The Interim Report on the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act (MHA) has just been released. It has succeeded in being supremely ambitious in its breadth, whilst remaining disappointingly cautious in its goals. The emphasis is on smaller changes in the immediate future, and kicking more progressive reform into the long grass.
I am, for my sins, a conference person. I organise, speak at and attend many mental health conferences every year. But this week, I went along to Pushing Up Daisies, a ‘community-grown festival’ around death and dying, in the beautiful Yorkshire market town of Todmorden. I came away reflecting that we need to rethink some of the conversations we are having around mental health.
The rights of trans people and the barriers and discrimination they face in accessing healthcare and public spaces are issues which are growing in visibility in the UK. Recovery in the Bin’s statement of support, partially motivated by the protest at Pride in London, has highlighted some of the rifts around this, present in both the survivor movements and the more mainstream mental health world. It’s a laudably clear and simple statement, and, on paper, should attract a wide range of support – but it’s struggled to do so. The fact that it explicitly condemns transphobia has been divisive, and this exposes, for me, some uncomfortable truths about our mental health world.
The debates around diagnosis and medication are fraught and passionate. They easily become polarised, especially on reductive platforms like Twitter, and positions can quickly become entrenched. It’s because the debates matter: they are about us and the people we love, they are about how we support one another, and what kind of world we want to live in. They are also about expertise and power: who has the right to talk and whose views matter more.