This week, 5 -11 October, is Mental Health Awareness Week, (MHAW). Surely we are all reasonably aware of the state of our mental well-being? It is, after all, difficult to avoid our state of mind, even if we don’t all have the insight we might have about it. But perhaps not. Don’t get me wrong, I think our individual mental health, and that of the nation are of critical importance, and I have no problems with this particular campaign or other campaigns that set out to advance particular issues or conditions. It is just that word awareness, with its lack of solid intention that bothers me.
For many years I have observed countless awareness campaigns and training programmes focused on disability generally, or on particular impairment types. With the disability population reaching twenty four percent it’s time to seize the high ground and do something different, be more ambitious. If people aren’t aware now they should be, or we haven’t been doing it right.
“Awareness” is a passive, anodyne and boring word. So you are aware, so what? It’s what you are going to do with that awareness that really counts. I’m much more concerned with taking action and making positive social change. Constructive actions with progress markers are elements awareness campaigns and training seem to miss.
It’s nearly thirty years since a group of disabled people working in the public service launched the concept of disability pride into the world with some dissension. Not everyone thought then that taking pride in a disability identity was A Good Thing – the essential liberating meaning of the social model of disability has been slow to catch on here. But at least let us explore some proactive possibilities.
Fifteen years into the twenty first century is time to stop bleating about awareness and show some muscle. Pride in identity could be one way, or creatively claiming disability rights and our place to stand in the sunshine might be another. I would love to see people younger than me with the energy and chutzpah to confront and challenge the tired old awareness trope wherever they find it.