World Mental Health Day: why just talking about stigma isn’t enough

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[CW: mental healthcare crisis, disability allowance cuts…]

I know I’ve talked about this before, but you know what? When 4 people per day die after being declared fit for work by the DWP (1) and benefit sanctions against people with mental health conditions are up 600% it needs to be shouted from the roof tops.

TALKING ABOUT STIGMA ALONE DOES FUCK ALL when people are dying from having their life support lines removed. I talked about it before here, and reblogged an article about it here. Since then things have just gotten worse.

That’s why it’s massively disconcerting to see charities reeling out the same old tosh about ‘talk to someone’, ‘seek help’, ‘you can speak up’. Yeah, breaking stigma is one element of helping to make life easier for those with MH conditions, but alone it’s an empty gesture. I mentioned in a previous post I went to the doctors two weeks ago and was literally told to go help myself (by being referred to self-help books.) I had to laugh, or I would have cried.

Anti-stigma campaigns won’t help people afford food, help them cope day to day or do anything to oppose the ruthless cuts to NHS mental healthcare and disability benefits. I’m disillusioned that big charities keep harping on about this rather than focusing on less socially acceptable ‘protest’ campaigns against cuts that really affect us.

Grassroots organisations like Mental Health Resistance Network and Disabled People Against The Cuts (DPAC) are doing this type of protest work. However they obviously don’t have the media coverage or budgets of the bigger charities (I’m thinking about MIND, Re-think etc – who do some amazing work, but are ultimately subject to campaigns concocted by well-meaning well-paid office staff who are ultimately out of touch with the everyday struggles of a tonne of mental health service users.)

Another element to consider is bigger charities funding streams and them not wanting to be seen to be ‘too political’. So they focus on employability and stigma instead of not upsetting donors.

However, in my book, if you focus on the fluffier, personal and individual side of things and totally gloss over the political and economic factors, then criticism in inevitable and justified.

What am I going to do about it apart from moaning? I’ve contacted Mental Health Resistance Network offering to start up a local branch, but they’re snowed under and quite small so I’ve not heard back. So the plan is when I’m feeling mentally stronger and have less voluntary stuff on my plate I’m going to look into starting a grassroots mental health / wider disability campaign group that tackles political and economic factors.

Because fuck playing nice. We’ve tried that. Time to be a thorn in their side.

 

  • This was quoted at the recent Psych Benefits event Friday 7th of October, a conference where those who work in psychiatry and psychology were openly criticising benefits cuts. Agenda can be viewed here.

**UPDATE** A few days after I posted this, MIND have announced they’re working with the DWP. Proves my point about charities cosying up to government to win contracts. Disaster for those they claim to support: http://www.mind.org.uk/news-campaigns/statement121016/

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