Is Mental Health A Disability?

I’m sure I’ve commented before on how we as a movement find it difficult to accept each other or make real associations with each other and I don’t really want to revisit here but its a hot topic for me right now.

Concerns were raised at a recent hustings meeting that mental health service users were failing to recognise themselves as disabled people. I was asked to follow it up and emphasise my views the next time I do my disability equality training.

I am a proud disabled person. I have a physical impairment, a communication impairment and have experienced mental distress. Obviously you make up your own set and design your own labels for wearing. Its not something that worries me. Between my first two impairments and my later experience I tried to deny who I was and how I was being treated. I strived for normality and normality to me meant anonymity. I did not want to be known as I was nor for how I had lived.

And then politicisation happened under learning the social model of disability. We saw disability as discrimination based on impairment. Disabled people survived extreme forms of discrimination which hasn’t got any easier over the last five years. Survival gave us strength. recognising discrimination made us angry and we have every reason to be proud, angry and strong.

I don’t think mental health service users or any other impairment group for that matter need to wear the same label as me. But if they take the journey, if they believe in the social model then they are more likely to.

The sadness for me is in the excuses. “We carry enough stigma without taking on any more”. Well, don’t we all.

Another sadness is we all get on board the watered down disability benefits gravy train. We accept someone elses definition of disability as soon as we sign that dotted line but we won’t all get into the activists gang that understands the definition I’ve used above.

The differences that exist between us seem to become ever more pronounced when we meet up on a common cause. The superior crip disdains the newcomers with different impairments. We cause trouble amongst and for ourselves. I say that but I know very well the many examples were we have met successfully and accepted each other. Those examples show thepower we have when we get together and meet under the same banner.

I guess my appeal is we do this more often; share the pride, share the anger and share the strength.


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