Thanks, Sun! Challenging the mental health system, one lie at a time

Whether you’ve been a mental patient yourself, or merely cared for someone who is, it’s easy to feel let down by system. It’s not that there aren’t plenty of devoted healthcare professionals out there, people who are more than ready treat each patient as an individual, but sometimes it’s not enough. Care provision can be patchy, medication unreliable and wider social support networks non-existent. Thank goodness, then, for the Sun.

With today’s 1,200 KILLED BY MENTAL PATIENTS front page the newspaper sent a clear message to an often uncaring society. As Stig Abell, the paper’s managing editor explained on twitter, the piece was all about creating “better communication between agencies” and enabling us to see the “ill as victims”. About bloody time! As the sibling of a paranoid schizophrenia sufferer, I’m sick of seeing the mentally ill being ignored. What better way to draw attention to those who are suffering and marginalised – and garner some much-needed sympathy in the process – than by making other people think that the mentally ill are out to kill them? Genius!

Of course, it’s not strictly true that the streets are overrun by mental patients wielding machetes. Nor is it even true that 1,200 people have been killed by “mental patients” during the past ten years. The truth is more prosaic, with “mental patients” and “people with symptoms of mental illness” being merged together by the Sun. Moreover, the mentally ill — erroneously depicted as major threats to “the general public” of which they’re apparently not a part — are at much greater risk of suicide or homicide themselves. Still, what are facts when there’s a system to challenge, a system that is letting down the mentally ill? These people need our help and how can we possibly help them without surrounding them with lies, stigma and fear?

I agree that perhaps it’s unfair to allow mental patients to claim all the glory for being homicidal menaces to society. After all, if we take a sober look at violent crime statistics, it’s men aged between 16 and 24 who are leading the way. Go them! To be fair, I’m not sure what proportion of them may be suffering from mental illness. Nor am I sure whether or not they, too, are being let down by the nebulous “system”. But hey, let’s just focus on the “young” and “men” bit for a moment. Or maybe even just the “men” bit (the gender split between perpetrators being roughly 80/20 men to women). Wouldn’t it be fair to say that the general public – by which I mean the not-men – are at serious risk from these people? Not all of them, obviously, and I haven’t forgotten that these men are also at greater risk of suicide or homicide. But where are the Sun headlines trumpeting these particulars?

If you ask me, it’s misandry at work. No one cares enough about men as a group to want to drug them and/or lock them up on the off-chance that one of them will commit a crime that few could have predicted. Meanwhile, it’s all “mental patients” this and “mental patients” that. They even get their own Halloween costumes. All that attention yet when you lump them together in one group they’re not even committing the vast majority of murders! What a swizz!

But anyhow, as someone who has been a mental patient and who cares for one, I know how hard it is to change the system. Sometimes have to justify the means. So thank you, Sun. Thank you for your fear-mongering, dishonest front page. I’m not sure it really will improve the “system” for people like my brother but still – no such thing as bad publicity, eh?


One thought on “Thanks, Sun! Challenging the mental health system, one lie at a time

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