Tackling mental health discrimination

Written on 18 Sep 2012

Looking back at the Paralympics, it has been quite extraordinary to see the major shift in the attitude of the great British public to those physically disabled athletes who performed so magnificently.

I guess that I was similar to many in seeing just the same commitment, dedication and strength of character as their fully able Olympian competitor teammates of a few weeks earlier - and barely noticing the disabilities. The incredible achievement of all of the competitors in the UK's Paralympic team in winning so many medals and finishing so high up the medals table was cause for even more country-wide celebration of “our” sporting prowess. The episode has seemed to mark a long-overdue change in public attitude to those with physical disabilities.

And are we beginning to see the very beginnings of a similar change in attitude to those with mental illness or disability ? Tory MP Gavin Barwell's bill to outlaw discrimination of mental health sufferers serving in public office even after a full recovery has received its second reading. As he said when addressing the Commons :
“My bill's purpose is very simple: to tackle the last legal form of discrimination in our society. Many people who are fully capable of performing jury service are ineligible to do so. The law as it stands sends out a clear message that if someone has a mental health condition their contribution to public life is not welcome. That is an affront to a decent civilised society.”

And Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister, supporting the Bill said : “It's ludicrous in this day and age that a person can't contribute to public life if they've had issues with their mental health”.

So full marks to another Conservative MP, Charles Walker, who a couple of months back spoke forthrightly and honestly about the mental health issues that have affected him for over 30 years. With the wider public appreciation that one in five of us will suffer a significant mental health illness at some stage in our lives combined with the honesty and frankness of public figures like Charles Walker talking openly about their mental illnesses, perhaps we will start to see public acceptance and increasing support and understanding of mental health sufferers match that given recently to the Paralympians.

If you've been affected by the topic that I've covered in this blog post, and would like to discuss your feelings, you can leave a public comment below. Alternatively, if you'd like to communicate with me on a one-to-one basis about any issues you'd like to discuss further, you can either email me or call me on 07946 517967.


Martina's picture
Martina 11 Oct 2012

I have been a client of wotch for the past 7 years and i am so grfeatul to them they have saved my life and provide an amazing service. My worker has been there every step of the way and has been my biggest supporter and has helped me to find myself and be off medication for 2 years and out of the hospital for 3, and i agree that the hospital system treats us like criminals when all we are looking for is understanding, thank you wotch from the bottom of my heart

alison 19 Nov 2012

Thanks for writing in, Martina.

I must admit, I haven't heard of WOTCH until you mentioned it in your post. Their cause seems very worthy, and I'm pleased they've helped you so much!