Philosophy of The Big Society

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Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Whose Stigma Is It Anyway?

This is one person's view on Stigma (and where it comes from). I gather it was included in a newsletter ..apologies Margaret...not sure which one


I note that several mental health charities have launched a campaign, with strong backing and encouragement from the government, to combat discrimination against people like me who suffer mental health problems. While, on the face of it, this might seem an admirable project, it seems very largely targeted at employers, while I would argue that the worst offenders are, the government itself, many service providers and several of the charities who purport to speak on our behalf.

I would, further, charge the government with having greatly increased stigma by its long campaign to bring in a new mental health act which emphasised our dangerousness Fortunately, there was strong opposition to many of its proposals, and it has only succeeded in bringing in amendments to the 1983 act. However, these amendments include the imposition of Community Treatment Orders and a considerable widening of the definition of those who might become subject to compulsion, and this without any increase in funding or any research to confirm that the use of compulsion is, in most cases, anything other than deeply counterproductive. The Mental Capacity Act encourages everyone to make an ADVANCE DECISION stating how they wish to be treated should they lack capacity in the future but specifically states that your wishes can be overridden in the case of mental illness. On top of this, in its aggressive campaign to get people of benefits it has targeted those with mental health problems, completely ignoring the fact that many of us are deeply disabled by our illness and that compliance with the very medication that they wish to compel us to take can exacerbate the problem as it often has highly sedative effects. They have greatly added to the depression and severe anxiety which many suffer and they seem to have no conception that labelling people as malingerers and benefit scroungers not only has a very negative effect on their mental health but is not likely to make them a very attractive proposition to potential employers. I would hasten to add that nothing I have said above implies that there is not very real discrimination against us in the jobs market and many talented and able people who would benefit greatly from suitable employment.

It is also highly discriminatory of the government and the NHS to aim to offer a choice of 4 hospitals for their operations to people, while stubbornly refusing to offer us any choice of ward to us or even ensure that wards meet even basic minimum standards or that there are an adequate number of beds for those who desperately need a safe and supportive environment with lots of TLC at times of crisis. With all this emphasis on compulsory treatment, one might also suppose that medication and/or the latest talking treatment offer sure cures for our problems. This is very far from being the case, pills help some and not others and often have very unpleasant and even life-threatening side-effects and CBT helps some but not others, too. even in our madness we remain human beings and, as such, have very complex and individual needs even if we have the same diagnosis. I know that there are some excellent wards out there somewhere but not the one I was on. It was noisy, unsafe and the environment was deeply untherapeutic and too many are like it and worse – bog standard one size fits nobody. In this context, it is deeply galling to tead the comments of professor Appleby – the ‘mental health tsar’ who seems to regard his role as to defend the government through thick and thin and dismisses widespread reports of sexual and physical assault on wards in the most derogatory way.

Finally, I would like to add that I am hugely fortunate in that I have very good neighbours who know about my problems and understand my needs much better than those who ‘looked after’ me on the ward and I have every confidence that they would look after me properly and keep me safe should I become manic again but there is absolutely no prospect of my consenting to go into hospital on a voluntary basis. By contrast I know many sufferers face nothing but hostility or even the possibility of being attacked by their neighbours.

Margaret Jessop


  1. Hi Margaret,

    The national anti-stigma campaign obviously is irrationally tilted towards employers and away from Government and mental health system and it's a scandal that supposedly user focussed MH charities profited from colluding with the DWP on this policy bias trying to create a punitive system to arm twist MH service users off benefits and into work irrespective of their condition or realistic prospect of remaining in the workplace.

    We know they did this as the whole scheme was based on targets and quotas decided in advance by DWP policy makers and just like the financial markets none of this massively funded activity was properly regulated or audited and generating impressions of policy success became all.

    We also know that there was no real support in place to help those service users who really felt able and wanted to get back into some form of employment. I've been looking for quality training and employment support for 2 years and have just given up .

    It doesn't exist.

    It's talked up by people who get funded to talk the talk.

    Rather than admit this the master plan's architects and their lackeys have taken flight as the recessionary brown stuff has hit the fan. Lord Layard is keeping schtumm , David Freud has jumped ship , Sue Baker of Mind has quietly dropped her threats to sue employers and the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health's Bob Groves - who publicly fantasised about getting ridiculous numbers of long term MH service users into work - now reverts to pathetic scare tactics to protect his pet project, reputation and job from mass employment this bungling employment expert didn't see coming.

    Dated 8 December 2008

    Skilled workforce urgently needed to support people with mental health problems into work

    Government needs to take concerted action to build a workforce that can support its ambitious plans to help people with mental health problems to get and keep work, according to a paper published today by Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health and the College of Occupational Therapists.

    Vocational Rehabilitation: what is it, who can deliver it and who pays? argues that the UK has a serious shortage of people with the skills they need to offer expert help, both to people who need support to stay in their jobs and to those who want to get jobs. Unless we invest now in people to deliver expert support, the Government's ambition to help millions of people with mental health problems to work will not be achieved.

    The government needs to take concerted action to save Bob groves' job more like!

    Notice how the 'ambitious plans' have now become the Governments alone as Dr Groves , who was really eager for the disabled Surrey and Borders garden centre workers to work for nothing , now ' urgently 'grovels for funds to save his academic credibility and keep paying his mortgage.

    Along with NIMHE 'Top Down' experts like Groves and Sue Baker have wasted millions on fantasy Employment Master Plans when they could have encouraged quality targeted support to those people with MH issues who felt able and wanted to work instead of trying to press gang people into half baked Government schemes on the back of the self serving '1 in 4 people has MH problems' bulshit..

    This irrational over emphasis on employment negatively impacted on service users in other ways too as while Bob Groves , Sue Baker , Jonathan Naess ( a former City AIM market regulator would you believe...) , Andrew McCulloch , David Crepaz Keay ( I want to be an Economist..) and Co were hobnobbing it with Professor Graham Thornicroft , the self-professed world leading authority on MH Stigma and Discrimination , MH services nosedived so badly that Thornicroft's own employer ,the South London and Maudsley Foundation Trust (SLaM) was slammed by the Healthcare Commission for running the worst community MH services in the country.

    Professor Thornicroft wont even comment on what mechanisms there are to monitor the stigma and discrimination of his own employer as he doesnt think there is any need for any.

    Not one of the national mental health charities that had built up overly close mutually profitable relationships with Thornicroft and SlaM through Anti-Stigma and Discrimination campaign work or Institute of Psychiatry research said anything about the abysmal performance of this supposedly flagship MH Foundation Trust.

    Nor did SLaM it praised a Health Commission finding of excellence in one area but buried the report and 1 month later even its Patient Liason and Complaints Managers were unaware of the Healthcare Commission's finding yet SLaM informed the press at the time of the report that it would learn from the experience.

    How if SLaM refuses to acknowledge its failings on its ownm website and even keeps its abysmal performance a secret from its own staff !

    But this is nothing new in MH circles. Service users opinions , and the Healthcare Commission finding was based on user servey responses , are seldom respected or allowed to get in the way of the MH professionals agenda.

    The MH charities closely linked to SLam also said and did nothing when SLaM closed its 24 hr Emergency Clinic even though the fallout from this has led to a local media campaign and all the MP's within SLaM's catchment area forgetting their party differences and linking up to raise the issue with the Health Secretary on behalf of service users and the local community.

    That's a grassroots community effort feeding into Government being ignored by the campaigning charities . This is a clear sign that the majority of Britain's greedy national mental health charities no longer care how mental health service users are treated by services. They've moved on to their own agenda or would have done if it hadn't been for the recession. Now they are back peddling for more money.

    These charities have morally bankrupted themselves with their networked and endlessly duplicated anti-stigma and discrimination campaigns and they have nothing to show for it but yet more scaremongering from the well paid charity bosses as per the useless Dr Groves above to continue to ensure that they are rewarded for failure .

  2. Norm

    I worked on a SU and Carer Involvement Policy for soon as the DWP got involved, it took away all the 'supportive' measures and any whiff of reimbursement for time and work.

    Punitive is too kind a word in relation to the DWP's view of supported work for the disabled.As for all accounts what they are offering those who have recently lost their jobs isn't worth taking so can't imagine what they are offering disabled people is any cop.

    There is, however, a plethera of organisations (and some set up quite recently) looking at employment opportunities for the mentally ill. I know this because I get all the emails telling me what magnificent achievements are being made by endless conferences for people to attend and workgroups/forums to join.

    I hear David Freud (one of the Shining Lights of New Labour's 'Return to Work' ethic has jumped ship and joined the Tories. Once a wanker, always a wanker!!!

  3. Manders,

    Yes the deliberate undermining of support but refusal to look at more flexible approaches to day activities and work are two key pillars of the punitive DWP driven approach.

    The whole Surrey and Borders garden centre fiasco was caused by the SCMH quackademics advising SABPT to cut the pittance paid to the disabled garden centre workers because they wanted it used as an employment training centre for ' fitter 'service users who could then be catapaulted out into the community in an all or nothing way as proof of concept.

    I tried speaking to Bob Groves about this but he never returned my phonecalls. A typical MH expert, top down and oblivious to the views of the people he claims to serve.

    Totally agree about David Freud being a wanker .He jumped ship to distance himself from his own poor judgment and role in laughable policy failure.

    By the way, the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health updated its employment page content today dropping the incredible leader:

    " The Government wants to help millions of people with mental health problems to work."

    in a rare act of deference to reality.

    Someone needs to give Dr Bob Groves a push because like that other great fraud Bernard Maddoff , the fucker isnt going to jump!