Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Mental Illness and Discrimination

Late last night I was sitting watching the end of the film on BBC1 when a public information film came on. I didn't pay too much attention to it to start with, but then a number of words seem to attack my consciousness and my attention was drawn to see what its message was.

It showed a scene in a hospital, probably an A&E department (but as I said I wasn't really watching to start with) and the voiceover was talking about the qualities needed, and those not acceptable, for employment, presumably in the hospital. Anyway the voiceover continued and said something about 'not suffering frequent bouts of depression' and I guess it was this that had attracted my attention, because as the medical team were fighting to start the patient's heart the voiceover continued, 'Congratulations you have just turned down Florence Nightingale'.

The final message was from the government telling employers not to discriminate against people with mental illness, particularly depression.

I suffered terrible discrimination and lack of understanding about my depression when I was working, and it was this that eventually led me to become so anxious and depressed that work became impossible. I lost all confidence in my ability to do a job that I loved, and for which I was well qualified and exceptionally capable. In the end I had to seek early retirement on the grounds of ill-health. The loss of self-esteem that resulted from me being placed in this position, and my continuing lack of confidence in myself to do even some quite simple things, mean that I am still too afraid to even attempt to find myself a part-time job. I worry about what I am qualified to do, and what I would do if I was put into a situation that I couldn't cope with.

Two things about this film struck a chord. The first was that such a film should be shown so late at night, in fact in the early hours of the morning, and the second was the message that the government were trying to get across.

Why did the second thing strike such a chord? Well, I was employed by the Ministry of Defence, so it could be said that I worked for the government. I really wish they would practice what they preach.

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