I know this is a slightly different tone of post than my readers might be used to. It’s not a personal update (although it’s certainly personal as well) but more of a political one.
The mental health system is a subset of broader social life, and as such prejudices like classism operate in a similar way but can be made worse by the additional ableism and stigma attached to mental health problems.
There is an assumption that people with mental health problems are less intellectually capable. This is part of the stereotype of the mentally ill person and has no basis in fact.
People who have less formal education will face greater challenges in navigating the mental health system and endure greater discrimination. The system is full of obstacles such as form filling and being expected to advocate for yourself with people using medical language instead of speaking in terms you would use to describe your own day to day experiences.
In a similar way that men experience negative effects from sexism, people with educational privilege experience negative effects from the ableist assumption that a person cannot be both educated and mentally ill. (This in no way negates the fact that it is privilege in action here.)
If you have the fortune to be educated you may be refused the help you need because you don’t conform to stereotypical assumptions about how a mentally ill person appears. I find myself holding back and becoming fearful of advocating for myself because there is no understanding that you can be very capable or experienced in some areas while experiencing severe problems and inability to cope in other parts of your day to day life.
It is vital that work to improve mental health services continues to emphasise the diversity of experience and presentation of people with mental health difficulties and to make the system work for the user, rather than being a series of hurdles to access help.
Thank you for reading. Please share and I’d love to hear your comments below.