Don’t let the false comparisons fool you, there are plenty of disabled people whose physical health is completely erased and this should not be forgotten when we talk about mental health.
In a bid to raise awareness about the absence of support for mental health, it is often stated that physical health would never be treated in the same way. On the face of it, the logic can make sense. If you think of a broken leg, it’s hard to believe that someone would tell the individual who is in pain and can’t walk to “just get on with it”.
However, beyond this example, the comparison doesn’t actually stand up to scrutiny – and is inherently ableist as it throws many disabled people under the bus.
We need greater mental health resources and support in society. That cannot be denied. Figures suggest that between 1 in 4 or 1 in 6 people will experience a mental health condition in their life time. Furthermore, the cuts to services have seen patients struggling for beds or to access the right support. There’s also still huge stigma around mental health support that stops people from being able to talk about what’s going on with them, although it must be added that even when people are out about their mental health, it’s still incredibly difficult for them to be granted appropriate support as it is just such a rarity in the UK.
Yet, that doesn’t mean that physical health is treated perfectly, or even well. Many conditions do get treated but it is precisely the idea that physical health is easy to fix and that doctors can just crack on why people who live with chronic pain are being abandoned.
Those who live with chronic pain are failed by the healthcare system. Many have to turn to illegal substances for any kind of relief, or are left in limbo, being given prescriptions that might help them just about manage day to day but don’t actually do much more than that or fix the underlying reason for pain.
People with chronic pain, or conditions which are difficult to diagnose, can end up feeling every bit as lost and forgotten as people with mental health conditions. Saying that “physical health would never be treated like mental health” is a cruel joke for those with disabilities who have been thrown on the scrap heap because the medical establishment either don’t believe their levels of pain or think their condition is too “difficult”.
“People with chronic pain, or conditions which are difficult to diagnose, can end up feeling every bit as lost and forgotten as people with mental health conditions”
This is just another phrase that actually pits people who need support (albeit different kinds of support) against each other. It’s particularly pernicious when the people who develop depression, anxiety and even agoraphobia due to their physical health are factored into the equation. It’s ridiculous to imply that their physical health has been treated wonderfully.
Physical health is complex and wide ranging, which is often forgotten. It’s not so easy as fixing a broken leg. People still die regularly without any known cause being given, simply because we don’t understand every element of our physical health. Nobody knows this more than anyone who experiences chronic pain. There’s often little medical research, few medications and complete lack of awareness in society. Mental health is struggling, but so too is physical health. It’s time disabled people stopped fighting among themselves and started taking the fight to those who stand in the way of progress for any and all disabled people.
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