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Pigeon holed / 25 July 2008

During the course of my career as Crippen I’ve produced lots of cartoons relating to the concept of labeling people. It’s quite a simple notion to illustrate, with actual labels hung around the neck of various individuals to indicate the diagnosis they had been given by many a so called disability professional.

It also makes life far simpler for society when individuals can be pigeon holed and identified as belonging to one group or another in this way. The classic one is the use of the term the disabled which puts us all together in a neat little box along with the assumption that we’re all the same; have the same likes and dislikes; function in the same way, etc., (I covered this back in April 08). mad cartoon

One of the main areas where labeling comes into its own is within the field of mental health. It simplifies things to hang the label ‘schizophrenic’ around someone’s neck, for example, as this diagnosis not only brings its own established medication regime, but also reduces the need for any additional spending on expensive one-to-one therapy. To then allow other agencies, such as the tabloid press to hang additional labels like potential ‘axe murderer’ or ‘danger to society’ on them as well, is all part of the greater labeling game and justifies this form of treatment (the fact that a person with a mental illness is more likely to end up self harming is lost in the general course of events).

This cartoon came about after a discussion with an elderly ex-psychiatric nurse (or mental nurse as he described himself). He strongly believed that the old ways were the best, when he was equipped with a set of keys and was given the task of ‘keeping the nutters off the streets and safely behind locked doors’ (his words). Afterwards I got to thinking about his way, and the modern, so called enlightened way of controlling people with medication. I couldn’t help but compare the old locked wards regime and the chemical straight jackets that are now employed. Not much has changed really has it?!

Bonkersfest - The trouble with living in Spain is that I miss out on a lot of the UK disability arts stuff that's happening. Did many of you get to the BonkersFest on the 19th July? I know Dolly was there with her ladder and her light bulb (read about it in her blog on this site). Here's the link for the festival if you're interested in going next year.

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