Azan and Hayles: Politically incorrectWednesday, July 28, 2021
Kindly allow me space in your prestigious newspaper to call on Richard Azan and the People's National Party (PNP) to publicly withdraw the insensitive comments and insinuations Azan made on a political platform in Manchester on Sunday, July 25, 2021.
“Sometimes I wonder if a some likkle tings a gwaan, but it look like something wrong right up yah suh,” said Azan about Member of Parliament (MP) Rhoda Moy Crawford as he pointed to his head. His comments were greeted with loud cheers and laughter from party supporters.
In politics, throwing unkind words at your opponents, especially on political platforms is part of the cut and thrust. I get that! However, for Azan to use pejorative remarks associated with mental illness to throw shade at Moy Crawford is wrong on many levels.
As a mental health patient myself, I know from experience that mental illness is not fun, so we should not try to make it funny. Comments and insinuations, like those uttered by Azan on the political platform, only serve to fuel the stigma associated with mental illness. His comments and insinuations were meant to paint his political opponents in a negative light, and that is exactly how stigma works. It makes people see those of us with mental illness negatively because of our health condition.
It hurts me as a mental health patient to know that the leader of the PNP, Mark Golding, and the General Secretary Dr Dayton Campbell, who is a medical doctor, sat on the platform and applauded, with laughter, such insensitive remarks.
As a senior member of the PNP and someone of influence, who many people look up to, Azan's remarks are highly insensitive and fly in the face of the mentally ill community. He, and other members of the PNP, may not have understood the correlation between the stigma associated with mental illness and his comments, but there is one. I found the comments to be offensive and so, too, I believe, did the over 100,000 people in Jamaica living with this disease.
Stigma causes many of us as mental health patients to avoid or delay seeking help because of fear of being judged, ridiculed, or rejected. Stigma also fuels prejudice and discrimination, which invariably hinder our treatment programme and our ability to lead normal lives. Azan's comments and insinuations are an affront to the gains made over many years to help remove the shame associated with mental illness.
We all have a role to play in helping to eradicate stigma and repairing the broken dignity of the mentally ill community. One of the ways we can help is through advocacy and calling out people like Azan when they utter insensitive comments such as the one he made about something being wrong with Crawford.
I am happy that many Jamaicans showed him the 'red card' by calling him out. As a mental health patient and advocate, I am calling on Azan and the PNP to publicly apologise to MP Crawford and the community of the mentally ill.
Do the right thing and apologise, Azan! The mentally ill community and MP Crawford deserve to be treated with greater respect and sensitivity. Our politics has evolved and more people are inclined to demand a kinder, gentler, milder, softer, and cleaner tone from our political leaders. The word is always love.
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login