The 1950’s and ‘60’s were dark times for the equality/ antidiscriminatory movement.
Back in those well-informed (sarc) times one could expect to see signs bearing the legend above in b & b’s and small hotels up and down the country.
Such actions lead to quite a famous man coming up with the following lines in a speech…
‘I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.’
Martin Luther King Jnr.
The fascinating thing was that, at the time, these people had come to the UK to provide workers in areas where there were shortages – the NHS, public transport and so on.
Instead of welcoming these folk with open arms, quite surprisingly, many of the good people of the UK chose to discriminate.
The government responded by putting legislation in place that made it illegal for employers and service providers to discriminate on the grounds of colour or ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation and religious beliefs.
Not political correctness gone mad – but a reaction to the madness of discrimination and prejudice.
For your typical wandering lunatic, there is legislation in place that provides us with the same protection – The Disability Discrimination Act (1995) which was updated in 2005 which places an onus on local authorities to promote equality for people with a disability.
Not political correctness…oh, I’ve said that already.
I have been slightly unnerved by the recent Eurosceptic stance that argues that the bureaucrats in Europe have set legislation that balances employment laws in favour of the employees.
Instead, our UKIP inclined individuals feel we should support the employers at all cost. With regards folk with a mental health problem, the most extreme opinion I’ve heard is that we should work for below the minimum wage.
As ever though, I digress.
Imagine my excitement then, when I heard that the BBC’s flagship radio programme for people with a mental malady, ‘All in the Mind’, stated that part of the show would look into the issue of folk with mental health problems and employment.
You can find the programme here
In it she talks to Nicola Oliver from the Centre of Mental Health – a south east based charity – about their Individual Placement and Support scheme – and how they deal wth this issue ‘Head on’.
They open up with the startling statistic that only 4 in 10 employers in the UK would employ someone with a mental health problem. Which means 60 percent won’t.
So, they explain that work is good for folk with a mental health problem – it helps with recovery, it gives one an identity – it helps to overcome symptoms – Nicola says there’s research to back this up – I’ve looked at their website here
– if you call a study done by the company that is selling IPS, ‘research’ then who am I to argue?
The scheme does not support the idea of supported work placements – no, they want real proper paid work for real proper people. They tell us we live in a competitive world – and they enable the folk they work with to get on. They don’t have people on courses with other people with mental health problems. They provide an employment specialist who is integrated with the local community mental health team – this person provides help with the finding and applying for work – they get people back into work quickly, providing ‘training’ once the person is at work.
They talk about ‘disclosure’ of the person’s mental health problem. An unfortunate word – I think – because, depending on which dictionary you use – ‘disclosure’ is defined as revealing something that is hidden.
Semantics, Chris, semantics…read on…
Ok, we have laws that make discrimination on the grounds of one’s metal health punishable by death.
What…? Sorry, my mistake…punishable by a harsh talking to and a considerable time on the naughty step.
So, should folk with long term mental health problems ‘disclose’ the fact that they have these to their potential employer?
Well, ‘No,’ says Nicola Oliver of the (not ‘a’, but ‘the’) centre of mental health – we shouldn’t disclose our difficulties until we are offered the job, and even then, well, it’s up to you….
So, let’s see…you’re future employer is going through your application …
hmmm….unexplained absence from work for several years? Yes, we’ll have him – yes please.
Ok, we get through that sticky part by explaining that we’d been abducted by aliens – we have the interview and yay – they employ us.
‘Oh, by the way, I have a long history of ‘x’ which may mean I’ll have long, occasionally erratic periods off work…’
Employer…’Jolly good, I still trust you like my first born son….’
So, to deal with this problem ‘Head on’ we lie? We fly under the radar and ‘BOOM’, we’re in, they can’t sack us for any mental health related malady – hurrah!
They talk about the poor employers who don’t really understand mental health problems (Blacks, Jews, Irish, Gays…) and so instead of putting them through the tricky dilemma…’I read about people with mental health problems in the Super Sensational Soaraway Sun – these people eat their own children and own yachts, paid for by tax payers money, whilst going on random killing sprees…I’ll give them a go…’ or not…
My concern was the disparaging way she spoke of supported employment and courses with other people with mental health problems. One of the biggest supports that I have experienced in recent times was when I joined a social group with the folk with same mental health thing as me. What did it give me? Validation. These are fine people with a difficulty – they were human – they were dazzlingly normal – they were like me. Which meant being like me wasn’t quite so bad.
IPS is cheap. IPS is quick. And, if they’re honest, they provide a service for people who are most likely to make their service look good.
Not disclosing your mental health problem means secrecy from your workmates. From my own experience and those of many of the people with mental health problems around me this secrecy is a bad thing. Imagine being at work with a whole bunch of crazy thoughts whistling through your head with nobody to go to.
This is a two way thing. Yes we live in a competitive world – people with mental health problems have much to contribute to it. At the same time we live in a society that has a responsibility to all its people – from each according to ability – to each according to need (Marx) would be a good start.
At the start of the piece, nobody batted an eye when we were told that 60% of employers would not employ someone with a mental health problem. Instead of dealing with them, the IPS scheme seems to be keen on making folk with a mental health problem ‘work’ a dysfunctional system.
I have a dream that one day the discrimination borne of ignorance against people with a mental health problems will come to an end through education.
I have a dream that one day charities who purport to support folk with mental health problems, but instead fuel institutional discrimination, will have no place in the service sector.
This is not a quick fix – it’s a very slow fix – changing beliefs and attitudes doesn’t happen overnight. The longest of journeys starts with just one step.
Walk a mile