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A rethink about Kerry?

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Vaughan | 10:54 UK time, Tuesday, 28 October 2008

If you looked at the news last week - especially the showbiz sections that no one ever admits to reading (including me) - you won't have failed to notice the widespread coverage of an appearance on ITV's This Morning by former Atomic Kitten singer and I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! winner Kerry Katona. The programme denied talk of an "ambush" of the star, after presenter Phillip Schofield interrupted the interview to question her about her slurred speech, which she said was due to the medication she has been prescribed - including an anti-psychotic drug called Chlorpromazine. Kerry Katona has made the headlines a great deal in the past year or so because of her well-documented drug addiction and mental health problems, and has received treatment for both.

Responding to the story, mental health charity Rethink has now released a strongly-worded statement with the title Laughing at Kerry Katona's speech is like poking fun at a wheelchair. (Personally, I have a suspicion that Rethink meant to say "wheelchair user", since a wheelchair ia an inanimate object that wouldn't particularly mind having fun poked at it - but maybe I'm splitting hairs.)

In the statement, Rethink agrees with Kerry's assertion that "medication for mental illnesses [can] often cause side-effects like slurred speech and drowsiness", and goes on to say:

We wouldn't dream of making fun of someone with a physical disability who uses a wheelchair , so why is it still socially acceptable to have a good laugh at someone who is being treated for a mental health problem? Thousands of people are affected by mental illness and receive treatment that can cause side-effects. And like Kerry they are often stigmatised because of it.

The press release concludes: "If you wouldn't poke fun at someone with a physical disability for using a wheelchair, don't do it to someone with a mental illness for merely taking their medication".

Some people have suggested that Katona was badly advised when she decided to appear on such a high profile show whilst experiencing the effects of her medication, but an opposing argument would be that she had every right to go on the show, especially if she is talking frankly about her mental health? But what do you think? Does the outcry over her interview on This Morning show a lack of understanding about mental health problems and the medication used to treat them?


  • Comment number 1.

    I think that going on the show and slurring her words and then defending the issue in the press has got her a lot more headlines and column inches than the 'responsible' course of cancelling the interview would have done.

    And while I wholeheartedly agree that no one deserves to be mocked for their condition or for the side effects of their medication... the cynic in me has a tough time believing that her management couldn't see how positively this would play out for her image.

    Even those who would sneer at the, um, highlights of her, um, career, are rallying to her defence. More people now know who Kerry Katona is. Mission accomplished.

  • Comment number 2.

    I don't think Rethink meant to say 'wheelchair user' - the wheelchair is the 'side-effect' of the physical disability - just as the slurred speech is a side-effect of the meds Kerry is on (by the way she said Propiamazine, not Clorpromazine). It is a straight analogy. The key is that a wheelchair is a necessary part of managing a physical disability and the meds (and their side-effect) is a necessary part of managing a mental illness.

    On the subject of whether she should have been on TV - why not?! We don't ban Stephen Hawking from speaking publicly in case people laugh at his speech. She has every right to be a public figure whilst being treated for an illness. They should have asked her more about it. I think it's brave of her to discuss it and she shouldn't be expected to hide in the shadows.

  • Comment number 3.

    Laughing at her would be poor yes, but then so would someone turning up for work in no shape to perform her job, regardless fo the reason.

    She should clearly not have gone on the show, she as was unable to perform professionally. That would go the same for any of us on medication.

    If it is a long term treatment then that means she can't do live TV then so be it, there are other options open to her and she should take them.

    If she puts herself out there and fails to do her job then she is the one setting herself up for ridicule.

  • Comment number 4.

    Why should anyone have to hide the effects of their impairment (or treatment for it)? That would be giving in to those ignorant non-disabled people who can only cope with us on their terms.

  • Comment number 5.

    I am one of those ignorant non-disabled people who raise funds for people with disabilities. She has every right to publicise the issue. Unfortunately all she wants to publicise is herself and frankly most of the public are fed up with it


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