Living with an invisible illness often means being under constant suspicion of being workshy and a malingerer, and of committing benefit fraud. Ignorant people often attribute physical but invisible illness to mental health problems, and then claim that they are not real problems. This is usually wrong on two counts, since not only are many of those illnesses not mental health problems, but mental health problems can be just as real and disabling as any physical problem.
Unfortunately some of these ignorant people have a platform to spread their ignorance and hatred through. One such person is Rod Liddle, who writes in The Spectator. After being contacted by the Fibromyalgia Society he launched an attack on the disease, saying that ”it is another one of those imaginary afflictions claimed by malingering mentals.” He went on to present a list of “Things Which Definitely Are Not Illnesses or Diseases“ and included Fibromyalgia and M.E. in that list. I have complained to the Press Complaints Commission about this article, and this is the text of my complaint.
The article breaches clause 1 part 1 of the code of practice.
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
The article breaches the code of practice as it is inaccurate and misleading.
The article lists Fibromyalgia and M.E. under the heading “Things Which Definitely Are Not Illnesses or Diseases”
It is factually incorrect to state that these are not illnesses. Fibromyalgia is listed in the World Health Organisation’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems under M79 Other soft tissue disorders, not elsewhere classified, as M79.7, Fibromyalgia. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) is listed under G93 Other disorders of the nervous system as G93.3 Postviral fatigue syndrome – Benign myalgic encephalomyelitis.
The article states “[Fibromyalgia] is another one of those imaginary afflictions claimed by malingering mentals.”
The author has no grounds to claim that fibromyalgia is imaginary, as it recognised as a real physical illness by the WHO. He also has no grounds to use the phrase “malingering mentals.” Fibromyalgia is not a mental illness, and even if it were, a mental illness is a real illness and is not “malingering.” This phrase is incorrect and is disablist hate speech. The errors in this article contribute directly to hate crime, abuse, and verbal abuse against sick and disabled people, of which there has been a significant increase in recent months. (As reported by Scope at http://www.scope.org.uk/news/matthew-parris-and-times)
I have saved a Freezepage copy of the offending article in case it disapears.
You can make your own complaint to the PCC on their website.
I recommend this interesting blog post on the different reactions to visible and invisible illness.