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Polarisation and political correctness : subtle barriers to consumer participation in mental health services
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Brenda Happell
The expectation that consumers and carers are active participants in all aspects of mental health service delivery has been a feature of Australian national mental health policy for more than a decade. More recently consumer and carer involvement has tended to broaden to incorporate education and research roles. While advancements in consumer and carer participation have been made, barriers to maximising the potential of these initiatives have been identified. The negative attitudes of mental health professionals have consistently been recognised as a major impediment to effective consumer and carer participation. Mental health professionals have been described as discriminatory and stigmatising towards consumers of mental health services. The aim of this paper is to consider the potential impact of attitudes that are less obviously negative and therefore arguably all the more powerful. The polarisation of consumers into opposites on the basis of their level of activity, and political correctness carried to the extreme, can render consumer advocacy as inappropriate or ineffective and therefore present major obstacles to consumer activity. Examples of polarisation and political correctness are presented and discussed in terms of their possible undermining of consumer led initiatives.