A-hunting they will go !
If there was ever a good time to have a nervous breakdown, now would appear to be it. Thanks to the Liberal Democrats, the treatment of mental illness is an election issue for the first time in British or, as far as I can see, world history. Say what you will about the Liberals, and I have said much, but this is an achievement.Meanwhile, the health service, the bureaucracy and the “serious” media show their respect for mental illness by enforcing speech codes that would make a Victorian clergyman blink. You should never use words that have become insults even if they were not originally insults or are not always used as insults now – “cretin”, “simple”, “cripple”, for instance. You should never say that someone is “suffering” from autism or schizophrenia – even if they are. On no account should you describe someone as “mentally ill”. You must refer to “people with mental health problems” instead. By extension, mental health patients are no longer “patients”, but the “users” or “consumers” of health services.I bristle when anyone tries to tell me what to write and find “inoffensive” language to be so deceitful and clunking that it is an offence in itself. The historian Tony Judt drew the link between political correctness and conservative economics best as he lay dying from motor neurone disease. Pretending we are all separate but equal, he said, “conceals the effects of real power and capacity, real wealth and influence. They describe everyone as having the same chances when actually some people have more chances than others.
If they were right, if it were anything other than an easy lie that you can change the world by changing language, then the condition of the mentally ill would have improved. The Lib Dems, led by their impressive health minister Norman Lamb, have not forced the treatment of the mentally ill on to the political agenda because they want to celebrate Britain’s successes, however.
On the contrary, they are campaigning because a priggish obsession with speaking “appropriately” has coexisted quite happily with cruelty and neglect. In Britain, the powerful can get away with any inhumane act as long as they cover themselves with the cloak of “appropriate” language. Mind has emphasised how Iain Duncan Smith’s supposed attack on “scroungers” has turned into an attack on the mentally ill. His staff were sanctioning and removing their benefits at a rate of 100 a day.