I have mental health problems. But don’t worry, I’m not going to kill you. I’m not even going to hurt you. I won’t hit you or throw something at you. Hell, it’s pretty damn unlikely that I’ll even shout abuse at you. Well, maybe if I really dislike you I will. I don’t own a gun, so I’m not going to shoot you. I’m anti-gun so we can scrub filling you full of holes off the list. My meds ensure that I’m bloody shattered all the time so that rules out hacking you to pieces with an axe. It would be far too heavy. I’d just be dragging it along the ground, sparks flying everywhere while you outrun me. I suppose this rules out any form of frenzied chainsaw attack. I wouldn’t be able to get it started. Can you imagine? There I would be, hockey mask on face, laughing manically and shouting some corny line like “It’s time for you to LOG OUT!”. You would be terrified. That was until I pulled on the cord, over and over until I resembled a feeble Mr Burns all dressed up for Hallowe’en. Ah, Hallowe’en. More on this later.
But first, let’s deal with the front page of today’s Sun. “1,200 KILLED BY MENTAL PATIENTS” it screamed.
“WHAT THE HELL??” I screamed. It’s as if the staff of The Sun had a meeting and all decided that there just isn’t enough stigma attached to mental health. Not only are you socially unacceptable, you’re now psychotic killer, too. I don’t really want to discuss the contents of the article. I feel numb because of it. Here we are in late 2013 and still, society continues to vilify, bully and stigmatise those who suffer from mental health issues. Now, we’ve all heard the statistics. One in four of us will suffer from some form of mental illness in our lives. So, if 25% of the population have it, why are there so few who speak openly about it? Well, because of idiotic front pages like today, that’s why?
I’ve been writing about my own battles with depression for some time now. I have no problem letting anyone know about this. But society has deemed us who suffer as outcasts. How the hell can anyone ask to get help if they’re made to feel like a fraud for having an illness?
The mental health charity SAMH released an appalling statistic recently. 40% of employers wouldn’t hire someone with a mental health problem. You want me to let that sink in for a while? Okay, long enough. Now join me in the slow hand clap. With the ongoing fight about discrimination over ageism in the workplace front and centre, it seem we dropped the ball regarding mental health. Again. As a society, we’re making an awful bad habit of that.
It doesn’t help when the biggest of companies brazenly mock mental health problems with their Hallowe’en costumes. Yep, good old Tesco and Asda. Both were guilty of selling items that were offensive. Let’s try something, then. Let’s change the illness. How about this? –
HALLOWE’EN COSTUME! DRESS UP AS CANCER PATIENT! Have you ever wondered what it would be like to look like you have cancer? Then wonder no longer with this fab Hallowe’en costume from Asco Supermarket! The costume comes with a hospital gown, a “bald” cap (for that “just had chemo” look), some yellow face paint to look sick, and a portable stand with a drip feed (easily attached with velcro). Only £19.99!
This would never happen, would it? It would be completely awful. Why then, was it okay for Tesco and Asda to sell costumes mocking the mentally ill?
We’re still stuck with the same old attitudes. To have a mental illness is to be a loony. A violent, unpredictable character capable of harm and brutal acts. Well, the truth is quite the opposite. Those who suffer a mental condition are far more likely to come to harm themselves rather than commit a vicious act. But let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good, ill-researched opinion, eh?
There were some who called this a knee-jerk reaction. Where was our sense of humour? It’s only a costume. How can it be offensive when it’s funny? Oh aye, that’s right. I often recall the times I utterly pissed myself laughing at how depressed I was. My belly ached as I tried to force the suicidal thoughts from my tortured mind. My sides split as I took the razor blade across my arms. Sometimes I was giggling so hard, I couldn’t clean up the blood.
This wasn’t just a error of judgement. These costumes must have been seen, then sanctioned by, umpteen supposedly intelligent people in management on several occasions. Quite how they got so far is a mystery. The costumes and the management, I mean.
We’re in the middle of Scottish Mental Health Week. This Thursday, October 10th is World Mental Health Day. Charities, organisations and activists will be holding events and activities to raise awareness and hopefully gain new supporters for this important cause.
We have to change as people. We have to smash the stigma that has been associated for far too long with mental health. We need to speak out about our experiences and encourage those that are suffering to seek help. We need to make mental health a socially acceptable illness to have. And when we do, those awful statistics will fall. And when they do, it’s a sure-fire bet that it’s the last we’ll see of these awful costumes and hideous front pages we’ve seen in recent times.