Nicola Barry

Monthly Archives: September 2013

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Halloween Mental Patient

Severe Mental Illness

Severe Mental Illness (Photo credit: homelesshub)

Asda Halloween Mental Patient Outrage

Such outrage over the supermarket Asda selling a fancy-dress outfit featuring a character covered in blood as a”mental patient costume”.  Asda’s doomed prank was brandishing a meat cleaver and billed as a “mental patient fancy dress costume.” The outfit, designed to look like a blood-splattered straitjacket with ragged edges, was on sale for £20 through the store’s  clothing arm, George, has now been withdrawn.

A perfect case of people in glass houses not throwing stones if ever there was one. How many times have you looked askance at somebody in the past week? Perhaps they looked as if they were not quite right – one sandwich short of the full picnic, the lift didn’t go the whole way up. You know what I’m talking about. We have developed far too many slang words for mental illness: ‘Psychos, wierdos, nut-jobs. Try counting the number you pass on an average day. The result is very revealing. It says a lot about the person counting as well as those being counted. And you have to include every oddity you meet in this particular ‘mental’ tally: smelly street beggars, drunks staggering home, road-rage drivers, mothers screaming at tantrum-prone toddlers, stressed executives. The list goes on and on. After all, statistics dictate that one in five of us is potentially mentally ill.


Like it or not, in this country, most people are prejudiced against the mentally ill. You probably know someone who has been depressed lately or even been in a psychiatric hospital. How did you respond when you first heard the news? Did you back away, mutter a few words and quietly put the person to the back of your mind, at least until he or she was better? Even more revealing – how would you react if the house next door to yours was earmarked as a future home for long-stay patients coming out of hospital – in other words if community care were to come to your back yard. Of course, you thought the concept was brilliant when it was first mooted. It’s great to have people who have been institutionalised for years and years move out of hospital into a home of their own. Then you receive a letter saying they are going to move into the house next door to you. Hey, wait a minute, you thought. What will these neighbours be like? Will they start molesting my children? Will they turn the neighbourhood into a modern-day Bedlam with their mad shouting and screaming? Most important of all: will the value of my house plummet? So, you sign a petition. You tiptoe around it at first. You don’t want to be nasty and say you’d rather they didn’t live next door. That’s a bit much. So you couch it slightly differently. You say the area isn’t suitable for that sort of person – whatever that means. Guess what? You’re prejudiced. You’re discriminating against a group of people because they are ill. What business is it of yours who is moving in next door anyway?

I have never understood why so many organisations consult residents in a street about people who are mentally ill moving into the area. What has it got to do with anyone else? When I move house, I would dearly love to have a survey carried out of the people next door beforehand. Are they noisy? Do they have a stereo blaring all day and night? Do they drink a lot? It would be wonderful to know in advance. That way I wouldn’t waste money on an unsuitable house. But I can’t do that because it would be a travesty of human rights. That is the difference between physical and mental illness. You wouldn’t mind a man with a broken leg moving in next door. But a broken mind, no thanks.

At least Asda has had the decency to apologise and withdraw the Halloween outfit. In a statement on Wednesday evening, Asda, which is owned by US retail giant Walmart, said the sale had been a “completely unacceptable error”.

A step in the right direction.

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Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale, Welsh footballer for Tottenham Ho...

Gareth Bale,Tottenham Hotspur (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The only word for it is obscene. Real Madrid has paid Tottenham Hotspur 100million Euros – £85million in old money – so that Gareth Bale can kick a football, albeit well, up and down a rather plush field. The obscenity is that Spain is in the grip of a recession which, frankly, makes ours look like a Sunday school picnic. I wonder whether the Spanish have a phrase as ironic as David Cameron’s, “We are all in this together”. Utter nonsense. And Spain, like the UK, is a land of haves and have-nots. As one of Real Madrid’s Galacticos, Gareth Bale will feel right at home among the haves, earning between £170,000 and £300,000 – depending on which paper you read. The other obscenity is that the gap between rich and poor has never been wider. Being poor is a question of not having power over yourself, of not being able to make your own choices about the life you want to lead, about what you want to do, where you want live and with whom. Any measure of poverty has to be one of inequality within a society. It’s not fair. I can’t think of any better way to say it.
It might shock you to know how many British children sleep on a thin mattress on the floor, under an old blanket, in the same room as their brothers and sisters. These children don’t have new toys, never go to the cinema or eat out in a restaurant. They rarely eat fresh fruit and vegetables. How can anyone find real happiness living such an impoverished existence?


Being as rich as your average footballer means being able to dream of a better life and having the opportunity to realise that dream. Being rich gives you self-confidence. No one in their right mind would choose to be poor. Most of us believe poverty means not having enough food or warm clothing but the poor themselves often say that the worst aspect of their lives is poverty of expectation – the idea that deprived people do not have the same aspirations as everyone else. Instead, they are socially excluded and lack opportunities in life because they are discriminated against for some reason. They are left out of things most of us take for granted.
The poor have exactly the same aspirations for themselves and their families as the rich. They want to live in a beautiful home, determine their own destinies, and enjoy all the basics most of us take for granted. They want more than just the basics though. Most people who live in poverty also dream of being a pop star, a doctor, a famous footballer. But what good are dreams when you don’t have the money to pay for those singing lessons or when your education has been so irregular that university is out of the question? You can’t achieve what you want to achieve because you are too poor. On the other hand, you know that your hopes and dreams are the only thing to keep you from sliding into an abyss of despair, so, you hang onto them. At least aspirations don’t cost money.


These days, those who are relatively well-off have been extremely vocal about their plight. They are trying desperately hard to keep pace with what is happening to the things they have always taken for granted like savings, investments, credit and long-term prosperity. The credit crunch is everywhere – rising food and fuel prices alongside plummeting house values. The perpetual coverage of the credit crunch has told us one thing loudly and clearly: it is the suffering of the people with money in the bank which matters; not the suffering and hardship of those who have nothing. I like to call them the Nouvea Pauvre. A bit like the Nouveau Riche, people who acquired a lot of cash unexpectedly, the Nouveau Pauvre are finding out, rather suddenly, what it is like to go without, but not in any real sense. These are people who THINK they are poor, who are having to cut down on expensive facials, on bottles of champagne and holidays in the South of France. This is the haves pretending to be the have-nots. Nothing more.
Footballers like Gareth Bale are fortunate enough to be recession-proof. Tragically, the people feeling it most are those who have to pay at the turnstyles to see their wealthy heroes play the beautiful game. Even in the world’s lower leagues, players earn a million times more than the wages of Joe, or even Jose, Public.

All in it together? Don’t make me laugh.

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