Mental illness and other oppressions

Issue section: 
(418)

Laura Miles’s article “How we fight for transgender liberation” (September SR) showed that while great strides have been made in terms of LGBT+ — rights transphobia is still very much a problem. The same could be said of racism and other forms of oppression.

There is, however, one issue that is regularly overlooked: that of discrimination against those who suffer from mental health problems.

The discrimination is manifold: from cutbacks in NHS services (for many years I had a designated Community Psychiatric Nurse, but this was removed, leaving me with nothing but medication), to a lack of support for those in work and a society that generally shuns people who have mental health problems.

I say “mental health problems”, however, the real term should be mental ill health or disability, as for any other illness or disability.

This difficulty with language is itself a reflection of how society dismisses and stigmatises those who suffer from mental illness. For example, it is extremely rare to hear a physically disabled person dismissed as a “cripple”, yet those who suffer a mental illness are often dismissed as “mad”, “loons”, “nuts”, “psychos”, and so on, all of which are highly offensive.

Alongside this irrational situations are described as “mad”. Such language is not confined to bigots. It is so common even people on the left use such words unthinkingly.

Those who suffer from a mental health condition have an illness no different from those with a physical condition. If you take two weeks off for a bad back no one bats an eyelid. If you take two weeks off for depression that’s a different story.

I feel it is high time that socialists take a firmer line on mental health, for starters by challenging some of the offensive language I have outlined.

John Curtis
Ipswich