Mental Health in Denmark

I haven’t got exact figures, (I’m sure someone could hunt them up for me? HINT HINT) on the use of antidepressants in Denmark. I understand it is pretty high. Especially given the “fact” that Denmark often comes on top or near the top of “Happiness Surveys”.

One Dansplanation I heard accounting for the level of antidepressant usage in Denmark was it was the old people in institutions that were pulling up the average. I am not sure how that makes it better? Presumably old people in care homes are “people” too and should  count towards the overall average happiness level of a country. If being in a care home is depressing enough to necessitate the usage of pharmaceuticals and a lot of people are in such depressing situations, then that country is not as “happy” as everyone thinks.

Anyway. As with most Dansplanations, it is total bollocks. People from all sorts of walks of life are on antidepressants. As you probably already know, the usage of antidepressants is not a magic bullet and often controversial.

Here is a selection of stories from Denmark about mental health. The first deals with borough councils forcing those who are on sickness benefits for depression to take antidepressants, the second is about a borough who want to force a woman to receive electroshock treatment against medical advice, the third is about a man who the borough councils would like to force to have electroshock therapy before they will help him find a part-time “flexi” job, the fourth is from a couple of years ago about how pregnant women are forced to choose antidepressants because talking therapy is too expensive for them; and the last is from a few years ago about a woman who became depressed after being falsely accused by the borough council of abuse who can no longer afford the medication.

If I hear one more person praise Denmark’s social services system and free health care, I swear to God, you are going to lose a tooth. The social system is highly variable. If you get a shithead social worker, your life is over. If you become mentally distressed (which is super common in this country), your freedom of choice is over. Do what they say or ELSE. Even if your doctor does not agree with their treatment recommendation. They are the ones who decide.

Danish health care is NOT free. Our taxes pay for it and we pay top dollar. If you need treatment, for example talking therapy or medication, you pay a large contribution towards it. On top of your tax contributions. You would expect excellent quality for that amount of money but instead, Danish health care is just barely mediocre.

Still, I expect a lot of people will believe none this will happen to THEM. People who are sick or mentally ill deserved it; because of some misdeed or negative thinking in their past. You will be so careful to avoid their mistakes, so the boroughs will never force you to have electroshock therapy. Right?

This is taken from DR: Boroughs can force the sick onto antidepressants

The Appeals Board has just ruled that boroughs are allowed to force the sick onto antidepressants, if their sickness benefits are to be extended or they have to retire early due to ill health, writes the union magazine 3F.

This has happened despite two previous ministers Bertel Haarder and Inger Støjberg (V) promised in a consultation a year ago that boroughs must never force the sick onto antidepressants.

Attack

Vice-president of 3F Johnny Skovengaard thinks that it is an attack to force citizens to take anti-depressant medicine if they don’t want to lose their income.

“It’s a slippery slope… what’s next? That sick citizens have to be forced to take stronger medicine? Minister for Employment Mette Frederiksen must get on top of this case,” said Johnny Skovengaard to the union magazine 3F.

The Appeals Board stressed however that psychiatrists or doctors should prescribe the antidepressant medicine as treatment.

Taken from TV2 South: Vejen borough council suggested electroshock to a woman

Vejen borough council recommended to a chronically depressed woman that she should have electroshock therapy.

A woman from Vejen has to live for six years without income. It isn’t until 2018 that she can have a basic pension. Vejen borough will not give her sickness benefits or early retirement.

The borough do not think that all possible treatments for her chronic depression have been explored. The borough think that electroshock treatment is a possibility.

But the treatment is not recommended by her psychiatrist and she is frightened of it.

“I think that all treatment possibilities have been exhausted. I cannot think of any treatments that we have not tried,” said psychiatrist and consultant Lokalpsykiatri Brørup Sven Bjarne Nielsen to Politiken.

The woman can now look forward to a good six years where she has to live on her husband’s income.

This is taken from DR: Demands on electroshock creates a discussion

39 year old Heine Pedersen from Silkeborg will be forced to have electroshock therapy if he wants a flexijob.

He has been sick for five years with stress, depression and anxiety and now he would like a flexijob. And his borough council are not going to support him before he follows his doctor’s advice and has electroshock treatment.

Despite worries that he will get memory problems from the electroshock treatment, Heine Pedersen has bowed to the borough’s demands.

Silkeborg’s job and citizen service boss Michael Maaløe maintains that the borough has the law on it’s side.

“When his doctor has said it is possibility, he has to try it,” said the job boss.

SF’s workplace spokesman Eigil Andersen said that if the rules are that way, that one can threaten people with electroshock treatment, so the rules need to be changed.

The Social Democratic mayor in Silkeborg Hanne Bæk Olsen said that it is difficult discussion.

“It’s good if people have to take up all the treatment options there on offer from the public authorities. But it is difficult when we talk directly about treatment.”

This is taken from Ekstra Bladet: Pregnant women forced onto antidepressants (31st October 2011)

Conveyer belts: Doctors put depressed pregnant women on dangerous antidepressants because psychologists are too expensive.

The price of a psychologist’s consultation and rushed doctors pressure pregnant women to take medicine that is dangerous for their foetus.

Even though the Health Board in their guidance write that doctors should always make sure they offer depressed pregnant women consultations with a psychologist, doctors forget to refer them to therapy.

Or the patients have to say no to the appointments because they cannot afford the expensive psychologist fees.

Many pregnant women are therefore forced to take antidepressants and expose their children to potential side effects that can in worst cases be massively harmful.

The Medicines board has received information about 86 cases of serious side effects that result from the use of antidepressant medicine in pregnancy. Of these, four cases resulted in the death of a baby and 18 resulted in miscarriage or stillbirth.

Today pregnant women between the ages of 18 and 37 pay 373 kr (65 USD) for the first consultation and 311 kr (54 USD) for the next appointment while they are pregnant, where those who fall outside of that age group have to pay the whole bill of around 1000 kr (176 USD) per hour.

A therapeutic treatment at a psychologist can run up into thousands of kroner and therefore instead some pregnant women take antidepressants that only cost a couple of kroner a day.

The money decides confirms Henrik Dibbern, who is president for the Practice Doctors Organisation.

“Doctors often forget to offer psychological help to the depressed because they have experienced that so many cannot afford it. It’s a big problem that they have to pay for it themselves.

“When we are talking psychological help, it’s a significant amount of many hundreds of kroner every appointment.

“And I have had a large number of patients who wanted to see a psychologist and would have benefited from it but had to choose against because they couldn’t afford it. They must instead take antidepressants which are a lot cheaper,” he said.

Fatal consequences. At the Danish Psychologists Group, the president Roal Ulrichsen also recognises the problem.

“It’s really crappy that some of the economic reasons are prioritised over health considerations, so they or their unborn child are damaged. Especially in the situation where psychological help can be just as effective as medicine.

“It’s a really serious situation, what is going on here. It is the first nine months of the formation of a new life which could have fatal consequences,” he said.

Facts: Without pills.

Many scientific studies have documented that non-medical treatment such as conversation therapy and exercise has an effect on light-to-moderate depression.

The opportunities for psychotherapeutic treatment ought to always be recommended for depression amongst the pregnant, says the Health Board’s guidance on the area.

Medical treatment of depression for pregnant women, by SSRI (antidepressants) can be necessary in some cases. It can be for example in cases of severe depression or when there is a large risk of relapse into depression if a medical treatment is stopped.

According to the Health Board’s guidance treatment ought to happen with the supervision of a specialist psychiatrist.

Taken from: BT: Now I cannot afford medicine (22nd December 2010)

Mie Hansen suffers from a depression but since the prices sharply increased in the summer, she has not been able to afford her treatment with the antidepressant citalopram. The medicine has increased from 56 kroner (10 USD) for 100 pills to nearly 700 kroner (123 USD). (Before the “frequent flier discount”- editor)

The price increase shocked 29 year old Mie Hansen so much that she chose to leave the chemist without her medicine that she needs to deal with everyday life.

Mie Hansen is a mother to twin girls Naja and Amelie, who are 3 and a half years old.

Without medicine, Mie Hansen finds it hard to handle everyday life. Practical things that healthy people barely think about, like shopping, laundry and food making become unsurmountable problems.

Dead inside

“When someone is depressed and does not take medicine, you are dead inside. I look negatively at everything and just sit on the sofa and cannot take hold of any of the practical problems like having a wash, laundry and going shopping,” said Mie Hansen who lives in Nivå.

She became depressed when her girls were about a year old. Naja had some bleeding in an eye and a doctor suspected Mie Hansen for having shaken Naja so violently that she bled and would become blind. Mie Hansen was arrested for violence against the child and the authorities threatened to forcibly remove both twins.

An eye specialist a few months later discovered that a congenital tumor in the eye caused the previous bleeding and Mie Hansen and the girls’ father were cleared of any suspicion.

“I knew that there was something wrong with the children and it was congenital. But the doctors and the authorities believed that it was an injury I had inflicted on my child and I went down for the count,” she said about the cause of her depression.

It turned out that both girls were born with a very rare genetic disorder that meant that they had tumors in their eyes and too much pressure on the brain. They were developmentally delayed and now at the age of three and a half have they begun to say a few words.

Many months without medicine

After the relationship with the twins’ father went to pieces, Mie Hansen stayed home to look after her children who are often admitted to hospital.

“I don’t have much money and can’t just take a little job.

“So, when this summer I stood in the chemist’s and had to pay around 470 kroner instead of 48 kroner for my medicine, I didn’t buy anything. I couldn’t get on top of the situation and it took months before I got my doctor to prescribe another, cheaper medicine. But it made me nauseous and throw up, so I stopped after two weeks and it came back again.” Now Mie Hansen’s doctor has persuaded her that she needs to prioritise pills in her budget.

“Now that I have bought pills, I have 900 kroner (158 USD) for the rest of the month on food and Christmas presents for the children,” she said.

26 thoughts on “Mental Health in Denmark

    1. Interesting! So, on one side doctors are saying “people are really that sick”, on the other someone is saying “doctors are making unnecessary diagnoses to sell drugs.”
      No one is saying “Maybe Danes have poor genetics” or “Maybe Danes are really mentally distressed by their culture.”
      Bit of an oversight?

      Maybe the happy pills account for the happy levels but from what I know about antidepressants, they don’t make you “happy”, they make you feel “meh” rather than depressed. IDK!

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      1. It’s danish happy, their emotions are as flat as their country…:-D (Ok, I don’t really mean this…)
        But I think that “danish” explanations are generaly europian. I don’t know how doctors in your country explain why people get sick, but i my country are only few doctors who accept psychosomatic environmental explanations (like there is something rotten in “our state” and that’s why people get sick…). I mean that mainstream explanations in mainstream newspapers would have been very similar.
        I have no idea how many people in my country take antidepressants (not that many, talking therapy is covered by national health insurance) or how many diagnosis are there, but I think that tendecy is everywhere the same.
        Btw. have you heard about Janteloven? You haven’t mentioned it on your blog and I think, that it explains a lot about this society… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Jante

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      2. Yeah, there are two types of depression. There is the one where you have a set of really good reasons: you just lost a job, you’re sick, you lost someone and the one where you are depressed Just Because.

        In Denmark, they seem to be saying that the “affective depression”, where you are reacting to something bad in your life needs to be treated… that there is something wrong with YOU, if you feel sad when you lose someone/something important.
        Well, sure, it needs to get better… but it’s part of the process of becoming mentally healthy after a setback, surely? Drugging someone isn’t going to fix the underlying need to process what has happened.

        Depression that happens “Just Because”, that’s more tricky and maybe drugs are appropriate (though I think I read somewhere that SSRIs are no better than placebo but no journal will publish those stats)

        I have heard of Jante Law. I’ve noticed it is brought out to explain seemingly contradictory things Danes do. Boast about DK? Jante. Modest about own achievements. Jante. Pay too much for goods and services. Jante. Like a bargain. Jante.

        So, I’m not sure. It’s a bit of a Rorschach test, in that way.

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  1. Denmark is a country populated by “sick” people – but why?

    Could it be, that the only thing that matters to people here is, that we are defined by WHAT we are doing – and not WHO we are?

    Could it be, that we have been manipulated into “thinking”, that only our life during work hours matters? That we “emancipate” ourselves and become “free” that way?

    Could it be, that we have lost our trust in others, due to all the “news” about terrorism threats and false enemy images?

    Could it be, that we have been lulled into thinking, that we are safe from maladies, sorrows and death in the end?

    Danes are not free – they just think they are!

    Quote: “The easiest slaves to control are the ones who think they’re free”!

    Much love – from a “Dane”

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    1. I think you have something there, you know. The pity of it is, as long as the “Happy Myth” persists, no one is ever going to do anything to make Danes feel better (and indeed happier).

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  2. It’s really strange you know, coming from Asian countries where work stress and school stress are probably 10 times more than in here, but there’s not much reported depression and so on.

    It could be due to: People can’t take stress leave, you either have to keep on working to earn money or you live under the bridge as a homeless. People just don’t call themselves stressful or take pills because it’s probably expensive to go to a psychiatrist and get prescription.

    I have never experienced such “stress” before, so don’t quote me on this, but I seriously think some Danes (not all) who report themselves being stress are actually wimps. How could you be stressed when you are only required to work until 4pm? How could you be stressed when you are allowed to walk away during deadline week (I have noticed this several times). Work life is extremely delightful here (this coming from an Asian girl – me).

    It’s the same with the report where one out of four teenagers are reported to have depression. Really? Aren’t we supposed to be miserable when we were teenagers? I know I was, but I turned out ok.

    Seriously. This whole stress and depression and happy pills thing baffle me

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      1. Also, if they are told “Buying THIS will make you happy!” and they buy all the THIS’s there are and it doesn’t work. No one is saying:-
        Experiences with other people make you happy!
        Giving back to the community makes you happy!
        Learning new things make you happy!
        But those things are crucial if you want to avoid mental distress.

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    1. Yeah, it’s a puzzler. I think a lot of the people off with stress don’t have any medical/psychological problems. It’s just an easy way to retire early. Hence the kommunes trying to call their bluff with “Well, have you tried ECT?!?!” But I’m not sure how many of them there are compared to the *real* stressed out ones.

      Depression has got to have a lot to do with the climate. And the diet. And the lack of familial bonds. I think Danes would be a lot happier with a combination of a lot of things that are taken as a matter of course in other countries (sunlight, lots of fish, family given more importance)

      I remember back in the 80s, people in the UK wouldn’t get help for mental distress and they would have nervous breakdowns. I think people can function for a LOOOONG time before they crack and the Danish Way is to take them off work before it comes to that.

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  3. I think your right about alot of things here. But still – in most of those articles the case is that the sick person still have a choice of what they want to do. That choice, as all choices, has a consequence. In one article its mentioned that this pregnant lady would loose her sick-benefits – if you do that you can (to my knowledge) still get social benefits, so i think its more of the media “shock” effect. They make it sound like they take pregnant women and strap them to a bed and then force happy pills down their throats. But as i said in the beginning. Another article mentions that another reason could be that new types of deceases like shopaholics, gambling related deceases are dragging up the numbers. Also they talk about the fact that the medical industry is trying to push more pills to the people (which they ofcourse deny).
    We could do with some more sun :D but i dont think as of now, that there is any way of importing it unfortunately. I did a quick google search and as far as i can see, WE danes are not the ones saying we are the happies nation – its everyone else thats saying it.

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    1. Mikkel, if the consequence is destitution, that is no choice at all.

      Did you read the stories? No pregnant lady was threatened with the loss of sick benefits. You’ve confused a couple of issues.

      One woman has been cut off from sick benefits unless she has ECT (against medical advice). She can’t get social benefits because part of that contract involves work placements, so she’s basically fucked. Luckily she has a husband to support her.
      The councils are allowed to refuse all benefits if people do not take antidepressants.
      A worrying number of pregnant women are forced by not being able to pay for therapy to have to take antidepressants during a time when that is dangerous.

      You can close your eyes to it with “it’s their choice, no one is strapping them down” but you’re colluding with the state’s abuse of vulnerable people.

      What needs to happen is:-
      1) The borough councils have no right to know what treatments you have had/are having for any of your diseases/conditions
      b) therefore they have no right to tell you what to do
      2) Your doctor is your advisor and explains all your options; from which you choose what is right for you
      b) therefore they have no right to tell you what to do (but there are a few exceptions usually involving psychosis)
      3) Depressed pregnant women should get highly discounted or free talking therapy
      4) Actually….Everyone should get highly discounted or free talking therapy if they can benefit from it but can’t afford it otherwise

      Dude, I never said that you Danes claim to be the happiest. And the only reason “everyone else” is saying it is they think that “tilfreds” is a much stronger word in Danish than it really is.
      I really don’t think shopoholics and gambling addicts are “happy”, as such. They are exposing the great mental distress in Danish society. I don’t think their problems aren’t real just because drug companies have discovered a way of making money out of them. They would very much benefit from talking therapy but no one is offering that because it’s too expensive.

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  4. Hey we can agree that everyone should get everything free and no more war and so on. Thats just not the way the world works. I know you dont say that we danes say it – im just stating it because it sounds like your comming down on us for the fact that someone stated it. In fact its hard to believe since the winter brings alot of seasonal depressions with it…
    Shopoholics and gamblers are not happy no – i didnt say they were. And i think your too narrow in your statement. Gamblers and shopoholics are a rising desease in almost every country in the world – so to say that they are “exposing the great mental distress in Danish society” are a truth with modifications. I do believe that the drug companies have a big say in this – most likely some of the patients are not in need of the drugs they are given and most likely they would be fine without talking therapy, but yes – some do need talkng therapy just aswell as some people need drugs and some people need something else.

    ad 1) I think to some extend that its okay for the council to have a say in which way they want to divide the wealth so to speak. But yes – they should look at the individual cases and talk to the doctors and therapists and so on.
    ad 2) I agree and that could be a guideline for your first action point.
    ad 3) I think its perfectly okay to pay for meds. I’d rather see that they based those discounts on individual cases.

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    1. Mikkel, even if I were coming down on the whole of Denmark, I’m sure you’d live :P Please don’t claim that you’re some pragmatist who can see reality plainly and I’m some stupid idealist who is too subjective to see anything…. It is not a good look, ok?

      A lot of people in countries like the UK and US are now looking at Denmark and thinking “Wow, best happiness? Socialist paradise? I’m moving tomorrow!” I am merely pointing out, using Danish news sources, that Denmark isn’t what they think. That’s not coming down on the whole of Denmark, surely.
      By the time they get here and can understand Danish, they will just get told to GO HOME IF THEY DON’T LIKE IT sort of thing. So, I’m just giving them a heads up, ikke også?

      Just because I’m saying that a lot of Danish people are very depressed and mentally ill, doesn’t mean I am saying Denmark is the worst country. Yes, this is all over the world. You have completely got my point.

      Denmark has comparable levels of mental distress and illness as other developed countries.

      1) Ok, we’ll have to agree to disagree. I come from a country with medical confidentiality and I really don’t see why blooming Tove Hansen from the council gets to know what drugs I’ve been taking.
      3) Talking therapy isn’t “meds”; meds are affordable. I think pregnant woman who will be damaged by their affordable meds need to be given non-medical treatment, discounted or free if needed.

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      1. Hehe i dont think we will agree about this. I respect your opinions.

        Off topic.
        out of curiosity – if everything is so bad as your blog reflects, why dont you relocate to another country? I woild imagine that it must be stressfull to carry that much anger around all day :-)

        ‎”I disagree with your opinion, and because this is a country that doesn’t allow opinions, we are asking you to leave”

        I myself would love to live in southeast asia – cant get enough of the sun and good food :-)

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  5. To Mikkel:

    I’m just wondering why thinking critically about a given situation is necessarily equated with “carrying that much anger around.” Why can’t people be critical? It’s healthy. It’s how change is brought about. Sometimes, change can be good! Even in Denmark! Think of all the people who threw what you just said into MLK’s face. Or Ghandi’s. Or Mother Jones. Or Tina Fey. Really.

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    1. Read the blog. 90% is about how stupid, insignificant, lowgrade, irrelevant, badly managed Denmark is. People can definately be critical – even i think there are bad things in Denmark – but it gets very 1-sided pretty fast. To me it dosent look genuine when its not objective.

      I agree – change is very good. And yes – alot of things could be done much more.. lets say “elegantly” here. For example – being married to a non eu citizen we face the most ridiculous rules that seem like they are only there to make it difficult for us. But on the other hand i do recognise that there HAS to be SOME rules on the whole immigration issue. But to just rant endlessly on one subject screems to me that the person is not objective. I usually think that political parties like Dansk Folkeparti is a very populistic party, but in a way thats also what i read here.

      Grated – the blog owner has a way with words, but i often lack the “other side of the story”… For every article posted here on how bad Denmark is, i could probably find one saying how wonderfull it is… I know that none of those 2 articles probably comes close to representing a fair average of the state of the country …

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      1. And to etellerandet: No one put me up to anything. And please note that i have never asked you to leave (again you see the worst in people)… The only thing i did out of pure curiosity was to ask you that if everything is so bad for you and you get so angry, if you havent thought of relocating.

        If i were living in a country i couldnt stand, I for one, would definately think of relocating to somewhere else. Is it an unfair question?

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      2. to etellerandet: And by the way: reverting to the default “”I disagree with your opinion, and because this is a country that doesn’t allow opinions, we are asking you to leave”” comment is pretty low i think. Here you basically just states that if anyone dosent agree with you they are not allowed to ask critical questions.

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  6. Mikkel, there’s a difference between criticizing something and carrying anger. I don’t know why every single Danes I meet throw the magic words “Why don’t you leave when you don’t like it here” when we’re criticizing Denmark here. Not wanting to hear any criticism, aren’t we?

    …and dear God, and every week Berlingske or Politiken or other big shot media publish some ministers’ worry about why wouldn’t (high educated) immigrants stay in Denmark. Well, you all told us to leave, so?

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    1. But i think those 2 are closely related. Unless your talking objective critisism ofcourse.

      “I don’t know why every single Danes I meet throw the magic words “Why don’t you leave when you don’t like it here” when we’re criticizing Denmark here”

      this is actually the first time i have asked the person why they would wanna stay here if they have so much grief. But now that were at it: In this particular case, why is it such a bad thing to ask? The blog owner rant page up and page down on all the rotten things in Denmark, but as soon as a little bit of objective critisism comes her way the default answer is that “its because we dont have our own opinion and has been indoctrinated to say this and blablabla”… I genuinely want to know why a person would want to stay at a place that they hate so much. If it was me living somewhere i hated – i would definately move out.

      Where have i stated that i dont want to hear criticism? Just because i give a little push back then suddenly im the narrowminded Dane that just think that everyone that dosent like Denmark should just get the fuck out?

      For your information i was asking a question to the blow owner – not telling…

      Tell me honestly that thing are as bad as this blog reflects – i bet you that you cant. I dont know why every single immigrant i meet throw the magic words “Ohh we feel so sorry for ourselves and everyone want us to leave and everything is just going to the shitter”

      Man up for crists sake. Join a political group and help shape the country you want to live in insteadt of childishly crying behing a fucking blog avatar.

      So just so you wont get the satisfaction of telling me that _I_ think everything is dandy here. I think the social system could use a tuneup. I think someone could make the language scools a bit more interesting for immigrants. I think that Dansk Folkeparti is doing more damage to Denmark then good. I think that since we already pay tax why do we still have to get a bus ticket. Since we pay tax why does it seem like the doctors want you out of their office as fast as possible insteadt of helping you better. Why isnt dental work covered by health insurance (the yellow card). Why is it that no one can do anything about ghettos forming? And i could probably come up with much more…

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  7. Me coming to Denmark me are, me sad man, me want happy pills to make me want to be sad because missus in council chair say me not get money if not drugged up to eyeballs. Then me go to doc for help with me depressing feeling cos me no gotta job and me gotta go home to kids wiv food from container back of lidl. mmmm scrumptious tis be n’all. no job no penge after 6 months, but here take pills for smiley face…..nice doc. Then me go to council chair woman wiv me bestest dansk and super massive smile I have to walk in doorway sideways always….me ask for maybe praktik job and woman in council chair say to me hvad nummer er DU, jeg says me 41 next time big smiley birthday coming around, altid with big smiley face….me get no praktik job me only got big smiley face. Me reading somewhere in F-Town peoples called Huegenots and Jews and Catholics like F-Town cos they be free to do what they want, working and dat, methinks they not get big smiley pills and six months to make corners of mouth go downspiralling. Men jeg elsker DK. Me joining new political party next week, its called The Help Denmark Climb Out Of It’s Own Arse Party………..now where’s dem bloody pills again ;-)

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