In the Ghetto.
"Ghetto... segregated group or area."
The Oxford English Dictionary.
A few days ago on our local BBC radio station, the subject of mental health was raised. If I remember correctly, it was because of an announcement by Nick Clegg concerning the reduction of waiting times for mental health patient appointments. As part of this segment of the show, then, someone from a centre which teaches people with mental health problems about IT was interviewed. It wasn't the content of what this person said, though, which interested me, but the response of one of the presenters. Having done the interview, she stated that such places were wonderful because people with mental ill health could help each other and interact there, and, furthermore, they wouldn't feel any stigma about their problems in such places because they were "all in the same boat." While I would absolutely agree that such places are often invaluable to those with mental illness, I believe there's a flip-side to that argument; namely that it is all well and good to provide such welcoming environments, but when do they in fact take on an element of segregation? When do they become, for some at least, a little bit like living in a ghetto for people with mental illness?
Perhaps I'm a little biased about such things, but having had a long term mental illness myself and also having done a great deal of voluntary work for the mental health cause, I now feel as if I would like to expand my horizons. The only thing is, in my experience at least, this has been very difficult. I can assure readers that this isn't for want of trying, but finding anything beyond the scope of the mental health field has proved near impossible. Perhaps those with shorter term problems may find it easier to return to their, as it were, "normal" lives, but for those of us with conditions which have prevented this, the cross-over from mental ill health to average citizen seems beset with difficulties.
Moreover, I find that almost all of my friends now are people with experience of mental illness. I go to a group once a week for people with mental illness. Places like the Club House Network in Stoke-on-Trent provide a safe and secure environment in which people can meet, but mostly those people have experience of mental illness. So, is it really any wonder that one can begin to feel as if we've all been cordoned off somehow? We are now rid of long stay asylums, which were closed in an effort to reduce stigma and end the segregation of those with mental ill health, but what happens when that segregation doesn't disappear but seems to just move out into the community?
I don't know what the answer to this problem is, but it appears to me that there is a long, hard struggle ahead if things are to change. Perhaps problems of stigma and discrimination are improving, but for those with long-term illnesses like mine, that improvement can sometimes be difficult to feel. Indeed, for those of us who wish to expand our experience, it can begin to feel like just one more day in the ghetto.