Monthly Archives: February 2016

Mental Health Attitudes Must Change

There has been a call recently by health professionals to try to cut waiting times for mental health patients who have to wait often extended periods of time before they can access the help they require. Presently people wait weeks longer to see a consultant, much longer than they would have if they been suffering from a physical ailment.

Although this move is welcome, there still seems a great deal of work to be done in removing stigma around mental. It is not unreasonable to think that the reason mental health patients needs have been overlooked in the past may be due, in part,  to the stigma of having a mental health issue in the first place.  Although there has been moves in recent years to counter act and change attitudes towards mental health, there still seems to be a long way to go.

Many people are still afraid to tell their families they are experiencing mental poor health, and many are reluctant to tell their employer through feel of loosing there job. This needs to change. People experiencing mental health issues need to be treated with the same compassion we treat those with physical problems.

As someone who has experienced acute mental health issues, I know first hand how difficult it is to get get when you need it most. I can’t put into words the agony of being utterly desperate with nowhere to go and no support and various times of day or night. Its a very lonely place but sadly is experienced by thousands.  We all have a responsibly to try and change this, a change in attitude and care start right here with us.

Disabled People Losing Vital Money For Getting Around

mo_030575Disabled people who rely on vital monies for mobility, that enables them to have an active life and go about their daily business, are facing an uncertain future. Many thousands of disabled people rely on high rate Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to enable them to access a car via the Motability scheme to enable them to get around. Thousands are being reassessed as being fit and able to get around and are having this vital money withdrawn from them.

The issue came into the news this week when a woman with cerebral palsy, who relies on a Motability car to get around, has been told she will have to give up her car and is no longer entitled to it under the new Personal Independence Payment, or PIP. The woman, who can walk with the aid of calipers but struggles to walk without pain, can’t walk any more than 20 meters unaided. This is just another example of the attacks that disabled have endured over recent years since the conservatives came into power in 2010.

Is this the society we want to live in? There are indeed cuts to be made, money to be saved, spending priorities to be changed. But when it comes to someones very basic needs to function, in what can be an already difficult life for many, surly there is a line somewhere in the sand? How can it be that people must rely on the good will, or not, of legislators for the very basic ability to get around and function in society. Many communities already are not level playing fields for many thousands of disabled people.  So for anybody to make things more difficulty but taking away their ability to get around seems nothing short of  barbaric.

Why are people not campaigning harder and holding the government to account over this and showing them up to be the barbarians that they are? Disabled people are of course an easy target. Its difficult to mobilize themselves on to the streets of London or for them to generally make a nuance of themselves. But until there is suitable opposition, the government will continue to squeeze disabled people and attack some of the poorest in society.

More Funding for Mental Health Services

I was delighted to read that the government is about to spend millions more monies on improving mental health services in England and Wales. As someone who has experienced acute mental health problems over many years I know only too well the importance having effective services that are easy to access.

Mental health is on the increase and particularly in children too. So far services have been somewhat fragmented and disjointed but hopefully this government initiative will help link up services making it easier for people to access help, and the right help. Many police hours are taken up responding to people in crisis who need protected from themselves but have nowhere to turn to. Sadly, many mental health patients are treated as criminals and in extreme cases end up in police custody. This is an inappropriate response to many people who are simply ill but can’t get the appropriate help.

I hope that in future there will be many out of hours services where people can access support when they most need it. I also hope that people will get much easier access to the appropriate therapies that they need such as psychotherapy or CBT. At the moment it can be very difficult to get therapy unless you are in a position to pay for it. Monies are needed to make therapy much more accessible and readily available.

As someone who has relied on services at times, I am delighted that more money is being invested in mental health hope that politicians north of the border in Scotland here will take a similar approach.


Time to put an end to ‘Poverty Porn’ culture.

peepsNext Week begins the start of a new series on Channel 5 where families on welfare are offered a years worth of benefit, £26,000 in a lump sum, and in return are expected to come of benefits all together. The program makers and Channel 5 producers insist that this is a worthwhile exercise that has been tried out in other countries, and not just another example of “Poverty Porn.”

Three families across northern England, including a single mother, and a family of three with a son of 21 still living at home, will be offered the sum of £26,000 in cash in order to entice them off benefits. Programme maker Edwina Silver for Dragon Fly Productions, said that making the film was a “massive risk” to everybody involved but is hoping that in will inspire a grown up debate about welfare.

The term “poverty porn” was coined after Benefits Street, a similar series on Channel 4 that followed people living in a street in Birmingham where the majority of residents were living on benefits. Since then there has been number of TV programmes over the last 5 years the focuses on people who live on welfare.

As a disabled person who, at times in my life, has been dependant on welfare benefits for survival I find these programmes nothing but utterly deplorable. Since 2010 there has been a concentrated effort by Westminster Government, aided by the television channels, to humiliate and degrade people on welfare in order to turn others against them. I am sad  that the government are succeeding as I have experienced first hand offensive comments from strangers in the street who have commented on my lifestyle.

Granted there are no doubt people living on welfare who choose to shy away from work, however I suggest they are a small minority of claimants. The vast majority of people like myself would love to come off benefits but are prevented by doing by social and cultural barriers entrenched in our society.

If these programmes were something more constructive, other than just poverty porn, film makers would be keen to make programmes showing the other side of the social argument. However, I am yet to see a production that highlights the difficulty people face in finding employment in the first place. Single parents find it very difficult to find work that pays enough and fits in with childcare. There are many thousands of disabled people who want to work for example, but still can’t necessarily get on their local public transport and get into any building they want. I have yet see a programme the challenges larger employers over the number of disabled people they actively recruit or that even just follows the plight of disabled people looking for work. The difficulty is, these groups of people would not provide the same entertainment value and give others a reason to criticize or even dislike other people, therefore productions such as these would not be attractive to the film makers.

Television channels and film makers have a responsibility to reflect the whole of society and present a balanced view of contentious issues. They need to recognize and great sway over public opinion they have, and responsibly to represent and give a voice to all corners of society. While producers continue to make programmes that amount to nothing but sensationalist entertainment, they will continue to to do great damage and disservice to people who, through no fault of their own, rely on welfare benefits for their very survival.