Mental Health Week, the Royal Show and Indignity

Mental Health Week, the Royal Show and Indignity



I write this in the week of the WA Royal Show, which is the week before Mental Health Week.  In fact, Mental Health Week commences on the last day of the Royal Show and perhaps it’s a good thing.

For all the work that has gone into the de-stigmatization of Mental Health; there are no doubt a hundred stories of things that have gone badly wrong.  One of the features of this year’s Royal Show was to be a 15 room replica of a 17th Century mental asylum in which actors would pretend to be inmates of the sanatorium.  This was used to promote this year’s Royal Show with a graphic photo of 4 inmates of the Bethel Sanatorium, described as ‘a $1 million fright house exhibition’ on page 9 of The West (September 23, 2014). Needless to say, a range of groups active in mental health policy and advocacy expressed their outrage to The West and those concerns were duly published the following day.  Needless various advocates the exhibit to be ‘offensive and discriminatory’, ‘distasteful and insensitive’ with one person saying ‘exhibitions reinforce stereotypes that people with mental illness differ in appearance to other members of the community and are violent, dangerous, untrustworthy or unpredictable.’  There were even letters from the modern day mental health facility in London that is located on the site of the former Bethel Sanatorium

After a great deal of public pressure the exhibit was changed; no doubt the West Australian will claim some responsibility for bringing about the change; although, I do not accept that was the intention of the original piece that was published.

This is but one example of a thousand indignities of what it means to be a person with a mental illness:

The indignity of powerlessness within Mental Health services

The indignity of powerlessness over a Mental Health condition

The indignity of being unable to trust your own brain

The indignity of reasonable behaviour or core identity issues being classified as a symptom

The indignity of poor services

The indignity of medication

The indignity of having to do things that you don’t want to do, to try to stay well

The indignity of loss

The indignity of stigma

The indignity of opinionated ignorance

The indignity of being disapproved of

The indignity of wanting to die

The indignity of emergency treatment

The indignity of an inadequate and fragmented Mental Health system



Thanks to: purplepersuasion

For a fuller discussion of each of these indignities see:

A thousand little indignities: what it means to be “a service user”

Stephen Hall
Stephen Hall
Lives in Perth, Western Australia.

Comments are closed.