Greetings from the Mental Health Resistance. You probably don’t know us, and we don’t know you. But in the last few days we have been talking about you, amongst ourselves and with our friends at Recovery in The Bin.
We became aware of the “Caretaking in the Community” debate to be held at the Old Vic on May 3rd some weeks back. At that time your participation had not been announced, and we noted that the panel consisted of powerful and privileged voices, which many of us feel do not represent us, our lives or our experiences.
Using the hashtag #NothingAboutUSWithoutUS we contacted the Old Vic and strongly suggested that a voice that does represent our experience should be included. We even suggested an academic and author who has lived experience of Mental Health issues, and who has campaigned alongside us. Perhaps they think we are marginal voices, but they chose not to have a real discussion with us, and then suddenly your name appeared on your bill.
To be honest none of us knew who you were but our research tells us that you do have lived experience, that this has been written about , and that you (like some of us) are also a successful academic and artist – especially in the fields of photography and videography. This suggests that you are likely to be hyper aware that the way in which something is ‘framed’ very much affects the way in which it is presented and perceived.
The debate is discussing the question “Are we failing those suffering from mental ill health in the UK?” noting that “It is estimated that around three-quarters of people with mental health problems in the UK receive no care at all.” That qualification in itself tells us that many of those affected by MH issues are marginalised, stigmatised, neglected and silenced.
The MHRN was set up in late 2010, to fight the Welfare Reforms as we, campaigners and service users/survivors from differing backgrounds correctly foresaw the neoliberal nightmare that the issue of Mental Health was to become under the the coalition government ….. and which has become even more dystopian since the Tories found themselves elected as a majority party.
One of our first acts was to initiate a Judicial review against the murderous Work Capability Assessment. The Judicial Review found that the WCA places those with MH issues at a ‘substantial disadvantage’ – particularly in light of the difficulties many of us (neglected, marginalised, stigmatised and silenced) face in understanding our own trauma and distress.
One of your fellow panelists became caught up in the flack when the charities , who had failed to mount the challenge (despite their huge budgets and legal departments) were convinced (shamed into) supporting the challenge. Years later the DWP has yet to take any meaningful action to address that ‘substantial disadvantage’ identified by the Judicial Review.
Yet Paul Farmer has chaired the Mental Health Taskforce and been awarded the ‘prestige’ of being a Commander of the British Empire (which we find revolting bearing in mind that there are many Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) users of Mental Health services and there is little that we can see of the history of Empire to feel proud of, let alone perpetuate).
Our friends at Recovery In The Bin are also long established survivors and campaigners, many going back to the days of Mad Pride. They are particularly critical of the Recovery Model, and the way that the Service User movement and Recovery concept seem to have been hijacked and perverted in the service of the neoliberal politics that are pushed by corporations (big pharma and ‘welfare to work) and their tame politicians.
We fear that your inclusion on the panel may mean that the answers are only framed by those who are in positions of privilege and power (in your case relatively so). We do believe that people paying to see the debate may be interested in hearing some of what we have to say in answer to the central question of the debate, and we are scrambling about trying to get people to submit articles, artwork and poetry that help expand the debate and give pause for thought about the wider issues that those still suffering think need urgent addressing. The plan is to bring those contributions into a zine called ‘Mad Old Vic‘ which we will offer to attendees and participants in the debate to take away with them.
Please consider the request and let us know.
We will be outside the theatre on the day, and would love to chat to you and answer any questions you might have.
Love ‘n rage
The Mental health Resistance Network