Ruby Wax was on "The One Show" yesterday evening plugging her new documentary on the stigma attached to mental illness in the workplace and the commonplace sacking of anybody found to be suffering from mental health problems. Here is a short clip from the programme:
I'm pleased that due to the campaigning of people such as Ruby and the backing of organisations such as the BBC, there is now a gradual change of perception happening at least within the more enlightened businesses and institutions of my country, and that mental illness does not now automatically result in the sufferer being discarded onto the waste tip of permanent unemployment and poverty. What a shame though that the Church of England, on the whole, does not subscribe to this new thinking but continues to use its exemptions from human rights legislation and its culture of secrecy to routinely sack its clergy who succumb to bouts of mental illness and sideline any member of the laity who dares to "act a little strange" at times. It is a terrible thing, as Ruby points out, that secular businesses and institutions are still capable of such bigotry but for the powerful within the Church of God to treat their own with less charity and understanding than they used to dole to out to lepers in the Middle Ages, is an obscenity. That bishops and archdeacons will justify their acts of betrayal and ignorance with excuses about protecting the Church and having to balance the diocesan accounts rather than facing up to their inner fears concerning the subject of mental illness is a scandal which I know for a fact from what I've learnt from seven years of blogging is driving many good people away from institutional religion and keeping them away.
There are some people working for change in my church; the Bishop of Saint Albans raised the subject at synod a couple of years back and a group of Christians campaigned fervently for change at a general synod last year (they even managed to shame the Archbishop of Canterbury into signing a declaration that the church would work towards a more enlightened understanding of the mentally ill). But it was just play acting, nothing has changed as far as I can see. The Bishop of Newcastle who, over ten years ago now, asked me to resign just as I was starting to recover from a severe bout of a depressive illness and finally managed to give me the boot because of it a couple of years ago (to balance the books, of course), will be retiring on a full pension (enhanced because he is more important than mere priests) in the next year or so. He won't have any financial worries and will, no doubt, be content with the fact that he was able to pursue his vocation so successfully during his working life. Me, I have nothing to look forward to except a retirement of deprivation that will just be an extension of my life as it is now.
What saddens and angers me more than anything else is the refusal of Bishop Wharton and his colleagues in crime to accept their abusive actions in the past and redeem themselves by making things well again now. A member of the inner circle of Durham Diocese told me some months ago that the hierarchy of the Church of England, neither collegially or individually, would ever apologise for what they have done to me. A week ago I got an email from the same person containing phrases like "a genuine way for you to move forward" which, with his original comments about "no apologies" indicates that they believe it is entirely up to me to eat humble pie, jump through their hoops and prove myself if I want to be accepted back into their midst. Not once in the last fifteen years has a member of the church made any attempt to make an unconditional move towards me. To do so, of course, they would see as an acceptance of their guilt and it's far easier to believe the fabricated justifications of their colleagues and continue to believe that those of us who suffer, or have suffered from, mental illness are possessed by demons and should be thrown off the top of a cliff rather than welcomed, accommodated, employed and healed within the Church.
Ruby Wax stated that mental illness was the last taboo and that it was being broken. Not in the Church of England where there are still many taboos which are clung on to with self-righteous bigotry that would embarrass the Ku Klux Klan. Jesus continues weeping; the bishops of the Church of England continue to ignore him.