds. The second is a lot calmer and more substantive, with pundit and punter in a much more reciprocal relationship.

This sense of calm extends into the places where power is done in Scotland. I spent a few days this week in and around Holyrood.

I attended thoughtful meetings on universal basic income. I spoke to future-focused civil servants. I heard about new ways of measuring the economy from government partners.

This was about as far away from maddening buffoons scuttling across ancient floors – and mucking up indicative votes that might have gotten them out of their own trouble – as you could imagine.

Under the constant mantra of “evidence-based” policy, my two days in Edinburgh and Glasgow were deeply therapeutic. Maybe politics, politicians and policy-makers – at least in Scotland – can be trusted to steadily execute progress.

(A few far-sighted success stories from Scottish policy, reported in the last seven days – a decade of vaccinations against cervical cancer paying off; the “medical” approach to knife crime being adopted by the UK Government – have made it an excellent week).

Scotland’s spectacle of governance isn’t quite as disheartening as the Westminster horror-show. Nor is its media landscape quite as collusive in the horror. We have some buffers against a sense of “breakage” and “chaos”.

Yet a buffer, defending you against the worst, isn’t a springboard to clear water. No matter how bad Brexit gets – and whatever criticism you might make of the indy leadership, in their advocacy of the cause –

the polls in favour of independence are stubbornly where they were in 2014. No matter how poorly the Westminster system is regarded, the prospect of another “indyref” is pushed gingerly into the future by those polled, over a three, five or even 10-year timescale.

On every other day, I would go along with the “civic” argument, put by figures like Common Weal’s Robin McAlpine. That is, we won’t get an indy majority if we don’t go out and properly elicit it, making plausible, concrete offers to the convincible. Polling is showing that people react strongly to formulations like “independence can ... ” or “independence will ... ”

But on the alternate days – when the black dog advances upon me – I want to take seriously those who are anxious about the effects of a dramatic binary vote, on both individual and collective psyches.

In preparing this column, the search engines took me back to writers who were seriously vilified in the indyref run-up (and yes, I did my bit). Take Ewan Morrison, Carol Craig and Jock Encombe – all three of them literate in psychology and psychotherapy. In retrospect, Morrison has a particularly acute insight. Writing while still a Yesser (he made a dramatic switch to No a few days before the 2014 vote), Ewan imagines that Scotland, if it was a patient, might be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). (There’s certainly enough national trauma to justify it).

People with BPD “feel under threat all the time”, Morrison continues. “They have a black and white way of thinking – everything is all good or all bad, right or wrong; they experience intense love and hatred and swing from one to the other with very little in between”.

“They are crushed by a sense of inadequacy and emptiness and fantasise about a single solution, way off on the horizon – this could be a perfect place to live, a true love, a new life.”

How is this (national) patient cured? He/she “learns to think in greys rather than black and white; accepts that it’s OK to be ‘good enough’. To share with others, building up maturity and patience. To give up on perfection and focus on mending and building relationships”.

Morrison concludes: “It might be a good idea to start seeing independence not as a split and a new dawn, but as a way of building on connections, quietly, with care, now – and not at some fictional point of perfection in the future. Not to wait for this fateful day of a Yes/No decision that will throw us into generations of self-loathing if it fails”.

There’s some truth here (which, as I say, I’d recognise on every alternate day). Is there virtue in waiting not just until an independence referendum can be solidly won, but until that victory expresses our complex, mature relationship with the world? The question is: when will we know?

Perhaps when you wake up on a morning in Glasgow, and don’t feel like politics is connected to your mental health. Which, I’ll admit, might just be my problem.