I remember taking a bus to London Bridge when, after a few stops, a woman got on who seemed to move with a subtle but twitchy disregard for her surroundings. She found herself a seat among the Saturday shoppers and divided her time between looking out the window and responding to invisible companions, occasionally shouting at her unseen persecutors.
By East Street, the bus was empty.
You’ve probably encountered fellow travellers who are strikingly out of the ordinary, sometimes quite distressed, scattered among the urban landscape where they seem to have a social forcefield around them that makes crowds part in their presence.
If you’ve ever worked in a hospital or support service for people with psychological or neurological difficulties, you’ve probably met lots of people who are markedly out of step with the mundane rules of social engagement.
They seem to talk too loud, or too fast, or too much. They can be full of fantastical things or fantasies. They may be afraid or angry, difficult or disengaged or intent on rewind-replay behaviours. Their dress can be notable for its eccentricity or decay.
So why don’t we see people like these in anti-stigma campaigns?
The stigma campaigns in the UK seem to be full of those portraying the ‘acceptable’ face of mental illness ie articulate/middle class/presentable - people you can see as being on the road to recovery. The ‘you wouldn’t know on first glance they were mentally ill’ types. These are easy to show positivity towards but what about those who are more obviously mentally ill and not likely to make a quick recovery or to recover at all?
Society caring about those would show how much public attitudes to mental illness have improved…