Yesterday I spent a while with a group of service users and their supporters hanging around the gates of Thorpe Park. Only Katie Sutton, initiator of the online petition “Thorpe Park – close down the stigma”, was allowed on the grounds, and then only to hand in the 5800+ strong petition printed out in hard copy. This was a smart move on Thorpe Park’s part; everyone arrives either by car or by shuttle bus from the station, so there was no chance of anyone other than pre-warned local press stopping to to talk to us.
I decided not to dress up, but I did have a placard. I kept it really simple, because this is all I really wanted people to know:
I don’t go around wearing a strait jacket. I don’t wield an axe. The only time I get remotely scary is if I receive really bad customer service, but I’m usually easily placated by an apology and my money back. If you add up all the hours, I’ve spent far more time as an NHS employee caring for others than I have a have as a “mental patient.” I believe that falsely linking mental illness and violence can harm people like me. That’s the problem with the Asylum: nothing to do with hating fun, hating Halloween or hating horror. I read and watch plenty of zombies, vampires and werewolves and I’ve loved trick or treating with my kids. The thing I don’t like, that I am justifiably afraid of, is stigma.
12% of people agree that it is frightening to think of people with mental illness living in a residential neighbourhood
17% think that locating mental health facilities in a residential area downgrades the neighbourhood
21% of people think that someone should be hospitalised at the first sign of mental disturbance
(Attitudes Towards Mental Illness 2011 Survey Report)
Those statistics are scary. The last one especially, 1 in 5 people think I should be hospitalised. How many people do I know? there’s 120 in my office alone that means about 24 people.
I remember once in a class full of social work students, one of the students, when talking about group care and institutions saying along the lines of “well, I wouldn’t want someone like that living next door to me”, referring to a person with mental health problems. 3 people walked out.
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Coo, if only hospitalisation was that efficient, is my one comment! 😉
Those facts should be doubled or perhaps tripled in my country 😦
I’m a grandmother raising mentally disabled grandchildren in Hamilton, ON, Canada and the biggest threat to my grandchildren’s safety is that they don’t look mentally disabled, therefore, people assume they have no excuse for their impulsive, sometimes aggressive behaviour. Getting more information out into neighbourhoods about mental health is vital if disabled people are going to live productive sociable lives. Thank you for your post- please check out my website at http://www.challengedhope.com – Barbara