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Spirit of Contradiction

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Mentally Ill People Denied a Place to Live

category cork | health / disability issues | news report author Friday May 20, 2005 15:10author by Kieran O'Sullivan - Manyauthor email kieran.osullivan at ireland dot com Report this post to the editors

Disabled rights trampled on by Prejudice

A residents group in Charlavill who thik that they have the right to deny Irish citizens the right to live in an area based on their disability is trampling the rights of mentally ill people.

Mentally Ill People Denied a Place to Live

I last weeks village magazine there was an article about a clash between the rights of local residents and the rights of mentally ill people to live in a community. Iím not going into too much detail as this was more than adequately covered in last weeks village.

Basically the residents say ďWe were not consulted about having these people living here Ö we donít object to them living here but we want to be consultedĒ. This kind of attitude is quite frankly disgusting. If you donít mind someone living in your area then why do you need to be consulted?

The answer is that they do mind and they seem to think that they have the right to say where a person with a disability can live. If a the residents had objected to a black family moving in well then they would be quite rightly called racist however nobody seems to be willing to call these people prejudiced against people with a mental illness.

Prejudice against mental illness is rampant in Irish society. Vincent Brown has been running a campaign on the treatment of the mentally ill in Irish society for a number of years now. However attitudes seem to have changed little. I remember a case in Dun Laoghaire about 3 years ago where residents objected to a house for mentally ill people in their area and the health board rolled over and didnít move the people in.

I will end my commentary with this question for those people down in Charlavill if any resident of your housing estate becomes mentally Ill will they have to move out?

PS The Vincant Browne show on Monday night will be covering this issue. I would urge averyone to tune in and listen to it. 10pm Radio 1.

author by Paul - adrift in Asiapublication date Fri May 20, 2005 20:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks for the info on this disgusting story. Over the past number of years, I have become increasingly sensitised to the issue of mental illness, as my younger brother's depression hit consecutive new lows, and then thankfully stabilised (though he remains in a pretty helpless state). Like you, I find the double standards surrounding mental illness despicable. As you point out, if someone demanded to be informed before a black person or a Jew moved into the neighbourhood, we'd be shocked. I think, though, the way we've treated the Traveller community in Ireland has parallels with how we treat people who suffer from mental illness. The tell-tale words for all the anti-Traveller campaigns are. "We've nothing against Travellers, but we'd like to be informed before they move in..."

The mentally ill are one of the few marginalised groups at whom it's still acceptable to poke fun in polite society. This, despite the alarming prevalence of mental illness in Ireland. In the past, we put this down to living in a backward, economically-depressed society, which was mirrored in the depression of its citizens. Nowadays, perhaps it's the vacuousness of what passes for culture and society that lies at the heart of the disconnection in so many heads, Irish and otherwise. When you come from a country in which Bertie Ahern has been in power for almost a decade, you begin to wonder if perhaps those who have opted-out through tuning their brains to Clozaril-FM are the only sane ones left.


PS: For me, the fact that my brother and I have driven through Charleville maybe a hundred times en route to our grandparents' house in West Cork only adds to the poignancy of this story. And the insult.

author by seanpublication date Fri May 20, 2005 20:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Your use of the term 'mentally ill' unwittingingly, I believe , stigmatises and perpetuates the suffering of people who are experiencing serious life problems. the label mentally ill serves the ideology of psychiatry as social control, denying people's freedom and autonomy, and masquerading as genuine medical practice. Don't join in this denigratory and paternalistic mindset futhering the myth of mental illness and instead concentrate in addressing the societal and environmental causes of this issue.

author by Michelle Clarke - Social Justice and Ethicspublication date Sat May 21, 2005 01:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thank you for your informative and well-written piece about the Mentally Ill, the Community, the entrenched attitudes of people in this so-called Christian society.

It is enough to cope with mental health problems and in my case complicated by acquired brain injury, the vulnerability is inherent and the shame is imposed in a silent and secret way by those who know 'better' than you.
Vincent Browne is to the forefront of the media on the injustice.

People are shunned; and in some cases by so called friends who interpret a period of trauma by the person with the illness, that can positively cause danger.

The remarkable point is that if there is ever a suicide, it may be the same so called friends that have the sycophant words at the funeral and make your re-entry to your home community impossible.

I am now in a community again; I am less trusting now and cautious of people but then the hurt and pain suffered over previous years is replaced by the beauty of nature, the email, the web, a man who gave me a chance, a good psychiatrist, a psychologist provided by Trinity and the Trinity Horizon Research Programme......................

To people left without a home, I empathise. Divorce left me vulnerable and this ought not to be the case in Holy Catholic Ireland but then who really cares!!!!! Then of course, there is the Church and their answer to the 'label' in my case is to grant an annulment without my sanction. I was married from 1982 to 1996.

Keep writing, keep looking for justice, look to media people like Vincent Browne, David McWilliams; Gareth O'Callaghan. Look for mentors - Look to the UK and Mind......

Then look to the National Disabilities organisation; to groups like Aware, Grow, Mental Health Organisation; Irish Advocacy Services; the Department of Health, Department of Justice.

We, who are so labelled and unrepresented, legally and otherwise, must seek acceptance and integrated form of representation that ensures our Basic Rights.

The NDA Bill is faltering and it looks as if, after all the years, it may not come into effect. The harrowing point is that if it does....

It does not bestow on people, (labelled) Rights.

I seek rights and a means to achieving representation in the Courts on my behalf, if society continues to prejudice people with mental illness.

Sorry if I rambled too much but I tire of a groups who represent us, including Government, but cannot integrate their policies, and plans to provide what is just and equitable for marginalised people.


Henry James
'You cannot change how people think about you but you can change attitudes'.


author by seanpublication date Sat May 21, 2005 11:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors


Could you define what you understand by the term 'mental illness'?

Would you not consider the possiblility that people who accept the medical model of psychiatry and mental health (define themselves as sick or ill) may in fact be involved in a manoevre , consciously or otherwise, to avoid issues or problems in their lives that need to be addressed?

author by Michelle Clarke - Social Justice and Ethkcspublication date Sat May 21, 2005 23:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Yes, Sean I understand where you are coming from. Alas, I quite clearly am talking about Mental Illness, the Psychiatry model.

However, the clarity within the dichotomy of Mental Illness or Mental Health (or other chosen terminology related to the non medical model) became very muddied over time in my case.

Early on i.e. my twenties, I engaged in the avoidance route hidden behind perfection results and the anxiety necessary to give the momentum to achieve this. It worked but in retrospect, I ask at what cost to my mental state of mind and physiology.

I then decided to hedge my bets and engage in a night time university course in Law. This is where I came a cropper. The anxiety and delayed results gratification proved too much and a state of mental collapse was to follow.

Then of course, life is about precipitating events like unemployment; financial difficulties, emigration, emigration again to a country like Zimbabwe and its inherent culture shocks....This is where the mental health problem really kicks in and if there are precipitating events hidden in your childhood, they gain their life. It starts with severe tension then anxiety then depression then diagnosis then medication then perhaps hospital then perhaps Electro Convulsive Theapy.

It would be great to be able to avoid this route in favour of the more spiritual path but this is not always practicable.

In this context, we need to evaluate suicide and its impact presently. We need to review stigma, prejudice, problems of integration etc. We need to look at our education programme, secondary school level in a more integrated life skills way.

In an ideal world.....or so they say....I commend both paths, as necessary and appreciate people who have strong views about medication, to exercise care when talking to people on medications.

Medications and their cessation have very serious consequences. The saying by a Judge in another century is worth keeping to the forefront of ones mind and that is 'Knowledge is no load'.

I have seen unpleasant affects from a cessation of medication and it is not pleasant for those concerned and invariably results in hospitalisation and being put back onto the medications.

Mentors are vital. Advocacy is also. Empowerment is essential and learned understanding. We need integration from researchers in our universities; to our hospitals; to organisations that represent people with mental health problems; to mental health survivors (as they are referred to in the UK).

We need to link the organisations related to suicide; mental health problems; eating disorders; addiction problems; self harm, acquired brain injury, special needs education children etc..........We need the whole picture and then maybe our politicians could make some informed policy decisions that include rehabilitation avenue and flexi time etc........

Sean, I have grappled with the route I have taken. As it happens I attended an excellent cognitive pscyhologist in Trinity for five years and through the BESS programme Sociology, I studied Health and Healing - But I remain unconvinced. I can say with an acquired assertiveness that I do regard myself as a Mental Health Survivor.

Sean, feel free to question me. Have you read the material suggested on the Accumulated Pain and Suicide side on Indymedia - there are web sites for Patch Adams......the material is interesting and has scope in Ireland.

Quotations and I have a lever arch file of them formed part of my pilgrim path to health.

Take it in your stride

'All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking'

And, boy did I walk and use shoe leather.......

Nietzche is a German Philospher born 1844.........1900.

author by Seanpublication date Mon May 23, 2005 12:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Hi Michelle,

I can appreciate better now where you are coming from.

My point is that 'mental illnesses' cannot be considered real illnesses given that there is no objective physical pathology to observe. Instead forms of behaviour and thinking, seen as undesirable or unacceptable, are pathologised. How can feelings or thoughts be disease? How can behaviour or mis-behaviour be illness or disease?

The role social power plays in human or emotional distress is not addressed in psychiatry where the problem is seen as the 'patient's' faulty brain chemistry.

Recently , I have been reading a little about the history of hysteria. Freud and others believed that these women were suffering from medical illnesses related to psychopathology. The reality is that their behaviour was the result of the cultural forces in which women were oppressed namely by men.

psychiatry took the phenonema of hysteria and developed it into various disorders in an attempt to appear more scientific and so today we have conversion disorders, pain disorders and other somatoform disorders.

Yet today people won't question whether people presenting with these 'disorders' are in fact experiencing symptoms essentially related to the experience of disempowerment by societal/environmental forces. Instead psychiatry internalises these problems attributing them to the individual's psychopathology, brain chemical imbalance, or personality warp.

If psychiatry is to become effective it needs to become radically transformed. We need a critical social model of psychiatry at the very least. Biopsychiatry, drugs, ECT, labels are not the answer.In relation to the issue here of homelesseness it seems to be implied by psychiatry and others that the reason why such people are homeless is because they have a 'mental illness'. This seems to me to be a convenient way of deflecting attention away from how certain cultural and societal forces are responsible for people being homeless.


author by Michelle Clarke - Social Justice and Ethicspublication date Tue May 24, 2005 21:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Hello Sean

I only tonight found the reply.

I really like where you are coming from re. socialisation.

I have read Foucalt's 'Madness and Civilization'

'Madness, as Foucalt makes so impressively clear in this remarkable book, is a way of seizing in extremis the racinating groundwork of the truth that underlies our more specific realisations of what we are about...

The truth of madness is what madness is?

'What is madness is a form of vision that destroys itself by its own choice of oblivion in the face of existing forms of social tactics and strategy.

Madness, for instance, is a matter of voicing the realization that I am (or you are) Christ. There are many available forms of crucifixion in our age, apart from the cross, there are the shock box and the operation of leucotomy, as well as the mass of tranquillising drugs that flood the ready market of well-trained but gullible psychiatrists.

This is page 1 of Foucalt's book and personal exploration.......We are still exploring but perhaps there is too much academic research that is not committed to improving the overall situation of those people that become so alienated from society that hospitalisation/hostels/medications become the only route.

Sean, I can see where you are coming from and yes solely the medicalised model is not the answer. I believe in multi-disciplinary team work including the patient.

A core word is no doubt inclusiveness and acceptance of others but in the abence of this we need to rely on the medical model.

This leaves it up to people to make the change ...........

The medications are about profits for pharmaceutical companies but perhaps pressure ought to be placed on them to provide endorsed social and ethical rehabilitative programmes in place (This is done in the US and Uk). There is sufficient research gathering dust in our universities for same to be examined and effective rehabilitative programmes to be put in place. Programmes that would deal with addiction problems, mental health issues and help people to basically grasp that to be well means taking a journey as a 'pilgrim' and if that means making changes in ones life......Change is about taking responsibility and if supports are needed that they exist.

We know of traits that hamper ill people like low self esteem, insecurity, family problems but always in turmoil others can seek out the positive and foster talents.

John Hume speaks of 'Diversity in Unity'.

Sean.....I have copied you article so I am off to think ....... Hopefully, I will be able to give you a balanced!!! response.

Good Night

Michelle ( a person who always hated being boxed..........)

author by Michelle Clarkepublication date Thu Jun 02, 2005 23:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Haven't heard much about this. Does anyone know the current position?

Hopefully, the hostility has ceased and the prejudice allayed.

Michelle Clarke

Quote: 'All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking'

Fredrich Nietzche (1844-1900)
German Philosopher

author by Grithnir - Americanpublication date Sat Jun 06, 2009 02:42author email jamesccolby at hotmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I just stumbled upon this website, for the sake of it, and wondered what if any options there were to be incorporated into Irish society, being American and also schizo-affective. My friend and I used to live in Castlebar and worked at the TF Hotel and Theatre. We quite possibly were mentally ill at the time and I felt no pressure on us for the illness and we seemed to be incorporated at the time despite being American, in fact more so than other Americans or English people we had met. It has been years now from that original trip and because of the callousness of American society that reaches me in negative ways like I live in the middle of a fire and not a culture, my friend and I have decided once again to try to move to Ireland, but then again, I am not too certain it would be inviting or if we would be forced into street living, or not participating that fully. I am mistreated by family here so I don't see why it would be any different but in general I am not that affected by it and could easily work at least part time and my friend full time. I realize this is slightly off topic, but I wondered what exactly in real terms the culture surrounding Ireland is, over mental illness and immigration, as the topic did have something to do with not wanting certain people to live there. In general, though I know the modern era of information is everywhere, I would feel like my life was saved entering a church in Ireland, seeing the springs and shrubbery, the homes and livestock. I loved every aspect and for staying over a year there working intensely with other Irish people, I felt at home like I have never felt anywhere else before. I don't know what is wrong with America, but even if this is outdated and I don't get a responce, you should know that you people have an actual life, from God, and in America there is only division and hate and you should be glad you do not have to know what I know about the people here.
Again all I wonder is if I did move, could I take advantage of mental health prescriptions like they hand out here, or would I not be considered eligible, say if I were on the course to employment in Ireland and obtained a PPS number?

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