Categories
all Essays opinion

What Happens if You’re too Broken for the NHS?

By all accounts, a lot of the stigma that once existed around mental health has been eroded. Studies show that people’s knowledge of and attitude towards mental health issues has significantly improved in the past decade, with a Time to Change survey reporting that since 2007, 4.1 million people have improved attitudes towards mental health. So, these days, it is a lot easier to open up about your mental health.

But it’s not enough.

We’re sold this story of everything getting better if we only just speak up -– like the only thing holding us back from recovery is ourselves – but the reality is a lot more complicated than that. A lot of public discourse emphasises how so many people with mental health issues are ‘suffering in silence’ and that if they only reached out to get help, everything and everyone would be rosy. But that’s not the case.

Please follow and like us:
Categories
all Essays opinion

Environmental Activism is Ableist. Here’s What we Need to do About That

Intersectionality has been one of the buzzwords we have seen a lot of lately, especially when it comes to activism. Sometimes criticised as a product of the ‘woke brigade’, the idea is to be as inclusive of different demographics when it comes to taking up a cause. What is not always discussed, however, is how environmental activism lacks inclusion for disabled people – to the point of ableism. 

Cultural conversations have centred around the subject of banning disposable items, including plastic bags, straws and cotton buds. According to the BBC, the delay in the UK for banning single-use plastic straws and cotton buds was due to the pandemic – but points out that they are still available if disabled or for other medical needs.

Alternative replacements are not inclusive or even accessible. To ‘just ask’ for a plastic straw in an outside setting is beside the point – because you should not have to justify yourself, and to verbally ask is not necessarily something you can ‘just do’. Metal straws have the potential to cause injury, such as in the case of Elena Struthers-Gardner. Rubber straws, some Autistic people have reported, also leave an odd taste in your mouth, which is incongruous to sensory issues. Yet plastic straws enable drinking independently.  However, paper and metal replacements can pose safety issues when consuming hot drinks. (Source.) 

Karl Knights is an Autistic writer who also has Cerebral Palsy. He said:  “Too often, activists will effectively shame disabled people for just existing – for example, the amount of disabled people who have been berated for using a straw that’s most accessible to them. Disabled people know what our carbon footprints are.” 

As an Autistic person, it took me a long time to find what worked with me. The pandemic left me not wanting to touch any cutlery and glasses outside my own home – with the taste of rubber becoming a begrudged cost of staying safe in the pandemic. But this is not something everyone can just ‘deal with’, and can be distressing. 

Sarah King recently wrote for Refinery 29 about a divide within the Veganism movement – and how language had been utilised to support shock tactics. This is arguably a niche with environmentalism activism at its core, enough so that people such as Greta Thunberg have endorsed such practices. The piece also pointed to trauma appropriation, as well as triggering language being deliberately used.

Dietary advice does not necessarily take into account disability needs. As an Autistic person, the food that I eat is very limited owing to sensory issues. Pre-preparation is also a much-needed part of my life; this can give way to excessive packaging. Other individuals use disposable cutlery, just as a way to manage as well. Yet I have been shamed with inaccurate diet advice which advocated consuming food/drink I cannot/will not even go near, complete with language suggesting my needs were something that could just be ‘switched off’. 

No one has the right to impose beliefs on you – such as dietary advice – unless it is medically advisable, such as via your Doctor or GP. Period. But that is not to say you cannot raise awareness. 

Elizabeth Wright is the editor of Conscious Being magazine – and has previously written about this exact subject.  She said that “It is imperative that we have a seat at the table, if we don’t  climate solutions will continue to be inaccessible and lead to further exclusion of disabled people at all levels of society.”

Chloe Tear is an award-winning disability blogger, and is a content designer at Scope. She agreed and said “Supporting the environment isn’t an ‘all or nothing’ problem, yet people are shamed for not doing enough. We need to open up the conversation and discuss things like access needs and financial constraints. Doing something is better than nothing. We shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for working within our own constraints.”

Activism needs to be intersectional, with the onus on the collective and not the individual. In all of the people interviewed for this piece, all remarked on feeling shamed or having been shamed because of their needs. Why would anyone seek to be environmentally friendly while disabled, if they are made to feel that way?

A symptom of privilege is that the onus is on an individual who may not necessarily be able to comply with such high expectations and to be shamed for something outside of your control will not be effective, and is indirectly ableist. 

Consultation and accessible alternatives are the way to go. Essentially, remember that disabled people aren’t the enemy here.

Please follow and like us:
Categories
all Essays opinion

Conversations Around Poverty Need to Include Disabled People

The coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on the many inequalities people face in the UK including living in poverty. As of February this year, a Social Market Foundation report found that 42% of families who rely on disability allowance are living in poverty due to a lack of government support and their catastrophic failure to protect the most vulnerable during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Poverty can be categorised into social, economic and political factors that mean people are left without their basic needs being met. So why exactly are disabled people disproportionately affected?

Please follow and like us:
Categories
all Editor notes Essays opinion

Surprise, I’m a Disabled Person

Today on Twitter, someone informed me I was a person. This may sound weird but if you’re a disabled person who tweets about the injustices we live with it’s actually a regular occurrence.

Please follow and like us:
Categories
all Essays features Stories

Self Forgiveness After the Storm: how I Learned to Live a Better Life with BPD

TW: mentions of self harm and suicidal thoughts/actions

At the best of times, the symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) are like listening to rain gently tapping on your bedroom window; you know it’s there and that it’s probably going to continue to rain for a while, but it’s not necessarily distressing and the noise can easily pass you by. 

At the worst of times, it feels like the rain has poured through a gap in your window and is filling up your room while you’re struggling to keep your head above the water. 

Please follow and like us:
Categories
all Essays opinion

How Lockdown Helped Me Reclaim Activism As a Disabled Person

Tw: prison, prison cruelty, corporal punishment, police brutality, murder, eating disorders and mention of the Sarah Everard case.

I love learning about the Suffragettes. About how the name was originally meant to be an insult to them and they took ownership of it. About how their actions lead to my right to vote. About their ownership of green, purple and white. And I can’t thank them enough.

I even try to educate myself about the not so nice bits. Death and destruction. Poor Emily Wilding Davison under the King’s horse. And Holloway prison. Awful conditions. Hunger strikes and force feeding. And I shudder.

Please follow and like us:
Categories
all Essays opinion

We Need Accessibility This Mental Health Awareness Week, not Pretty Speeches

Trigger warning: this article mentions suicidal thoughts and suicide, in particular the deaths by suicide of Robin Williams and Caroline Flack.


The moment I opened my Twitter feed on Monday morning, I was greeted by the hashtag I’d secretly been dreading: #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek.

This isn’t because I’m against raising awareness, quite the opposite, but I emphatically dislike the way in which lip service is paid to mental health rather than genuine support. Most of the people I see on my socials share the same disillusionment. We’re tired of being told to reach out when in need, that everyone understands, only to be met with indifference when we act on this.

Please follow and like us:
Categories
all Essays opinion

I’m Struggling Through my Latest Lupus Relapse – and That’s Okay to Admit

Today is World Lupus Day, on this day I usually spread awareness and my own story but this year it feels different. After mostly being in remission and only getting the occasional flare for the past six years, my Lupus is relapsing and I’m feeling the affects much worse than I had.

Please follow and like us:
Categories
all Essays opinion

How my Chinese heritage made me feel ashamed about being disabled

Disability and mental health; these two concepts stimulate a huge amount of taboo within the Chinese culture. Growing up, these were rarely discussed and on the rare occasion that my parents or other adults did mention them, it was always with a negative undertone and conveyed the message that these individuals were somehow weaker and less deserving.

Please follow and like us:
Categories
all Essays opinion Pain chronicles

Pain Chronicles: Rosie Jones and Straddling the Intersection

Pain Chronicles is a new monthly(-ish) column from Caroline McDonagh-Delves about coming to terms with living with a chronic illness. It will include funny stories and brutal honesty, with some thrown in chats with her mum Shaz, and other friends too, along the way.

Rosie Jones and I have a few things in common. We’re both Northern. We’re both pricks. We both have gigantic tits. And we’re both disabled lesbians.

And when I saw her walk on to the set of The Russell Howard Show and said she couldn’t process those ideas, she could only fit one “different” thing in her life, and therefore she believed she wasn’t gay, I understood where she was coming from. Sort of.

Please follow and like us: