PCS gets discriminatory ‘mentally strong’ posters taken down
Members may be aware of a poster which went up in some parts of the branch titled ’18 things mentally strong people do’. Reps received a number of complaints from members who saw this, and we are glad to be able to say that management agreed to remove the posters following our objections.
The problem with the kind of imagery and message that the poster promotes is that it stigmatises people with mental health conditions. It is at best unhelpful and at worst actively harmful to suggest that suffering from stress, anxiety, depression or other conditions somehow makes people ‘weak’. Likewise, suggesting that ‘strong’ people ‘tolerate discomfort,’ ‘have staying power,’ ‘move on,’ and ’embrace change’ tells people that they ought to stay silent and put up with whatever is thrown at them. The poster (which has appeared elsewhere besides HMRC) is an apologia for bullying if not an act of bullying in itself.
PCS condemns in the strongest terms any and all discrimination against people with mental health conditions (as we condemn all forms of discrimination).
The social (as opposed to the medical) model of disability is PCS’s preferred way of defining disability. It is not physical differences or medical conditions (impairments) that disable individuals – it is the attitude and reactions of society to those peoples’ needs that means that they are disabled.
The attitudes of others stop people with mental health problems getting the help and support they need. Too many people with mental health problems are made to feel isolated, ashamed and worthless and posters such as the one in question only serve to reinforce this.
The Equality Act 2010 is the law that gives you the right to challenge discrimination. It protects people from being discriminated against because of certain protected characteristics, such as gender, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, race, pregnancy, gender reassignment and marriage/civil partnerships. Mental health falls under the category of disability.
You are likely to be covered by the Act if your condition has a substantial, adverse, and long term effect on your normal day-to-day activities. The law covers you during recruitment, employment and if you are being dismissed for any reason, including redundancy. Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to work practices, and provide other aids and adaptations, for disabled employees.
If you feel that you are being treated unfairly by the employer because of your mental health problem, or for any other reason, then speak to a rep for support and advice.