Supporting people to manage their mental health

The term disabled people is now used to cover the needs of an awful lot of people and I am concerned it is used to hide diversity of needs and eligibility between different people with impairments. A human rights agenda only sees disability as a protected characteristic or label, where everyone with that characteristic is regarded as having the same needs and rights as a singular group.

This assumption has led to the idea made in recent High Court judgments that it is unfair for the government to treat people with mental health issues different to people with physical impairments. On the surface, this looks entirely correct, one impairment group should not be treated less favourably than other groups, but it is not as simple as that.

Men and women are equal but they also have different physical and cultural needs in some areas. There is no point demanding men must have access to maternity services in the name of equality because they simply do not need them. And it is the same in terms of impairment.

The blue badge scheme was created in 1970 and primarily designed to support wheelchair users and people with other physical impairments so they could park nearer to the services they use and have access to wide parking spaces. It was never designed for people with mental health issues who feel unsafe walking across a car park, which the scheme does not guarantee. Similarly, counselling services designed to support mental health are not designed to support people to improve their personal mobility.

This is why for many years I have been against label based welfare and services, especially since a human rights approach has demonised questions about actual need and effective use of resources. I have a real problem with anyone having the right to receive an amount of money or access to a service they do not need simply because they have a label (cp, diabetes, asthma, spinal injury, stress etc) that offers no indication of their actual needs.

The purpose of PIP and social care payments is to be for tangible extra costs like a wheelchair, employing personal assistants, speaking watches and so on. As someone who has experienced ‘stressed and anxiety’ all my life as well as an array of other impairments, I do not know what extra costs it causes me. Rather, it has been about having access to proper emotional support and the information to develop a set of tools, skills and techniques to be aware of my emotions and manage them accordingly.

Therefore in terms of mental health, I believe there is a greater need for quality health services as opposed to access to ‘extra costs’ welfare benefits. I believe the provision of ‘overpaid’ benefits to those who do not need them for impairment costs is actually harmful. The benefit is quickly used as general income and used to reward passivity because of the lack of conditionality attached to it (what it should be spent on), taking money away from policies and services that would better assist them, as well as others.

I believe people with mental health issues, as well as people with impairments and indeed people generally should receive precisely the support they need when they need it so they can achieve their specific outcomes, based on their rights and responsibilities as full and meaningful citizens. What they need is not about them making demands on the state, or the state controlling their lives, but the individual and state working together to build the best solution for everyone involved, and that includes understanding we live in a world of limited resources and conflicting priorities.

Most disabled activists have adopted a left wing attitude to this issue, where human rights is an excuse for the disability label as a perk regardless of actual need and with no regard for a world with limited resources. The losers in this scenario are those without a voice, which is currently people with impairments who have higher support needs who often cost the state the most. The conclusion to this situation of human rights if it is not changed is a subtle eugenics agenda in order to balance the books in delivering label based benefits.

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