A few weeks ago, I sat on my bed absolutely shattered with a deep sense of sadness. The sadness that causes you to hunch over and sigh with frustration asking yourself why do you fight for others? Why are you doing this? I answered myself “if you had never experienced a mental health issue or a physical disability, how would you appreciate the challenges of others?” True, the activist never dies no matter the situation. The sadness led me to pray, for those who have disabilities, physical, learning and mental health issues their carers and professionals who support service users. I am soft like that.
When you denigrate the hard work professionals put in to support mental health sufferers, the temptation is to slap you into next week. Community Mental Health Teams, are a multidisciplinary team of overworked doctors, psychologists, social workers, community psychiatric nurses, carers assessors, occupational therapists and yes the annoying junior doctors (according to Jeremy Hunt).
The latest Tory decision to cut support for disabled people is one of the most heinous crimes against humanity. The effect is that it will increase the number of mental health problems. From those who benefit from support: be it carers support, mobility, personal independence etc. Whilst I am grateful I live in a country that gives health care, one wonders who guides DWP in its decision making. Clearly there efforts to save money has not worked.
I smile ruefully that at least I have made a tiny dent and people are #talking about mental health in my closed Facebook group for Black, Asian and Ethnic minorities. It, however, remains a challenge to engage because of stigma and fear. As I catch up on my reading I am invited to be various groups to discuss depression. I am very cautious with the facebook groups. My main reason is that without a professional facilitator you could end up with people getting worse, due to wrong advice.
As I read the content of several groups and my pile of paperwork too, I got angry as there is no consideration for service users. It seems mental health is a buzz word for some people. The lack of understanding on personal mental health and mental illness confuses the discussion. The spectrum of mental health is so wide, the multitude of diagnoses in the ICD10 code, one wonders why people don’t use google. It does not give any credence when a non-trained person tests their latest theories on others. Inevitably science and medicine have to work together, however, to ignore the other environmental, social and genetical issues when discussing mental health is pure ignorance. You share your story you cannot talk about another’s journey.
Being a mentor/mental health advocate means I have to take into consideration all cultural issues when dealing with Black, Asian and Ethnic minority groups. The continent of Africa has 2000 languages, 54 nations, it is not likely when treating a person you ignore these things. Religion plays a big part in Africa to fail to incorporate or consider that this could help in healing is something that must be dealt with in a conversation with the real Church leaders. This will help in people accessing services. There is the other side of the coin that religious delusions or psychotic experiences are part of mental health illnesses.
In a chat with my colleagues it was quite shocking to learn that in their training, there is no or very little information when dealing with BAME groups. The holistic understanding of a person could go a long way in treatment during a mental health episode or even if they have to live with the illness.
Why I buzzword? Back in 2005 and 2006, I was part of a joint Borough Black and Ethnic Minority group, lobbying for changes following recommendations to look at the gap in BAME staff not getting management positions or promotion. It was clear that institutional racism/culture meant that even when qualified you reached a certain point and that was it. The word “Diversity” was born. Staff in the public sector went for training including celebrating diversity, management and leadership and equalities training, yet the portrait is still the same. It is my opinion diversity was a ruse to dilute institutionalised racism due to the incoming changes with the rewriting of the Equalities Act 2010. Nothing has changed, 7 years later I have not seen the evidence. This makes me scared that the authentic stakeholders in demystifying mental health will struggle to get audiences to help our communities.
A recent story in the newspapers in Kenya had a pictorial of a disabled woman in a wheelchair bundled up by city council askaris (police), no matter the crime, demonstrated the backward treatment of people with disabilities. Hers is visible disability what if the illness is invisible?? This demonstrates the need to ensure the protection of disabled people worldwide and education.
There is a notion that people with mental illnesses (which may include dual diagnosis, I guess they did not think about that) can think away, get over their illness, or pray their illnesses away. This is the highest form of insult. When a quadriplegic is denied funds for a wheelchair or is deemed fit to work and may have depression or worse PTSD after serving in a war, the author of the idea needs to be shot.
Accepting one is disabled is not easy. Please read the definition below because, we are people like you, who have long-term conditions that we struggle to accept. Understand that Disability or mental health is not a product for sale nor is it inability, we just do and relate to life differently from “normal” people.
The definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010 “if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.” The mindset that disability only deals with physical disability i.e. you are in a wheelchair means there is a lot of work to educate people on this.
There is a lot of work to be done, but as my grandfather says “Forward Always, Backward Never”