25/3/06 Phone extract:

26 March 2006 at 17:07 (General)

Peaches: “As a society we treat the mentally ill like lepers.”
Monk: “It’s disgusting, it’s disgraceful, we should be ashamed.”



  1. Deirdre said,

    Not wanting to argue with those sentiments (and also not wanting to blather all over your comments all the time, but but but…) but “the mentally ill” is a pretty big generalization, don’t you think? If you wanted to apply “mentally ill” tags to everyone, I bet we’d all have at least one “disorder” if not more. I was looking up anxiety the other day (after getting so agitated about my stupid essay) and I bet I could clock up about 10 disorders without even trying. Even the fear of public speaking now has a “disorder” tag. My point being that “the mentally ill”, in one way or another, includes all of us.

    Still, I get your point and agree with Peaches & Monk (and they should start a company immediately, probably for perfume: great name for something sweet and spiritual). Four Corners (ABC TV) did a piece not long ago about community care for people with serious mental illnesses, and it’s a bad situation – in Sydney, anyway. The police have to do a lot of retrieving and ferrying of people who need to be in hospital, but can’t stay there because there aren’t enough beds: not only is this a waste of police time, it does nothing useful for the person being “retrieved and ferried”, often enough in the back of a paddy wagon. And for anybody without family support, the group-house situation is pretty dire (and usually means dodgy boarding houses with only a visiting nurse if they’re lucky).

  2. Nimetön said,

    Deirdre has a valid point about mentally ill being a term that is too broad.

    I looked at this post last night and it puzzled me. It still does.

    I don’t really get the point. Its a perfectly valid statement but nothing particularly brilliant or out there. Care to add more context?

  3. toto said,

    The extract wasn’t about the definition of mentally ill, it was about society treating them like lepers. Sure, not everyone who suffers from a mental illness is treated like a leper but the homeless, institutionalised and medicated often are to some extent. I hold society responsible for the majority of our mental health issues and for society to inflict such wounds and then shun the most desperate victims is, imho, disgusting, disgraceful and shameful.

    and Nimetön, I snigger in your general direction if you think everything (anything?) I say here is either particularly brilliant or out there. Sorry, no refunds. :P

  4. Deirdre said,

    Hey! Stop sniggering at Nimeton – he said I had a valid point, and nobody EVER says I have a valid point. (Thank you, N.)

    Anyway, of course you’re brilliant, Toto. Why else would we be reading? Shut up and bask, man.

  5. Nimetön said,

    Hrmm you have a point with lots of merit. Still, I feel like I want to pick it to pieces but can’t right now. And yes, mental health does seem to be off the agenda. Someone made the comment that social welfare issues have been pushed back 10 years since the election in favour of economic policy. Can’t remember who it was.

    And hrmph. I was never trying to imply brilliance or lack there of in relation to the blog. I simply failed to see the point of your post. It now makes a little more sense. Like most people, you can create a decent piece of writing from time to time. Still, i snigger in your general direction if you think i blindly generalise my thoughts.

    PS: Deirdre, yes it is a little worrying that I validated your point but smeh. Kind of funny.

  6. Deirdre said,

    Toto, I’ve been thinking about this – being a member of that club you’re damning (society) – and I’m as guilty as anybody. Part of this is due to ignorance about the illnesses involved, part due to the scariness of the way some illnesses present, and part due to fear of not knowing what stops me from collapsing in a screaming heap in the supermarket: I was shopping one day when a woman with both arms bandaged suddenly sat down on the floor and started screaming and crying. The person she was with tried to calm her, and then ran off to get help from staff. And I stood there and didn’t know what to do, and did nothing. I was scared that if I got down on the floor and tried to reassure her, (a) it would make her worse, (b) she’d hit me, (c) everyone would stop looking at her and would look at me instead, (d) her friend would be back in a minute and I’d be in the way, (e) it would be a stupid thing to do and I’d regret it. And more than that, I was suddenly scared because I didn’t know what it was that stopped me from doing the exact same thing – screaming in a supermarket. And maybe I was imagining this, but I reckon everyone else there had an inkling of the same fear. There but for the grace of God go I, etc. And I’ve had a few other encounters involving people with mental illnesses, and for me, all of them involved either fear of what the person might do, or fear of not understanding what I’m supposed to do. A relative I’ve never met once rang and talked about his schizophrenia, about how he’d ring the health team to come when he needed help but they were sometimes busy (and I’ve never met this person, I didn’t even know he existed, he was just telling me this because he wanted to talk). And then for weeks afterwards I was scared he’d have an episode, not be able to get help, and come looking for me. Previous to this a man carrying a spear (would you believe) walked into the house of some people nearby one night, apparently suffering from a delusion of some kind, and thankfully the man of the house was able to talk him down and nobody got hurt. And years ago, in my more-impressionable years, someone (said at the time to have “escaped from the mental hospital” like he was a lion escaping from the zoo) walked into his childhood home (only one house away from here and across the paddock) and took the homeowner hostage. It was a very big deal and went on for a day and into the night, complete with a police helicopter using a light on the house and surrounds.

    All of which is a very long way to say that it’s not just economic factors which influence the way mental illnesses are handled by our society. A big part of it is about public perceptions, and they are still (I’m guessing) based on fear and ignorance and wishing the whole issue would just go away if we don’t look.

  7. Kent said,

    I can help with picking at things. Who is Peaches and who is Monk?

    While we’re criticising terms that are too broad, I also take violent issue with ‘society’ in this context. By saying you hold ‘society’ responsible, what do you mean? Wouldn’t it make more sense to hold the people in positions of authority who neglect the mentally ill responsible?!

  8. toto said,

    peaches is a friend of mine. A guy. He has a phone. Monk is more of a friend of a friend. A guy that peaches knows. He also has a phone. Peaches relayed the sentiment of the conversation to me.

    Accountability should not be pinned entirely to those who are in positions of authority. I don’t think that the problem always lies in their improper action which they are accountable for but also in our lack of action which we aren’t accountable for. Turning a blind eye hardly makes us less guilty.

    There is a problem with this, as Deirdre was saying, what can you or I; the average, untrained, uninvolved person do? Probably not a lot. However, some people add to the problem by devaluing the person, making them feel less human. Try to treat people with equal respect.

    Try not to dehumanise, that isn’t going to help them at all. if you know someone who has or develops a mental illness (or for that matter anything that would make society dehumanise/treat them like a leper)… try to show them continued support.

    in the news today:
    “In a weighty, 576-page document, the cross-party committee said mental health services were neglected and inadequate.
    … ‘There are too many people ending up in acute care and not enough is being done to manage their illness in the community.'”

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