I was a bit early to collect my son from school today so I sat in the car listening to BBC Radio Five Live – my preferred radio channel. Richard Bacon was interviewing the actor / singer John BARROWMAN and his sister, Professor Carol BARROWMAN and the subject came up of accents. These guys were born in Scotland to Scottish parents but moved to the United States as children. Consequently they can speak easily and naturally with with Scottish and American accents and often switch for different reasons. They were talking away about the concept of having two ‘natural accents’ when Carol suddenly described the practice of swapping between them as “a bit schizophrenic”.
It reminded of a boss I once had: someone who on one occasions took exception to two opinions I had which she regarded as inherently contradictory and informed me that “it was a bit schizophrenic if you think about it.” Thanks for that – best book myself into the clinic with a debilitating medical condition then?
It got me thinking about casual stigma in our discourse and in our attitudes – we’ve seen loads of it over the last 48hrs in the fallout of the Nicola Edgington case and the subsequent media reporting but we get in loads of low-level ways too. from the playground to the boardroom this country is consumed with stigmatising attitudes to mental health disorders, despite the fact that a quarter of us will suffer a mental health condition during our lifetimes.
Have you ever come across the Twitter account @EverydaySexism? All of this got me thinking – we should collate and document examples of casual stigma in mental illness with a view to highlighting them, challenging them and giving feedback to the people involved. So I have set up a new Twitter account under the name @casualstigma.
The idea is, that people tweet the account with their 140 word examples of #casualstigma whilst also using the hashtag and we can highlight them to the world via Twitter. It’s only been going a few hours and has a few hundred followers and various examples flying in – arising from which someone is wanting to write to the BBC because it emerges that the ‘schizophrenia’ line is not new on Radio Five Live.
Are we at risk of being a bit sensitive – a bit politically correct? No doubt some will say so, but I don’t recall anyone telling me I was a bit “emphasemic” when I last had a cough; we are starting to find other medical conditions pushing back against it being the whole definition of someone – like referring to someone as “a diabetic” – so why not raise awareness in mental health. After all, many would suggest it is difficult enough living in a world where the comparatively rare disasters that are seen in the Edgington case are blown out of proportion, precisely because they are rare and despite there being valid issues to discuss in terms of state responses to known risks.
Please think about how language and attitudes can stigmatise and raise awareness of this new account which is collating examples of casual stigma.
Update on 01st April 2015 – since writing this article, a new Code of Practice has come into effect in England. It doesn’t substantially alter the post but certain reference numbers have changed. My summary post about the new Code of Practice (2015) is here, the new Reference Guide is here and the full document is here. The Code of Practice (Wales) remains unchanged.
Winner of the Mind Digital Media Award.