Currently running on Facebook is a campaign lambasting the Comic Relief 'Red Nose' day because, they say: "(We) are annoyed and distressed at Comic Relief's decision to include David Cameron in the video to this year's charity single by One Direction. They then go on to list all of the atrocities committed by Cameron, aimed at sick and disabled people, and those on benefits or on a low income.
Firstly, let me make it clear that I agree wholeheartedly with this group's stance against Cameron and the present government. What the ConDems are doing to certain sections of our society beggars belief. I have, along with other disabled activists, been in the thick of the fight against them and will continue to take my place alongside those who challenge the government.
However, to boycott an organisation that is the very antithesis of Tory policy, just because of Cameron's appearance in the video is, in my humble opinion, not exactly constructive.
Many years ago, when Comic Relief, Children in Need et al first appeared on the scene, disabled activists throughout the country were appalled at the patronising crap which oozed from our TV screens. Not only did we boycott these appeals but we also tried to make sure that everyone knew why. We chained ourselves to the railings outside TV stations, we leafleted and a few intrepid souls even managed to gate-crash televised events to publicise our cause. "Piss on pity", "Rights not charity", "Nothing about us without us" were bold new statements way back then.
We all know what Mr Wogan and his cronies did. They ignored us and have pretty much continued as if nothing had happened. Lenny Henry and the other, original Comic Relief organisers, however, started up a dialogue with us and asked what they were doing wrong. They listened when we explained and took our criticisms on the chin.
From this small step many of us began working with Comic Relief (arguably the ONLY such charity to have agreed to work with disabled people on our own terms). Some of the results have been the increased involvement of disabled people in the organisation, funding being directed towards organisations "of" rather than "for" disabled people and changing the "tragic but brave" stereotype that so damages our struggle for equality and full citizenship. (And it became an approach they've used with other groups they support, too.)
Those of us who are really long in the tooth will remember that landmark training resource "Altogether Better" which was so vital to disability equality/disability action training throughout the 1990s and beyond. Perhaps for the first time, it enabled Deaf and disabled people of all ages to tell our own story through the video clips and materials it brought together and it tackled some highly controversial issues head on. Who funded it? Well, Comic Relief actually.
So please guys, hammer Cameron and his cowboys as much as you can. I'm with you on that. But don't risk sabotaging probably the only organisation of this type which, in my opinion, has worked hard to take our issues on board and provided a level playing field for us all to operate together on.
Thanks for listening. Rant over (for now!).
There's a new kid on the block folks ...
Identifying himself as 'Bonk Bipolar' (inspired from the Criptart character) he'll be adding his thoughts and feelings to the DAO Blog section on a regular basis. He boldly opens up his head and heart and invites us to follow him along some extraordinary paths.
So let me introduce you to his unique style of poetry/rapping with this piece entitled Wrap Rap.
Too many ideas to achieve today,
so many thoughts that have run away.
Often I gaze and look into the grey matter
that is the patter
on my milky way.
I wander through days
and act on my gaze,
but nowhere it goes ... as my mind's a slave ...
to my inspirations and drive that go round and round
more often than not, driving me into the ground.
The options I strive for never seem to come near,
yet my thoughts and time get lost without fear.
I sit again at this pad with lettered keys
and a world I'm connected by internet that can often deceive.
My brain goes round and round and round,
yet I'm not moving, not a peep not a sound.
I can open my mind and step onto a cloud, placing myself in a busy bustling crowd.
Am I mental? I ask myself with a chuckle
then I answer with yes,
and a proud internal stutter!
Sitting wondering why my mind has these ticks,
never understanding what it is that makes me lick ...
my top front lip and why I rotate my neck ... ‘till it clicks.
Oh no my legs are beginning to twitch,
stuck in this body like a trick,
deep breath in and out
can stop me from feeling shit.
One again the brain,
my brain has caused these deep tricks.
Wonder why now I can hear conversations?
They’re not real as the people are not here,
but yet clear as day.
I look over my shoulder,
I'm sat all alone by myself and beginning to wonder...
is it real or am I having a moment?!
“Shut up Bonk” you’re starting to mutter,
if you told people what you did they would call you a NUTTER!
So when I'm quiet and
looking puzzled and stuck! Don't worry about me as I'm talking to US ...
US being me myself and I,
and WE don't give a Fu*K!
Bonk Bi-Polar's blog starts in a few days. Click here for the link.
I realise that it might appear to be a 'closing the stable gate after the horse has bolted' type of scenario, especially as the government's health changes have survived their final parliamentary test and are set to become law. But I can't help feeling that there's something we can all still do to forestall the seemingly inevitable conclusion.
I suppose, having received treatment through the National Health System (NHS) several times over recent years, I can be forgiven for appearing more focussed on its imminent demise than on other 'cuts' issues.
Most people would agree that the NHS certainly needs a good sort out, but I fail to see how by sending in the Tory bovver boys who's only experience has been based upon private health care (along with their private education) anything good can come out of this. It would be, for example, something like making Boris Johnson Mayor of London; unthinkable and utterly unworkable! (Ed: Er Dave ....)
As many of you will be aware, over the past year or so I've been working with the Socialist Health Association to raise public awareness about the proposed changes to the NHS. Along with other protest groups, such as 38 degrees, they put up a stiff resistance to the proposed changes and hopefully made a few MPs stop and think before they voted earlier this week.
Both of these groups are still fighting and I still intend creating cartoons for them in order to hammer home the valid points that they are continuing to make. Please click on the following links for more information.
The Daily Mail, the Express and the Sun seem to have been competing in order to see which of them can persuade the most readers that the majority of Disabled people in the UK are not really disabled at all.
In their collective opinion most people claiming disability related benefits are not disabled, they are in fact scroungers and work shy benefit cheats and should be made to work for their money, the same as every other member of society.
Somehow, the suggestion that a few non-disabled people have been fraudulently claiming disability benefits has allowed these right wing rags to direct the outrage of their readers NOT at the non-disabled benefit cheats, but at disabled people generally.
Unfortunately a great number of the readers of these right wing publications tend to believe what they are told and as a consequence have moved us from being seen as objects of pity and therefore worthy of their support, into the people who are the real cause of the UK’s current financial problems.
Still, I suppose it’s an improvement of sorts when we no longer have to put up with their usual patronizing and condescending manner whenever they write about us!
As an ironic aside to this cartoon I’ve just received a news update that tells me that the Ministry of Defence has nearly tripled the number of rehabilitation beds available for severely wounded soldiers from Afghanistan to accommodate a sharp rise in the number of soldiers who have lost one or more limbs in the conflict.
Incidentally, I've not heard if they'll be increasing resources for those service personnel that have been traumatized by the war in other, non physical ways. They tend to keep a lid on information that concerns our brothers and sisters who return from the war zones diagnosed with a mental illness.
On Tuesday 26th October 2010 at Speakers Corner, Hyde Park at 1300 hours, the campaigning group MAD PRIDE have organised a day of action to oppose welfare benefits cuts for people labelled Mentally Ill.
UK mental health service users and survivors will publicly assemble to re-enact the opening chapter of Michel Foucault´s seminal book ‘Discipline and Punishment’.
A life-size effigy of a prominent Conservative/ Liberal Democrat merger politician will be publicly executed by method of hanging, drawing and quartering, after which the remains of the body will be burnt. There will also be a variety of other visual and subliminal stunts on the day.
Speaking to one of the organisers of the demonstration, she told me that “the economic downturn caused by the irresponsibility of bankers and big business has led to the Coalition government to enact the biggest cuts in public services since the Second World War.
“Further, that instead of targeting bankers’ bonuses and rich people’s profits, they are hoping to make huge savings by attacking the welfare benefits of vulnerable people unable to work, including people with severe mental health problems.
“In particular, they would like the public to think that people with depression, anxiety disorders and other mental ‘illnesses’ are malingerers and scroungers – when in fact all of us find it a terrible day to day struggle just to get by.”
As we are now aware, in George Osborne’s recent emergency budget he has pledged to take 360,000 people off of Disability Living Allowance by 2013 – which will plunge over a third of a million vulnerable people, most of whom will have mental health problems, into dire poverty.
This will put lives at risk. Already, 6000 people are thought to have committed suicide a year in the UK, although the true figure is definitely far higher. The stress caused by the threat of welfare benefits cuts, as well as the impact of the material deprivation that will result, will undoubtedly lead to a huge increase in suicides amongst people with mental health problems – an outcome that members of MAD PRIDE and other survivor support groups wish to prevent through campaigning and giving each other one-to-one support.
Mike, another member of MAD PRIDE adds, “This is no time to cut benefits and services for people labelled mentally ill. Our numbers have swelled significantly over recent years because so many members of the armed forces have gone through two very long and desperately hard wars. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Iraq and Afghanistan, those conflicts have taken an exceptionally heavy toll on the mental health of so many of our brave troops.”
More cuts to disabled people’s benefits are promised in George Osborne’s upcoming ‘shock and awe’ spending review to take place on Wednesday 20th October. Added to cuts in housing benefits, the VAT rise, and a whole range of other austerity measures, the future looks grim for the poor and those less able to object or protest – whilst the bankers will get to keep their bonuses.
“We’re not taking this lying down!” is the united cry from survivor groups across the UK.
MAD PRIDE can now also announce that, also on 26th October 2010, there will be a Nationwide 24 hour medication strike.
All UK mental health service users will default on their psychiatric medication for one day, in protest against the coming welfare benefits cuts. Further, all UK mental health service users will not engage with any mental health services whatsoever on that day, in a bid to demonstrate the collective power of mental health system users and survivors everywhere.
Leading the recent protest rally against the proposed Government welfare cuts were a large group of Disabled people. Wearing and carrying large black triangles, they were symbolizing the murder of thousands of Disabled people during the Holocaust; their aim being to embarrass Cameron and his government, who have repeatedly insisted that the most vulnerable will be protected from the impact of the cuts.
The use of this black triangle seems to have had an impact upon the general public, journalists and other non-disabled people at the protest which indicates that we may have found a symbol with which to carry our fight on into the future.
By re-owning the Black Triangle, it could become 'the' symbol of the Disabled People's Movement, a rallying cry for us all and something which articulates our demands in a more direct and recognizable manner.
Such a simple yet powerful symbol could be the very thing that we need to bring together the disabled artists, the mental health system survivors, people with HIV and AIDS, and the Deaf communities with all of the other Disabled people in the UK. This is something that we have struggled to do until now, and the powers that be have capitalized on divisions, continue to try to separate us into impairment groups and ensuring that we just fight our individual corner.
Large corporations pay huge sums of money to image consultants and publicity specialists to come up with a symbol that the public recognizes and associates with just their company. Imagine just having to portray a Black Triangle in order for people to understand that it represents Disabled people who are working and fighting together for a just and accessible society united under the Social Model understanding and not part of the oppressive Medical or Charitable Model status quo.
I’m reminded of the immense power of the red ribbon cross adopted in support of those living with HIV and AIDS, and more recently the pink ribbon symbol which prompts us to think of those we love who live with breast cancer and those we have lost to that disease.
Envisage an MP opening an envelope in the future and a Black Triangle falls out. That is all we would need to do ... the symbolism alone would mean that we are watching him or her and expecting them to support our corner in an upcoming debate or vote. The Black Triangle could become the biggest symbol for change since the peace symbol of the 60's!
So, how about it, you articulate and feisty Crips out there? Let’s debate these issues and I promise to keep the ball rolling on this blog.
Change to original artwork following comments
Following comments regarding the use of an all black, upwards facing triangle, how about something like this (see illustration). It still retains the triangle shape but introduces a vibrant background of red with accessible white lettering depicting what it represents. What do you think ..?
Editor - You are invited to scroll down and leave your comments in the space provided below.
I'm often asked to produce some artwork or a cartoon for a piece of poetry or prose that has been created by a fellow artist. This one in particular fired my imagination and made me want to share it with you.
(for Jimmy Fingers, with peace love and understanding)
The place has walls,
I can touch them if I wish,
I could no longer tell you their colour
they are the same colour as all the walls
in all the other places.
Here I wander
Here I touch and feel
Here no-one can hurt me.
Here I am reminded when to eat and sleep
by a clock
that someone else watches.
Here I say what I am thinking
Here I say what thinks me.
That is why I am here.
Here is where I remind myself I am
When here is where I am not.
Because they haven’t got a name for that
Because they haven’t got a place
for people who do things they can’t find names for.
That is why I am here.
There are growing concerns that under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 the Court of Protection has been handed sweeping powers without adequate scrutiny and openess. This departs from the general principle of open justice held by other courts.
Holding its cases behind closed doors, the Court has the power to order that people with severe learning difficulties are sterilised, undergo abortions or have life-support switched off. It can even impose “experimental” treatments on these patients without their consent.
The Act also gives the Court power to order procedures “where that procedure or treatment must be carried out using a degree of force to restrain the person concerned”.
Previously High Court judges were asked to rule whether people with severe learning difficulties in the care of health authorities and councils should undergo treatments if they believed it was in their best interests. However, these cases were held in public and could be reported by the media.
According to sources Sir Nicholas Wall, the President of the Family Division sitting in the Court of Protection, ruled last week that a woman with cancer of the uterus must receive treatment even though she has a phobia of hospitals and needles. He stated that this was because she has a learning difficulty and so was judged to be incapable of deciding on her own “best interests”.
He then allegedly ruled that doctors should be allowed to sedate the 55 year-old in her own home, using a drug hidden in a glass of squash, and then detain her in a ward following the essential treatment.
The case was only the second in the Court to be made public.
And yes, this is in England and the year is 2010!
I've recently received an email from a Disabled equality trainer in Australia asking if she could use some of my cartoons about labelling within her courses. She hadn't come across the concept before and felt that it might help her to get across the equality message to both non-disabled and disabled Australians.
"No problem" I replied, and then began to wonder if other readers of this blog in other parts of the world were as ignorant of this concept as she was. With this in mind I've recreated a simple example and cobbled together some information about the subject for you.
The concept of labelling people, especially Disabled people has been with us since early times. Then we were made to wear labels that identified us as ‘witches’ or as the ‘familiars’ of bad spirits or ‘changelings’, or, if we were lucky, as the harmless village ‘dolt’ or ‘idiot’. Although if hard times came, such as a crop failure or something equally as harmful to the community, then the ‘idiot’ often became the 'scapegoat' and was disposed of to appease the gods.
As times progressed and society became more enlightened (Ed - our American readers should note the use of irony here!) we were seen more as figures of fun and were given the labels of ‘Jester’ or ‘Fool’. Those of us with mental health issues were also allowed to entertain the nobility, but were put on display in places like Bedlam and given the labels of ‘Mad’ and ‘Insane’ regardless of our actual condition.
We were also given the label of ‘villain’ in early children’s stories, usually with an eye or a limb missing, or labelled as the ‘weak’ or ‘needy’ character whenever sentimentality or charity were portrayed by such as Charles Dickens and other writers of his time.
Following the onset of the industrial revolution we were deemed ‘worthy poor’ and allowed to beg, and some argue that this is where the label of ‘handicapped’ (cap in hand) originated. The label ‘Invalid’ also appeared about this time and literally means ‘not valid’.
The medical professionals during the 19th and 20th century, deciding that we needed repairing brought with them their own labels. These ranged from the familiar ‘idiot’ to the ‘imbecile’, the ‘feeble minded’ and the ‘moral defective’. More labels followed as they began to split us into groups of impairment, resulting in 'Mongol’ and ‘Spastic’ to name but a few.
The more subtle labels remain to this day and are still used by those groups and organisations who wish to control us and wish to separate us from society. It is mainly the charities that rely upon the power of labelling, still portraying us as ‘vulnerable’ and ‘incapable’ amongst other disempowering descriptions. The medical profession also continue to play their part, although have changed some of their labels to appear more progressive; ‘Cerebral Palsy’ replacing ‘Spastic’ and ‘Down’s Syndrome’ replacing ‘Mongolism’ for example.
Remember, labelling people is about disempowerment and only works if the person who is given the label agrees to wear it.
Following the news relating to Local Authorities being advised by the Department of Health to give preference to tenders for services from User-Led Organisations (ULO's) it got me to thinking about the groups and organisations that have traditionally gone after this work.
These are, of course, the organisations 'for' disabled people, those charitable concerns that have been doing it to us crips for a very long time and who have established the status quo that effectively maintains our role as recipients of their charity.
I can't see them quietly standing to one side as organisations run and controlled by Deaf and Disabled people end the monopoly that they have enjoyed for the past 60-odd years.
Some of these organisations have already started an underhanded strategy by quoting the social model into their press handouts and publicity materials. Although this is as far as it goes, as their practices are still based solely upon the medical and charitable models of disability.
My mate Dawn runs the Mentally Wealthy blog and has some interesting postings around the subject of user involvement. Click here to visit her blog.
I'm currently doing some collaboration with Vicky Wright, disabled writer and actor (she recently played a lead role in the CH4 Cast Offs series) and you can see the result of our first piece together in her powerful open letter to the comedian Frankie Boyle. I'll keep you posted about any future work we do together ... Click here to visit Vicky's article.
It's not unexpected that people who experience severe mental distress generally find night times the worst time to be alone. This is compounded by mental health trusts not being required to have any more than a tick box quota of staff available at night. In fact, most don't bother providing any real service during this time other than fielding a token Crisis Team often consisting of only two people.
I talked to a survivor who attended a recent workshop regarding mental health Crisis Teams. She was told that team workers see themselves as delivering a home treatment service - the teams are in fact called 'Crisis and Home Treatment Teams'. This involves delivering drugs to people at home in order to keep patients out of hospital and to allegedly save money in terms of expensive admissions.
Whilst they are out on these so-called 'drug runs' there is usually no-one else available at their base to answer phone calls and respond to requests for assistance. So one would assume that the trusts, needing someone to cover this out-of-hours service, would turn to an experienced private agency or mental health charity in order to check that any phone call, for example, is met with an appropriate response. WRONG!
In fact mental health trusts often ask the police to carry out a 'Safe and Well' check on any patient that they are unable to visit themselves. Unfortunately the police have little or no training in mental health issues, and seem to regard this duty as a bit of a nuisance, to put it mildly. In the experience of our survivor a lot of police officers are extremely prejudiced and will often view anyone presenting with mental distress as a potential axe wielding killer. Forget the loveable village copper image. The description of one such response team fitted more the heavy booted descendants of the notorious Special Patrol Group (SPG).
Therefore, if the police go to a house and can't get a response, often because the person is too scared to open the door, they have been known to break it down. Even if they don't have to break their way into a home, they often forcibly drag people out, usually handcuffed (more them once this has happened to our survivor when she's only been wearing a night dress - no slippers even!), before being taken to a police station to be locked overnight in a cell; this is their definition of a Place of Safety! As you can imagine, for people who are already in an extremely distressed and often confused state it is a terrifying experience to also be treated like a criminal in this way.
It was estimated that in 2006 around 250 people killed themselves within 48 hours of being detained in this way. Are we surprised?!
A team of doctors at Queen Mary, University of London, hopes to encourage "difficult" patients to comply with treatment by paying them for every jab of anti-psychotic drugs that they have.
‘Experts’ believe a third of patients given the label of bipolar or schizophrenia fail to comply with their prescribed medication regime causing relapses and a higher cost to the NHS. They claim that missing as few as one to 10 days of oral anti-psychotic therapy nearly doubles the risk of a patient being admitted to hospital.
To avoid this, doctors often prescribe depot treatments - injectible versions of the pills - but this is not fail-safe and patients may simply not turn up for their jabs. Reminder phone calls and texts are also ignored. When all other attempts to achieve adherence have failed, bribery may be an option, according to Professor Stefan Priebe, who led the Queen Mary team.
He expects that not only will patients be happy to trade an injection for cash, but that the "money for medication" scheme should pay for itself, with the financial costs more than off-set by the savings made in reduced hospital admissions.
But mental health charity Mind said people should be taking medication for the health benefits not for the money. A spokesperson for the charity, Alison Cobb said: "Psychiatric drugs are known to have unpleasant side-effects, and people should take medication because the health benefits outweigh the drawbacks, not because they need the money."
Why do I get the feeling that this is all about money and has nothing to do with the welfare of patients?!
By the way, you can read more about this subject on the blog of the Crimson Crip
I've recently been commissioned to produce some illustrations to accompany a talk on Autism. It seems that the various groups associated with Autism are now including most of the associated neurodiverse conditions within their remit, such as Asperger's Syndrome, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia (numeracy dyslexia), etc. Some groups are also moving towards an understanding of the Social Model of disability and are interacting with groups and organisations of Disabled people in this respect.
Several people that I've been speaking to recently are working at celebrating their differences as people who have Asperger's and identifying what they have to offer to the Disabled People's Movement in this respect.
This cartoon is one I created after a discussion about the benefits of the MMR vaccinations available to parents and the concerns that they could create Autism in the children who have them.
here are some links to the various Neurodiversity sites ...
A recent statement from the Home Office says that the Prison Service is now the second largest provider of mental health care provision in the UK (the first being the NHS).