The Malta Independent 15 August 2018, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Nadur Carnival van - The positive side

Wednesday, 14 February 2018, 09:15 Last update: about 7 months ago

Everything has its positive side, even the Nadur Carnival ‘Mount Carmel’ van sketch.

The positive side to this otherwise insensitive ‘joke’ is that it finally got people to talk about mental health – hardly anyone was talking about the taboo subject before those photos went viral on Facebook.

It is true that this ‘joke’ was not funny at all and the people behind it should have realized that it would strike a wrong chord with the public. Then again the spontaneous Nadur Carnival, apart from being a feast of the bizarre, is also a canvas for satire, and satire also sends out a strong message. So could it be that the people who came up with this idea had just that in mind – to create a discussion where there was none?

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It is strange how people were not talking about mental health three years ago, when a British man who had been admitted to the mental health ‘facility’ in Attard eluded security personnel and jumped over a wall, never to be seen again.

Hardly anyone was talking about mental health when incessant news reports came out detailing the horrendous conditions and even worse environment that mental health patients endure on a day  to day basis.

The public reaction when a report by the Mental Health Commissioner was published a few weeks ago – detailing, among other things, how some Mount Carmel patients are made to suffer from second hand smoke inside the building – was nothing compared to what we saw this week.

Not even the escape and subsequent suicide of a young teenager from the facility some days ago led to the same level of consternation that this piece of Carnival satire created.

We are in no way defending the Nadur skit, which seems to have offended so many. While some have defended as being all in the name of good fun or dark humour, others have said it was highly insensitive, and will only serve to strengthen the stigma against people who suffer from mental illness.

Some politicians have also come out from the woodwork to blast the charade, while at least one other was chastised for defending it as another part of Nadur’s particular brand of thorny satire.

But even this is worrying – the fact that these politicians have only spoken out now, yet remained silent when all the above mentioned cases took place.

Some people rightly pointed out yesterday that it was incredulous how people were making more of a fuss over a Carnival charade rather than over actual events that happened, and that have affected people’s lives in ways much more serious than some spray paint on the side of a rusty van in Nadur.

The thing is, Carnival is now over and it is pointless to dwell over what happened in Nadur.

The good thing is that this stunt has sparked a national debate – one that was long overdue.

There should now be a strong push towards raising awareness and truly ending the taboo that still surrounds mental health. Only by speaking more frankly about the subject and treating it like the normal thing that it ultimately is will can the stigma end.

On the other hand, politicians, especially those who have a place in cabinet, should use up all their efforts to push for dignified care and facilities, preferably community-based, for mental health patients.  

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