Social justice is:
“The objective of creating a fair and equal society in which each individual matters, their rights are recognized and protected, and decisions are made in ways that are fair and honest.” (Oxford Reference)
Social justice addresses the intersectionality of factors that cause some segments of society to be disadvantaged in terms of access, equity, rights, and participation. These factors can include disability, gender, race, sexuality, and colonialization. Because of the multiplicity of factors that can contribute to and interact with mental illness, many have argued that mental health is a social justice issue.
Within the mental illness community, we often face stigma because of our illnesses, but many of us are disadvantaged because of other factors as well. It’s important that we speak up not just about discrimination related to mental health, but also about the other social injustices that we experience and bear witness to.
MH@H stance on social justice
We all have elements of our identity that provide us with advantages and also with disadvantages, and appreciating those in ourselves helps us to relate to others. I recognize that as a white person, I have tremendous social privilege. Being cis-gendered, heterosexual, and well-educated also confers privilege. At the same time, I’m at a disadvantage by being female in a society still dominated by patriarchy, having a mental illness, and experiencing disability because of that illness.
The concept of social privilege is often misunderstood, and this is addressed in more depth in the post Social privilege and the underprivileged. Someone can have privilege because of one characteristic but tremendously disadvantaged because of another. Social privilege does not mean you automatically have it easy, or have a good life. Often social privilege can be recognized more in the sense of problems you aren’t exposed than in good things you notice being exposed to.
While I may be disadvantaged because I have a disability, I am confident that if I am pulled over by police for a traffic stop, for example, the police officer will not shoot me. That doesn’t feel like privilege unless I think about what might have happened in that same situation if I had been a Black man.
I believe we should be celebrating the diversity among us, and embrace the whole range of human identities and experiences. Love unites us and makes us stronger, and hate only divides and weakens us.
That’s why this blog is a discrimination-free zone, and to maintain a safe space for all, discriminatory comments will not be tolerated.
Social justice-related posts on MH@H
These are some posts on MH@H related to social justice issues, and the intersection between mental health and other justice and equality issues:
- Ableism: The Assumptions People Make About Ability (and Disability) – Ableism is a concept that overlaps with stigma and affects people with all forms of disability
- Halloween, Blackface, and Cultural Appropriation
- Happy Fourth of July: as asylum-seekers are kept in cages and separated from their children, there is no freedom without freedom for all
- I Am Not Free to… – while people are protesting the pandemic lockdowns, here are a few ways in which I’m not entitled to infringe on the rights and freedoms of others
- Nevertheless, she persisted: breaking silence is uncomfortable, but our voices need to be heard
- Voter ID Laws as a Form of Voter Suppression: Voter ID laws may seem like a good idea, but this can end up disenfranchising marginalized groups, and in particular racialized communities
- We all deserve a roof over our heads: people with mental illness are over-represented in the homeless population
- Why don’t more people understand consent?: what’s so hard about only yes means yes?
Health and social issues
God Knows Where I Am: Death by Mental Illness comments on the documentary God Knows Where I am, which tells the story of a woman with bipolar disorder who was released from hospital in the middle of winter with no where to go. She subsequently died by starvation after the health care system utterly failed her.
Is healthcare a right or a privilege? And is it people speaking from positions of privilege who insist it’s not a right? I have a pre-existing condition also looks at the issue of accessing health insurance for people with a chronic illness who are living in the U.S. Why Funding Community Mental Health Care Matters looks at how funding community-based care can provide better service levels and reduce acute care expenditures in the long term.
Systemic inequities can have a major impact on our health, which is why the Why the social determinants of health matter. Intersectionality and what it means for mental health talks about the variety of different factors that can contribute to the inequality experienced by different individuals with mental illness. Where race and mental health collide focuses in on the ways that race can have a huge impact on stigma and access to care.
Human rights and mental illness gives an overview of the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and how it’s relevant to people with mental illness.
Addictions and Social Justice
Working at an inner-city mental health team gave me an up close and personal look at people’s trauma-ravaged lives and the addictions that resulted. I also lost the loss of the love of my life to a fentanyl overdose.
- So, what is the opioid epidemic? This public health crisis disproportionately affects those of lower socioeconomic status
- The Failure of the War on Drugs means that disproportionate numbers of poor individuals and racial majorities are being incarcerated en masse
- The Survival Sex Trade is a stark example of the power of addiction, which can drag vulnerable people into the high-risk survival sex trade.
Awareness Days Promoting Social Justice
The United Nations observes World Social Justice Day annually on February 20.
- Happy International Men’s Day! – when men live up to their greatest potential and our boys are sent healthy messages, feminists benefit too
- International Day of Happiness 2019, 2020: supports the UN’s sustainable development goals
- International Women’s Day: Balance for Better and #EachforEqual
- It’s World Toilet Day – and Yes, That’s a Thing – proper sanitation isn’t just important for health
- Tomorrow is Earth Day: being poor and otherwise disadvantaged affects access to clear air and drinking water
Gender and Social Justice
“Female circumcision” just doesn’t do justice to the horrific Tragedy of Female Genital Mutilation. Women are targeted in a less obvious way in The Cost of Being a Woman, which looks at the taxation of tampons and the “pink tax” more broadly.
Why feminism helps all of us looks at why feminism shouldn’t just be about women, as it attacks the gender stereotypes and expectations that end up pushing us all down.
The time for justice is now
Again and again and again, Black people, and particularly Black men, are losing their lives for no other reason than the colour of their skin. How many times does this have to happen before systemic racism is addressed?
The time is now. It should have been many years ago, but now is the best we can do.
You can read here Why I Use My Voice to Say Black Lives Matter.