Press Statement

 

The Alliance for Mental Health (A4MH) is a strong believer in the values of freedom of speech, as well as liberty of expression. The A4MH also believes in the right for individuals or groups to voice opinions, and appreciates the value of farce, satire and mockery as elements that contribute to a Carnival atmosphere and maintain a social conscience.

The A4MH is nevertheless concerned by evidence of very disparaging, negative messages towards people suffering from mental illness that were displayed in this year's Carnival parades. On the one hand, the A4MH recognises that this is a result of the increasing awareness in Malta towards the problem of mental illness, the current services available, and the national debates, as also exemplified by the lead editorial in the Sunday Times. The A4MH welcomes national awareness and discussion, and together with other platforms including the President's Foundation, continues to participate in education, lobbying and standard setting for the appropriate, safe and dignified treatment for people who develop mental health difficulties.

The A4MH is thus dismayed by carnival floats, comments or attitudes that invite derision upon people who are already struggling to deal with extremely difficult circumstances, and that unintentionally also cause untold hurt, harm and frustration in their families and loved ones. Since practically every Maltese family is familiar with one or more individuals who are suffering with mental illness, this is clearly an attitude that distresses a vast segment of the population. And since there is still a powerful stigma surrounding mental ill-health, people who are unjustly targeted as well as their families usually do not feel entitled to stand up publicly and defend themselves from being targeted unfairly.

The effect of careless, clumsy and insensitive attempts at humour at the expense of people who have mental illness is that it makes the life of others miserable. It prevents people from speaking up about their difficulties, and it holds them back from seeking the help they need to treat their psychiatric conditions. As a country, we all suffer as a result of this.

 

The Alliance for Mental Health (MAPN, MHA, RF, MAP)

 

Etienne Muscat, M.D.

President
Maltese Association of Psychiatry
11 February 2018