If someone avers ‘I’m not racist’, the opposite is invariably true. So how does that translate to attitudes to mental health?






The  ‘I’m not racist’ or like another ‘I’m not homophobic’ are modern idioms in the mould of Gertrude in Hamlet when she says “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”  In the play, the irony in her remark is clear; the more one protests one’s innocence the more likely it is that you are guilty. If you are about to commit a lie – take a tip – don’t overdo it and make too solid an eye contact. You may be rumbled.

Obviously my mental illness is out there for anyone to witness in my book, but of course each week that passes leads someone you know to learning about your illness for the first time. The good guys – for want of a better term – act exactly as they did before learning about your condition. Many thankfully are like this. They don’t pontificate about how open minded they are about such things.

But others are not. And surprisingly, they are not necessarily detached from you, many are close – very!  So proximity and love are not the arbiters of prejudice. I former lady friend of mine, with whom I was very close for awhile, made great noises about how she understood and had no issue with it. But within days of learning about my condition, negative remarks would slip into the rhetoric when conflict occurred. A classic still jars – we were arguing, as couples do, and as things got into a minor stand-off, without warning I was subjected to ‘look I’m supposed to be the normal one around here!’ Ouch ! In the scheme of things, and set against what other things I’ve had to endure, it was minor, but it was nonetheless disheartening.

Naively I guess, I thought love would eliminate such prejudice, but people who have in built attitudes and prejudices, don’t shed them just because someone they supposedly love rubs up against those beliefs. In my experience, they react as per Lady Gertrude’s experience, in that they go overboard at first, seemingly trying hard to convince themselves most of all that they have no issue with it. Then as familiarity breeds contempt, out comes the prejudice just when you least expect it.

Legislatively, there is now some redress, and if one says something homophobic or racist one might end up in court. But call someone a ‘nutter’ or ‘mong’ or ‘headcase’ and the law doesn’t back you. I’m not actually for a Nanny state where every single aspect of life is legislated for, and I love humour – which has to have a ‘target’ to focus the joke upon. It’s healthy that we all learn to cope with ribbing or having our accents mocked, or whatever, but it has to stay within the bounds of decency and fairness. And these have to be self-imposed right now.

And there’s the rub! Who draws that line? I can’t answer that, but we do perhaps need one – even if it’s dotted. But right now it’s open season on the mentally ill, and it’s the last bastion of mindless prejudice.

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