Following a car crash 21 years ago I have severe cognitive impairments, including ‘behavioural episodes’ and a slight limp. Yesterday I would have said my mental health was fine.
What is ‘Mental Health’? A definition may include:
‘An individual's ability to enjoy life, and create a balance between life activities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience.’
How is my mental health? Answer: Sub- optimal!
Do I enjoy life? I enjoy aspects of it, specifically my family and some tasks I do, but big picture? I feel that I no longer fit in. Is fitting in important? If you don’t fit in you either don’t get the job or you don’t keep it for long! I have worked since my accident. I have flown to the top, but I got to the level where I couldn’t disguise that I didn’t fit in! Then there’s always an excuse for why your job has gone!
But you have your family? Yes, I do.
Imagine how it feels to lose your temper at the drop of a hat over something totally unimportant. Your overwhelming guilt whilst you can still remember the incident. The incredulity of your family 10 minutes later when you are acting normally and asking them what’s wrong, because you have forgotten about it.
Have I achieved psychological resilience, which is a measure of an individual's tendency to cope with stress and adversity? This coping may result in the individual ‘bouncing back’ to a previous state of normal functioning, or simply not showing negative effects. My impairments can cause me to lose my temper quickly, but because of my cognitive memory impairment I forget and ‘bounce back’.
The answer therefore is ‘Yes’ and ‘No’!
Mental health is a relative concept. The parameters for being ‘normal’ are defined by society and anyone who doesn’t fit in is different. Autistic people, brain injury survivors and many others are different so how is their mental health measured?
My brain no longer works in the way it used to. I no longer fit in. I am condemned to a life of either being labelled strange behind my back or having to explain my disability and the effects it has to anybody I interact with.
I personally believe many people are being purged from both employment and society because they’re not ‘normal’.
As actress/comedienne Francesca Martinez says, “What the hell is normal?”
I am as good as you.
About the writer
Ian Jones is a Head Injured, Chartered Management Accountant who, following a Road Traffic Accident in 1991 (they were still called RTAs then!), made a ‘remarkable’ recovery from a very severe head injury, ending up 16 years later as Chief Financial Officer of a billion dollar leasing business until they twigged he was different! He was involved with the WOW Petition from before the start of it (when it wasn’t even called the WOW Petition!), because he felt he needed to start shouting about what is being done to disabled people in the name of fairness.
Being head injured, he doesn’t feel he belongs anywhere. He is not really either physically or mentally disabled in most peoples’ judgment. He would love to fit into the category Francesca Martinez, WOW Petition’s Celebrity spokesperson, puts herself into, ‘wobbly’. However, as he is much more and much less than that, he fits into a special category simply called ‘weird’. Rather than being angry he is disabled, he is angry that a lot of charities for disabled people are useless and are not fighting to the death against Welfare Reform (When did Social Security become Welfare?). This only leaves activists like WOW Petition to fight to the death (but that would be just what this Government wants!).
The WOW Petition is not exclusive (anybody can become disabled!), it is not a clique and anybody can join in and do what they can to help. We are not experts, but talented amateurs fighting for something we passionately believe in. In fact, we are all invested in this fight because too many disabled people appear to have no place in the society this Government is so keen to build. We HAVE to reengineer that model and make it fair!
If you want to help, or even understand why we are not benefit scroungers, or understand why to many of us, getting out of bed, getting dressed and going out of the house defines us as the ultimate ‘strivers’, then go to our website www.wowpetition.com read about us, sign the Government e-petition and tell your friends.