THE PORRIDGE had just dinged in the microwave when the phone rang, producing a little stressful moment because early-morning phone calls are never about someone ringing to say hello.

The voice on the other end, however, was friendly. “Would you like to come on the Kaye Adams Programme this morning?” the producer asked. Depends what the discussion is. If you’re asking me if I’ve ever thought of self-identifying as woman, or do I have thoughts on ending the Israel/Hamas conflict then I couldn’t really give firm answers. “No, we’re talking about stress today. Have you felt stressed?”

The subject of the phone-in discussion, I discovered later is we’re in Mental Health Week, and almost three quarters of Scots surveyed declared they’d had problems coping in the past year.

Yes, I too have felt stressed, I offered. “Great. Could you come on and talk about the time you’ve taken off work, how it’s affected your life?”

Well, here’s the thing; if I do come on I’d have to point out I’ve never taken time off with stress. And if I do appear on radio I’d be questioning why so many people throw sickies citing stress as a reason. I’d also be asking why it seems more public sector workers take a disproportionate time off (the BBC included). “I’ll give you a ring back if we are going to use you,” he said. And I could have bet a year’s supply of Prozac I wasn’t going to be on Ms Adams’ phone-in show that particular morning.

The producer of course was simply doing his job, but his expectation/hope paralleled society’s current fad for digging up the weeds in the mind garden – when in most cases the weeds are simply ugly flowers.

Recently, digital platform BBC Social asked a range of young people if they were stressed or depressed. At first, most said no and then gradually many said they had in fact felt stressed. But it didn’t come across as a social search and rescue exercise, more an exercise in manipulation.

What’s worrying is stress is fast becoming an industry, with millions raising their hands to claim their own mind weeds. But this modern construct is simply another word for pressure? It certainly didn’t exist a generation ago in the way that so many people have come to misuse it.

When mothers were desperate to feed three kids with one tin of Fray Bentos Corned Beef and a half a tin of beans they weren’t rushing to doctors to ask for coping pills. They worked out how to fill bellies with the judicious use of bread.

Stress is all too often cited because of over-working, or failing to deal with the standard problems of the day. But here’s what real stress is: it’s working in a call centre on a zero hours contract where your task is to convince 30 farmers a day they should take out special medical insurance. It’s working as a carer wiping the bums of the elderly dementia sufferers, while looking up at the clock worrying about getting to the next job. It’s not walking a police beat, it’s not teaching in a nice high school in a nice town, where both jobs come with union protection stronger than Iron Man.

Yes, a sense of anxiety can build up in all of us. There are increased pressures to meet targets, to be the best person we can, to become the ideal partner. But that’s way different from depression and should be seen as such.

Stevie Smith’s poignant poem Not Waving But Drowning told of a quiet sorrow, an insight into a depression which is contained within. It’s about those not signalling their true feelings. And it’s incredibly sad that those sufferers so very often don’t let the world know how they feel. But at the moment, the world seems to be Not Drowning But Waving. The wave says look at me because I can’t deal with the fact I don’t have a new iPhone.

Depression is what happens to your brain when you lose a job, a partner, a child, a complete sense of purpose. There’s a vast difference between someone working late too often and a person facing the edge of a cliff. Stress may gradually lead to depression – but it’s not the same.

Thankfully, psychologists such as Jordan Peterson are prescribing a different approach, saying to the stressed out complainants that they should learn to stand up tall. By that he means grow a pair.

Comedian Denis Leary once performed a side-splitting routine aimed at attacking the stressed-out whingers. “Life not going exactly the way you want it too? Here’s the truth – life sucks. Shut the f*** up and get a helmet.”

He was right. We’re not all filled with helium happiness. We need to appreciate happiness comes in bursts.

Let’s not overstate or medicate the problem away. Meantime, stop watching Love Island and wishing your body was as buff or complaining about the Israeli singer who won Eurovision in Japanese costume not being charged with cultural appropriation. If Plato had been Glaswegian he’d have been shouting ‘Kimono tae ****.”

That’s what I would have said to Kaye, had I made the cut. I’d have said I wouldn’t call in sick with stress. But having said that, there’s an editor calling out right now; “Finish that column by 5pm or you’re a*** is toast”. A duvet day is tempting.