Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The Emperor's Clothes

The story of the Emperor's new clothes is this: An Emperor is conned into buying the most wonderful new suit of clothes by a couple of con merchants and none of the Emperor's entourage has the courage to tell him that actually there is nothing there. The clothes are not invisible, the do not exist. The only person who is brave enough to say so is a small boy, and more or less, that is where to story ends depending on which version you read.

If we translate that into our real world the Emperor could be an organisation, an employer, a powerful or influential person, a boss, a parent or just someone everyone else adores. The small boy would be anyone of disadvantage and/or anyone who just, out of sheer innocence or ignorance of what the Emperor believes, speaks out. When we talk about such Emperor's in the real world though, these clothes are not new at all.

1. Imagine if you will, that you are being bullied at work.

2. Imagine you are being stalked or suffering from physical, psychological, sexual or financial abuse. 

3. Imagine you have a brilliant solutions for a problem.

4. Take another scenario that you fear that someone is at risk of committing suicide and you are a child that no one will listen to.

5. Imagine you are unemployed and your benefits have been stopped for no legitimate reason.

6. Imagine that you have not been paid your wages by a multinational company and you are of low rank in the organisation.
7. Imagine that you cannot not communicate and/or have no communication devices and you have serious problems that you need help with.

8. Imagine that you are starving or homeless.
9. Imagine you are stranded and do not know where help is to be found because there is no information or signposts to it.

Now imagine you are any of the above and have (or have had) a mental illness that you openly tell people about. What do you think your chances are of being heard properly or taken seriously are?

British Law changed in October 2010 by way of the Equality Act. The Equality Act seeks to eradicate ALL prejudice without any indication as to how it is to be done. It may now be illegal in the UK, but it supplies no indication of how it is to be upheld. The only way to find out is to enter into a long winded, expensive and extremely stressful litigation action. (You take the culprit to court) where your opponent still has the advantage because it usually has the money and the contacts to discredit you totally - hardly fair, hardly just.

There are numerous organisations out there that can help in theory, but alarmingly they have all been hit extremely hard by recent cuts from the government, they include: Mind, Rethink, ACAS, Citizens Advice Bureau and even access to legal aid has been cut. Good intent can be far more damaging than the most malicious of intentions if it is not properly implemented and thought through.

The process is made all the more difficult when it is a powerful organisation or government department, e.g. a bereaved person on benefits that I know of was subjected to stoppage after stoppage after stoppage for two years with no reason. When they finally got an appointment to sort it out at a job centre, the member of staff said "Yes, gosh, it is in a mess isn't it? But I haven't got time to sort it today and I'm on holiday for month tomorrow." It took two years to get it sorted via the Parliamentary Ombudsman (you need to go via your MP for that) and the outcome was: that the DWP was at fault but that as the person was bereaved it didn't merit any compensation, not even so far as their credit rating being restored. 

As indicated in my article of last month, even the health care sector itself has insufficient safeguards and knowledge of how to prevent mental illness among its own staff and if that is the case then what hope is there for anyone else understanding the need of the mentally ill to be heard and more to the point, understood and helped?

There is something very important to consider here...

10. Imagine that you are so mentally ill that you are imagining any of the above.

Therein lies the nub of the problem when it comes to providing support for anyone with signs of mental illness and sadly there are people who will lie to get what they want even at the expense of honest folk e.g. women who pretend they have been raped who in my opinion, need psychiatric intervention in addition to a prison sentence. Fortunately such cases are rare but because they exist at all it causes damage in the form of genuinely distressed and desperate people not being heard and not being helped, whether they are in need of a living allowance, need of an advocate such as a lawyer or need of a doctor's appointment.

However, I would rather risk the occasional fraudster receiving support than risk a genuine person in need ever going without it as it literally costs lives and seriously jeopardises their chance of anything like a quality of life. This includes taking someone seriously to begin with even when you suspect they are imagining things or lying. Why? Because if you don't you might be wrong and there are ALWAYS ways to corroborate the truth. There are always evidence to prove or disprove anything. 

You do not have to be mentally ill to be treated unfairly, but once you have been so treated the likelihood is that you will be mentally ill for a very long time with all manner of trust issues if nothing else.

I am currently off work with work related stress and our Human Resources Department expects me to attend an Occupational Health assessment while I am ill. If I was a scaffolder with leg in plaster this would not happen and during such an absence the cause of the accident would be investigated and the risk reduced. Not so when it comes to stress at work which in itself is a form of mental illness. What is worse is that anyone with any mental health history has it continually raked over, dredged up as soon as they mention they are unhappy. Everything about that person is in question.

If a ‘normal’ person were to be subjected to the same treatment, then (call me crazy for this one), but I have a hunch they would end up with serious mental health problems. We will never prevent mental illness when the world continues to rake up everything that is painful to ANY individual. 

And what of the little boy who shouts that “the Emperor has no clothes!” sadly, whether you are mentally ill or not, if you don’t have means and you don’t have solid connections the reaction will most likely be one of resentment and intense wrath. No one likes it when it is pointed out that they have been foolish, far less those who have power. When that is done so publicly, as it is in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, and indeed in real life throughout the media, then guess what? The Emperor suffers mental anguish as a result i.e. mental illness.

Steven Biko 

I have always advocated that anyone with a mental health history who wishes to speak out needs to do so anonymously to protect themselves, particularly when they are low, are poor and when they have no one to defend them. I’d like to update that. I would now highly recommend that for anyone who is not in a position of power with regard to any situation at all.

The real world is a troubled one. It is riddled with hypocrisy and it only takes a few, a very few to spoil this beautiful planet of ours. So it is wise, if not essential to be cautious, to be wary and if that means you need to be paranoid to keep yourself safe from harm, then be that too, but still speak out or we can never hope to rectify anything at all – just do it safely.

Take your time to trust people, choose your words carefully and your tone of voice and wherever possible only speak out about your issues when you are calm, fed, well rested and when the emotions are largely out of the way first so that you can think clearly enough to communicate. “We are never in control when we are angry” is something I have been reminded of recently and how true it is.

The exception is the professional teams who are there to help you (when you find a good one). With them write down what you need. Write down what you do not need. And only afterwards write down what has happened. That way you will begin to understand how to fix whatever it is that has gone wrong.

We can never remedy anything without facing it and we all make mistakes but it is very much what we do about them and in the how we fix them as well as who helps that really makes the difference. A former GP of mine said, “Do not dismiss support from unlikely sources as just occasionally they can be the very thing you were looking for.”

Luckily my new doctor is turning out to be fabulous, so fabulous in fact that he promises to read this blog site and being head of the practice, he’s already had a word with the receptionist that I found so exasperating. So you see, you can get help if you are prepared to want it enough and fight for it enough. Though I must say, it comes to something when you have to know more than those who are supposed to be experts, (not that it applies to my new doc).

But what of the little boy in the story? What can he learn? He would be far safer to say “Is the Emperor wearing any clothes? Where is the proof?” And to do so privately, or send a note to the Emperor although even that may all to easily result in terrible retributions. Far better then to ensure that he has people to defend and protect him first before saying anything at all.

I am angry with the world and the older I get the shorter my fuse and the angrier I get with all it's very human errors which I make too because I am product of this world just as much as anyone else - but I refuse to take the blame for all it's mistakes on my own. I own up to mine and do my best to rectify them as soon as I can. Why doesn't everyone? It amounts to about 200,000 thousand years of human errors so far according to the Smithsonian Institute, somewhat shorter if you believe in God but its still between 2-6 thousand years. The trouble with anger is that it ultimately only ever serves to destroy those who are angry. The remedy to that is never to act when one is angry but to let those feelings run their course away from others and subside. If there is a God then surely we should focus on the ethics and not the origin of our species to get the recipe right, because either you cut it ethics is the key to us all being able to co-exist peacefully.

I can only hope that all Emperors (and Empresses for that matter) have the good sense to listen to small children some day and that that day will be very soon for all of us. I hope too, and firmly believe that honourable people will always say thank-you, sorry, make amends and recompense those injured of their own volition and will do so privately for what is their part in causing such misery and suffering. What is so often the case is the errors made are nothing more than a silly, petty error of judgement which we all are and can be guilty of. When all is said and done, it is the con men that pretend to be tailors beyond compare that ought to be reigned in, if not punished... is it not?

We are all complicit when allowing the con men of this world to get away with their villainy - the courtiers, the general public and the little boys who see the truth but say nothing. High time I think, that the whole world stopped and thought about what advice it is actually seeking, who from and why they are seeking it; as well as what its aims are, and how to sensibly and above all, safely, proceed.

I could cite hundreds of pearls of wisdom if not thousands from around the globe, from every century, from every culture, race and religion and age group on this planet but I'll close with this final quote from a man that managed to save three lives that we know of. Just three but if we could all do that then there would be no unnecessary anger or deaths. We can never eradicate death or suffering. People die of natural causes, from disasters as well as from malicious intent and silly errors but we can certainly minimise the risks if we keep fighting to get that little bit closer to increasing compassion for those that are left behind trying to fight. With compassion comes a little bit more sense, a little bit more humanity and above all else... HOPE for absolutely everyone.

"Let's work the problem people. Let's not make things worse by guessing." Gene Kranz

I have a hunch Gene Kranz's words have just saved a few hundred more lives... if not more.

PS: I have to confess that the last three articles in particular have had a lot of input from others for me to be able to write them. Sadly I have, since writing this article learnt of someone who is so traumatised by the DWP benefit system that they are selling their belongings to get money to buy food as they refuse to go back on benefits. I used to be proud of being British, today I am not. 

I would particularly like to thank an anonymous retired psychologist in Australia for their support at this time, not least for giving me the courage to continue to write. As before, early signs are America is reading and the UK is disinterested. OK it's a bigger country, but this is a UK problem right? Or is it quite possible global?

Please do not expect me to blog for a while... I feel the need to rest, but if it's that important...

Thank you for reading and caring enough to do so.

1 comment:

  1. I think it's important to remember that when people find help that works for them, they need to take responsibility to do 50% of the work with the counsellor, doctor, whoever. Because agencies and health services can be easily influenced against helping the mentally ill, claiming it's too hard. The health dollar is so scarce we have to almost "sell" ourselves ( in the consumer sense of the word) as a good prospect to invest in. So, keeping appointments, taking medication or talking about why it doesn't work, trying something new, etc etc etc. is important. As much for the next person seeking help as for yourself.


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