Last week I had the temerity to speak out against some large supermarkets and others for selling “psycho patient” costumes for Halloween, which was published in the Worcester News and Berrows Journal and also on line at:
I myself, like 1 in 4 of us, have had mental health challenges and I know something of the stigma attached to mental illness personally and in my previous career as a Psychiatric Nurse. I have been with patients and friends when they have been mocked in the street, and seen how this contributed to their illnesses. So when I said that the selling of these costumes was a retrograde step, I thought I was just stating the obvious; an issue with which any right-minded person would agree.
But if the comments to the online version of the article are anything to go by, I was completely wrong (all bar one). According to nameless commentators I was, one of the “professionally offended” portraying a “bull**** politically correct world” and trying to turn Britain into “the Germans,” apparently meaning ‘with no sense of humour.’ No one said “let’s kick a psycho!” but we weren’t far off. I have to say I was a little taken aback, and my friends told me that the trick is not to read the comments; but that is to let the bigoted win.
Now don’t get me wrong- I am in favour of free speech and freedom of the press; they are pillars of democracy. But I am also in favour of supporting the vulnerable, the oppressed, and the marginalised in society; that is a tenet of Christianity and a caring community. But what concerned me more was that the comments did not seem to represent the full ranges of views but only one limited viewpoint. And the people who met me and had read the article said it was helpful.
And it got me reading and thinking.
And so I read the comments for other articles; and it seemed that the same group of people comment negatively on everything. This is, of course, their right; but it is not necessarily helpful.
And so I thought: “Where are all the comments from people who agree with me?” Do they exist- or am I the only one thinking that way. Why do others, myself included, not take on others views and present the positive. And how would it feel if I had a mental health issue and read these views.
Tell you what, why don’t we flood the negative comments with the positive? With the decent, compassionate voices. With the views that let those who have a mental illness know that they have our support and care not our criticism and vitriole.
Now I don’t want to overstate the case, but I was reminded of Edward Burkes aphorism: “In order for evil to flourish, all that is required is for good men to do nothing.” Burke was talking about one of the greatest evils this world has ever seen, the Nazi Holocaust; where Jews, and gypsies and the mentally ill were ‘eliminated’. But I still think that whenever humanity is minimized, the oppressed persecuted and the ill pilloried, we have to speak out or be less than human ourselves.
And that’s what I did. And am proud to have done it. Perhaps you might visit the online article and add a comment which would reclaim the balance. Who knows, one small word might make the world a better place.