You don’t have to be mad to work here but it’s extremely likely

Friday was a good day for humanity. The Mental Health Discrimination Bill was passed allowing anyone with a mental health problem to become an MP, judge or carry out jury service. No longer can feelings of despair or vulnerability exclude you from representing the interests of others or deciding on matters of individual freedom.

It’s a bit weird from an industrial relations perspective to deny  that mental health is an occupational issue and that MPs and Judges are themselves vulnerable people. Personally, I have always assumed that both professions have a higher prevalence of wearing adult nappies and collecting body hair in jars. Prejudiced maybe but consider the impact of a job that expects you to know you are right, show leadership with near-absolute conviction, lie publically, remain loyal to late-capitalist institutions while spending most of your time working late and eating bar snacks alone.

That’s a checklist for a Jesus complex right there for you.

To deny professional vulnerability is an attempt to put a split between those that have mental health problems and those that don’t. Psychic apartheid. This is how compulsive splitting can be. Iain Dale, shortlisted for two mental health broadcasting awards, wrote a piece for Mind’s website recently. Line two “I’ve never suffered from depression, or any other form of mental condition, so I have slightly surprised myself at how interested in the subject I have become”. Exclamation mark.

You don’t have to work in mental health to sense that when someone says they have never had any problems with mental health it could be a sign of being either highly defended or a bit of a thickie. I’m not discounting the second possibility but Iain, I’m worried about you mate that despite working in the sophisticated world of journalism you don’t realise you just switched on a flickering neon sign above your head saying “actually I’m in deep psychic trouble”.

This bill is a victory for humanity because it is one concrete step out of the paranoid schizoid split between the mad (not-me) and the sane (me-me-me). The idea that the world can be split neatly runs deep, an attempt to get rid of the parts of ourselves that we wouldn’t put on our CVs. By re-uniting them we take a more realistic position that it is precisely these contradictions that make us human and capable of understanding human experience in its complexity.

If you wanted to be generous about it, this splitting goes some way to explain why it is that the current political elite in this country genuinely don’t seem to live in the same reality as the rest of us. This is just a Bill, but it’s a good one because some of our leaders have in the process returned to planet earth and rejoined humanity, and for a moment we are in some sense all in it together.

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