Dave's Progress. Chapter 77: Equality or Nothing.

I have been attending the Pathways Group at my local mental health residential unit for around three years now. The group is there for those with sometimes long-term or severe mental ill health. Although facilitated by staff, it aims to be user led. That is, run by the patients or group members themselves. Alongside this, I have also been doing voluntary work at the Media Action Group for Mental Health for around the same time. Both these activities have been valuable in my recovery. While the Pathways Group has provided me with an important social outlet and also valuable information both about my illness and ways of coping with it, my voluntary work has given me no end of confidence in my ability to cope with at least some work. In fact, I have been told at MAGMH that the volume and quality of work I have done is commendable. So, as I have perhaps said in previous blogs that I begin to feel a sometime frustration that I have not gone further in life, no doubt albeit due to ill health, perhaps, after three years, it is time to think about moving on and trying for more.
The only problem is, what do I move on to? And where, if anywhere, can I get help in making a real and concerted effort to do so?
By coincidence, however, one of the CPN's (community psychiatric nurse) who facilitates the Pathways Group has decided to now split the group in two, one part remaining at the Bennett Centre, the other relocating to Brunswick House. The new group will still be run on the same day and at the same time, but will be for those who want to "move on" from the existing group. As new members will be joining the group, some just out of hospital, they will be at a level of recovery not commensurate to my own and some others in the group, hence the new venue for those of us who have achieved a certain level of "wellness". The CPN in question is very excited about this development and indeed, it does sound like a positive move in the right direction. Just what this new group will do still remains unknown to me, and in so far as that I can not judge. However, will I get help in perhaps trying to return to some form of paid work, for example, hence becoming more economically, not just domestically, independent?
I don't know, but it seems to me that such things are very low on the agenda of mental health services for those with long-standing or severe conditions. Indeed, I recently wrote an article, entitled "Schizophrenia and the work ethic: is it time to stop thinking and start doing?" In the article I pointed out that I felt I had come up against a culture of low expectation within mental health services perhaps because of the nature of my illness. It seems to me that many of us are over-qualified and under-stimulated. It does not appear to occur to services that we have a whole week to fill besides the two hours we spend at the Pathways Group, and that being under-stimulated, to a bright individual, is perhaps as psychologically debilitating as over-stimulation is to those who are in the throes of illness. So it is that, maybe, those of us who want to get on and return to a more normal life will face prejudice not only in finding work, but will have this hole to climb out of before they can even consider a return to a more "normal" existence.
The statistics, also, would seem to bear out this point of view, with something like in excess of 75% of those who have experienced psychotic illness being unemployed. According to Professor Graham Thornicroft, the effects of long-term unemployment can be "material poverty, loss of confidence, an impoverished social network, and a sense of being without any social value." Is it any wonder that with rates of unemployment so high amongst those with severe mental illness that these effects are often mirrored in their own lives? It would seem that we share the same problems. Indeed, it may be that unemployment often leads to mental ill health and that, conversely, mental ill health leads to unemployment. To my mind, there is this aching void, then, a veritable chasm, in the services provided to us. Perhaps we can not get back in to paid work without at least some help, but from where is this help forthcoming?
I was heartened to find, recently, in a social exclusion report issued by the deputy Prime Minister's office of the previous government, that the culture of low expectation was a recognised phenomenon and that the then incumbents were going to tackle it, saying that opportunities should be open to all, whatever their diagnosis. And I repeat, whatever their diagnosis.
Now, however, with the Conservative-Liberal government in place, one can only guess at what measures will be put in place, aside from freezing benefits and attempting to just throw us back in to work.
Further, if I recount a small but rather annoying occurrence which took place at the Pathways new "lifestyle" group it will perhaps illustarte my frustrations. This is a new group which aims to get us all fitter and healthier. As it is a long-held bugbear of those who feel themselves stigmatised that their physical health is often overlooked because of their mental ill health, this is surely a tonic. One can not criticise services here. However, during one of the sessions, in which we looked over diaries of exercise taken and food eaten, one lady remarked to me, "Oh, you went out for a walk at Westport Lake. That's good isn't it? Getting out in to the community?" Well, excuse me, but where does she think I live- in a hole in the ground? I have been out of hospital and living in the "community" now for over five years. Yet, she would appear to think that because of my mental illness I would have some form of problem in this area. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate all the help I am being given, but if such patronising attitudes are indicative of public opinion, then I'm afraid I'm going to have to get a little bit radical. This remark, no matter how innocently it was intended, brought to mind all of my frustrations with services and it seemed as if I had gone back ten years in time. And in my frustration I can say that if that is the best that can be done, then I shall forgo the help I'm given and launch out by myself. If I don't get what I want, I shall get it in my own way. Or, as the old saying goes, if you want something doing, do it yourself. Or, to put it even more bluntly, it's time for equality, or else nothing.
That's all for now from your normal, average, delusional and paranoid man.


bazza said…
David, I think this is one of the best written posts I have seen of yours. Whatever problems you may, or may not have, communication is certainly not one of them, (no patronising intended!)
I have a client at work (I am a business adviser) who is severely disabled by cerebral palsey. That, however, would not be her view of herself. She told me that she got annoyed when people would speak to her mother instead of her, (the "does he take sugar?" syndrome.)
She does not seek sympathy, special treatment or charity. All she wants is to be a normal, hard-nosed business person in her own right; and she will be.
You clearly illustrate some of the problems our society imposes on any kind of perceived differences. Good luck with your moving forward.
David said…
Dear bazza,
Thank you for your enlightened and kind remarks.
I suppose that it is all about how one perceives oneself and how others, through your diagnosis, perceive you. While I view myself as a fairly "normal", relatively intelligent, capable person, my diagnosis has ramifications, in the public mind, of severe dysfunction, even criminality, deviance or violence. It even falls in to the category of "severe" disability. I guess this is where such patronising attitudes come from, knowledge about mental ill health being what it is.
Like your client at work, all I want is to be treated equitably with the rest of humanity and afforded the same opportunities.
Thanks once again bazza. Your comments offer encouragement and an understanding of the issues involved.
Yours with Very Best Wishes,
klahanie said…
Dear David,
You have touched upon a number of points. Some encouraging in your own recovery, some I find rather disillusioning.
I will not go into great detail because we had a lengthy chat about this at your house.
So I will just make reference to a key element of your posting. I have had similar situations to the one you described in regards to that lady. The worrying part was that it happened on a regular basis to me within the mental health services on offer. It appears we have some ways to go.
I personally have shunned the services available out of sheer frustration. I firmly believe I have coped better on my own.
Wishing you well in your own ongoing journey of recovery. You know I am here for you, friend.
A provocative and excellent posting, David.
With very kind wishes, Gary.
David said…
Dear Gary,
Thanks for your comment.
As you say we have discussed this topic, so I shall not bang on about it here.
Thanks for being there, though, Gary- you have already offered support and encouragement through your comments and I know you always do your best to help others.
Thanks once again,
江婷 said…
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皇銘 said…
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芸茂 said…
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dcrelief said…
Hi David,
This is one of your finest I think. Your strength, confidence and ability to convey your thoughts wins the day. Do yourself a great kindness and keep a copy of it with you at all times. It's like a grand prescription of focus!

David, you can use the services as well as find other outlets for freedom that you want. Freedom to be the man you know you are today. (college mentor, business seminars, or perhaps the Writing Guild, comes to mind.) You have so many talents to explore.

A wise person once told me that all answers I seek are within myself. Kind regards to you.
David said…
Dear dc,
Thanks for your encouraging and supportive comments. As always, your kind and wise remarks give me inspiration in my ongoing journey through recovery.
Thanks once again,
Yours with Very Best Wishes,
王名仁 said…
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楊儀卉 said…
Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.............................................................
陳佑發 said…
誠紋 said…

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