Criminalization of brain-based health conditions

Here we see how a young woman’s mental health crisis got her into handcuffs and in front of a judge for having inconvenienced the public.

Police criminalized this woman. That’s how stigmas work.

Now compare that situation with that of, say, a pregnant woman whose waters break in the middle of a supermarket? Or hey, who cramps while driving a car on the way to the hospital, skids, spins and ends up blocking traffic?

If police did not discriminate, the latter woman should be handcuffed and dragged in front of a judge as well.

Would police do that?

And what would police do with a woman who ends up in a diabetic crisis while travelling on public transport?

Or with anyone daring to have a heart attack in public?

 

Diversity. Inclusivity. Non-discrimination. Easy to talk about. Hard to put into practice.

A few years ago, I was contacted by an organization that provides diversity training. Part of its mission was the following:

We seek to be an open, transparent, inclusive non-profit organisation, promoting diversity and equality.
We also firmly believe that individuals should be treated equally regardless of disability, gender, ethnic origin, religion and sexual orientation.

I met with its Chairperson, who asked me to take a look at the organization’s Articles.

I did that and found that they were (a slightly adapted version of) older standard Articles, even though the organization was set up more than half a year after the change in the standard Articles (28 April 2013).

Different in the newer version was that it no longer discriminated against mental health versus physical health. The Mental Health Discrimination Act 2013 had something to do with that.

This is the offending sub-clause in the articles up to 28 April 2013:

18. A person ceases to be a director as soon as—

(e) by reason of that person’s mental health, a court makes an order which wholly or partly prevents that person from personally exercising any powers or rights which that person would otherwise have;

Compare it with sub-clause 18d, which is not discriminatory toward mental health relative to physical health:

18. A person ceases to be a director as soon as—

(d) a registered medical practitioner who is treating that person gives a written opinion to the company stating that that person has become physically or mentally incapable of acting as a director and may remain so for more than three months;

The newer version reads:

18. A person ceases to be a director as soon as—

(e) [paragraph omitted pursuant to The Mental Health (Discrimination) Act 2013]

Even though the fact that the sub-clause in question (18e) was rendered invalid by the Mental Health Act because of its discriminatory nature, I felt that the organization should update its Articles.

  • It would reflect the organization’s stated values and objectives.
  • Unless the person was familiar with company law, whoever read that sub-clause might not know that it was invalid.

The organization’s Chair didn’t see the need.

 

Hormones and (mental and physical) health

For most women, PMS is an unpleasant but manageable part of their period. But for 5-8% of women (around 80,000 in the UK), their symptoms are so severe they can be fatal.

Laura experienced anxiety and panic attacks into her twenties, and was forced to temp because she couldn’t hold down a job. “Every month I’d get so tired I’d have to sleep 18 hours a day for three days. I started getting suicidal thoughts.”

She was suffering from Severe PMS or, as it is sometimes referred to in the UK, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. The condition is recognised by the NHS.

“PMDD is actually the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of one type of Severe PMS,” says consultant gynaecologist Dr Nick Panay. The UK’s definition is slightly different. “‘Severe symptoms interfere with someone’s ability to function normally.”

This is an important article. Read it:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/item/82dcd957-fb96-422c-b037-ad2645d7d3b7

I mention something similar in my book “We need to talk about this” in relation to a woman whose child was taken from her womb because she was in advanced pregnancy and has bipolar disorder. Hormones can wreak havoc. Blame the hormones, not the women. Don’t punish the women. Support them.

I happen to know a highly intelligent and spunky woman with bipolar disorder. She has a PhD and her own business. She was hospitalized twice. Want to take a guess as to when that happened? Right. When she had her daughter – who is now an adult and doing fantastically well, I might add – and when she was going through menopause.

Cut people some slack. Don’t punish them for their conditions, certainly not when the condition is otherwise highly manageable and well-managed by the woman in question. Punishing someone with bipolar disorder for going through a rough patch is like punishing someone else for having a bad flu.

By the way, Italy has just introduced period leave for women. And in case that makes you wonder about this, the gender pay gap in Italy is lower than in quite a few other European countries.