06/08/16 Shit science and lazy reporting tells us that nearly everyone is a prejudicial bastard

Pitchforks? Check.

Torches? Check.

Hoards of angry villagers? Check.

Shall we begin? 

This week I read an article in the Independent that tells us that 

‘Majority of Britons ‘uncomfortable’ letting someone with mental illness look after their child, study finds’

Driving home the point they were making, just in case we’d missed it with

‘Research suggests deep-rooted stigma against people with mental health issues prevails in the U.K.’

Bastards! 90% of people are still stigmatising people with mental health problems after all we’ve done…

This is obviously yet another case of blind prejudice – why do we fucking bother…?
But let’s look a little closer at the study that generated these claims 

What were people actually being asked? 

People were asked to express their opinions on people with mental health problems based on these 2 paragraphs. 

Scenario 1 – Andy (schizophrenia symptoms):

‘Andy was doing pretty well until six months ago. But then things started to change. He thought that people around him were criticising him and talking behind his back. Andy heard voices even though no one else was around. These voices told him what to do and what to think. Andy couldn’t work any more, stopped joining in with family activities and started to spend most of the day in his room.’

And…

Scenario 2 – Stephen (depression symptoms):

‘Stephen has been feeling really down for about six months and his family have noticed that he hasn’t been himself. He doesn’t enjoy things the way he normally would. He wakes up early in the morning with a flat heavy feeling that stays with him all day long. He has to force himself to get through the day, and even the smallest things seem hard to do. He finds it hard to concentrate on anything and has no energy.’

Are these accurate descriptions of everyone who’s ever experienced mental health problems? 

In 2 paragraphs? 

What about the times when Stephen and/ or Andy asymptomatic? When they are both aware they have a long standing mental health problem – but they aren’t experiencing the symptoms at the moment.

The vast majority of people I know experience mental ill health in a cyclical way – for example, I’m not always lost in a world of dissociation where nothing appears to be real. 

Quite often I’m a rather switched on, empathetic kind of guy. 

At times though, I’m not. 

When folk were responding to this attitudes survey, where they thinking about the 1 in 4 of us who will experience a mental health problem? 

Were they thinking purely about Andy and/ or Stephen? 

Were they thinking about the seemingly endless stream of psychos and maniacs who feature in the myriad (usually) American cop shows?

Or the folk with mental maladies who harm themselves and/ or others who regularly bob up in the mainstream media? 

Perhaps they were thinking about those of us they see as vulnerable souls, who need large organisations to fight our corner, to speak on our behalf? 

Maybe they’re thinking about those benefit scroungers we’re still told so much about? 

They might even be thinking about the swathes of folk with mental health problems with whom they’d love to engage – but for some reason feel they can’t, because they don’t know the right language – perhaps they feel blocked by political correctness?

What about the millions of folk with mental health problems who have children? Do the folk who participated in this study think that they should have their children removed? Or should they receive support? Maybe a bit of both.

Perhaps they considered none of these things – instead imagining the 2 individuals they were presented with in those 2 paragraphs – confined by all the limitations of information that such a quandary presents. 

Perhaps they actually know someone with a mental malady? We do, after all, walk among you. 

There are over 15 million of us in the UK alone. 

This is little more than shonky science, treated as fact by lazy reporting. 
The headline, ‘People don’t want their children looked after by Stephen and Andy when they have limited information about their mental health problems’ isn’t quite so punchy though, is it? 

Do what I do. Get out there. Meet people. Talk to folk. 

Like me, you’ll soon come to realise people are fabulous.

Yes, I know mental health stigma, prejudice and discrimination exist – but that’s for another blog….

Walk a mile

Chris

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