‘Loony’, ‘crazy’, ‘nuts’, ‘weirdo’, ‘head-case’, ‘demented’: all derogatory words that are sadly thrown around in relation to those suffering from poor mental health. Fortunately, perceptions are gradually changing, with acceptance growing momentum just recently, and it’s about time. Supported by a number of studies, the most trusted and commonly referred to statistic quotes that one in four people in Britain will experience a mental health problem in any given year.
As well as new anti-stigma charities and organisations becoming more prevalent, many figured within the public arena are becoming more vocal about their own experiences. Just this week Jack Straw has bravely admitted to a battle with depression. Here at DWED, we urge everyone to speak up and be heard. This feels especially crucial with regards to Diabulimia/ED DMT1 as it is an eating disorder without official diagnosis as of yet. The more awareness we can create the better.
Channel 4 recently aired a week long series of programmes under the title ‘4 Goes Mad’. Through these they highlighted conditions such as clinical depression and OCD, as well as putting the issue of mental health in the work-place at the forefront of discussion. Social media networks were buzzing with reaction to the coverage. This was on the whole positive, with only some negative responses mostly relating to the controversial title of the series, alongside the fact that ‘grittier’ conditions such as schizophrenia or psychosis weren’t explored at all.
The result of an ongoing parliament debate will undoubtedly bring about the largest change in attitudes towards those with psychiatric conditions. A second reading of the Mental Health (Discrimination) bill that took place in the House of Commons on September 14 was successfully passed through without rejection. The bill, which is sponsored by Conservative MP Gavin Barwell, will overturn legislation deemed discriminative against people with mental health problems.
Existing ‘outdated’ and archaic laws prevent anyone with a mental illness from acting as Members of Parliament, members of the devolved legislatures, jurors, or company directors. The next stage of progress will see the Bill proceeding to committee stage where it will be considered in a Public Bill Committee. Promisingly Chloe Smith, minister for political and constitutional reform, said the bill had the government’s full support and was an important part of the government's overall mental health strategy.
This decision was applauded by The Royal College of Psychiatrists, Rethink Mental Illness, and Mind, and welcomed by DWED. A ‘letter to the Editor’ penned by the college and the two mental health charities was published in The Times on 10 September. Addressed to MP’s, they appealed forcefully for backing of the bill.
During the debate Mr Barwell said that the current laws sent an "appalling message" to people with mental health conditions. He commented that they most wrongfully implied that a person could never fully recover from mental illness and would continue to be excluded from civil society even after making a recovery.
Dame Anne Begg, chair of the work and pensions committee, spoke in agreement of repealing the law preventing people who had suffered with mental illness for six months from standing as MPs.
Dame Anne explained that she herself had been absent from the commons for six months as she recovered from physical illness, but if she had been absent due to mental illness she would have had to stand down as an MP.
Charles Walker and Kevan Jones also supported the bill, both have been widely praised for speaking out about their own struggles with mental illness. Diane Abbott, shadow minister for public health, said that she hoped the bill would help "lift the veil of stigma" from mental illness.
Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind described September 14 as: “a momentous day for this country.” He explained: “We are shattering the glass ceiling that has for so long existed in mental health and prevented people from playing an active role in society.
“We are finally starting to make some significant leaps forward in removing the stigma that exists around mental health. However, tackling mental health discrimination is the task of a generation. It is this type of change that is taking us further down the road and will help to end discrimination in due course.”
Paul Jenkins, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness said:
Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, added:
Professor Sue Bailey, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said