Campaigners have reacted angrily to an email from the charity Rethink, which appears to suggest that people with mental health problems are a “disease burden” on the NHS.
The email announces the launch of a ‘Manifesto for Better Mental Health‘: a set out recommendations for the government on how people with mental and physical disabilities can be treated more equally.
Rethink say they’ve joined forces with “colleagues across mental health to agree on five areas we are calling on all political parties to commit to if they are elected in 2015”.
Part of the email from the charity reads: “Mental health accounts for 23% of the disease burden, but it gets just 13% of the NHS budget and funding has been cut even further for the last three years”.
The same language also appears on the charity’s website.
Disability rights campaigners say they were “shocked and bewildered” that the charity Rethink could think that the term “disease burden” was in any way acceptable.
Denise McKenna, co-founder of the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), responded by saying that the “brutal language” used in the email had “caused offence” and “should never have been used in a mail-out to random disabled people”. Denise McKenna writes:
“We were shocked and bewildered that Rethink thought it acceptable to use the term “disease burden” in relation to mental health in a bulk mail-out.
“In this context it is brutal language and has caused offence to those of us who live with mental distress and to other members of the disability movement who have received your mailing.
“Disease burden” is a specialist piece of jargon used in disease informatics but, even when used in this context, disabled people do not accept that it is neutral.”
“No language is neutral and this term should never have been used in a mail-out to random disabled people.
“You are no doubt aware that the words “disease” and, above all, “burden” are highly toxic to disabled people and those living with mental distress. It was crass to send this out willy nilly. Is there no sensitivity at Rethink?
MHRN and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) have urged Rethink to “issue an immediate apology to all of the people who received this mailing and rightly experienced it as offensive and hurtful”.