Mental health group in racist swastika storm

Twitter-getty

Users outraged as rights-based group tells user it is "in your head"

5th June 2020 by Robert Armour 1 Comment

A Scottish mental health group has been accused of racism after it told a Twitter user the symbolism of a swastika was “in your head.”

Mental Health Rights Scotland outraged Twitter users after telling Shubhanna Hussain-Ahmed, a partnership development officer at the Carers Coalition, that a swastika painted on a neighbours shed when she was growing up was “only a symbol.”

Hussain-Ahmed originally tweeted how the swastika was painted on a shed when she was growing up in Scotland but none of her neighbours did anything about it.

She tweeted: “The reason we don't have a racism problem in Scotland is because we're good at pretending it doesn't exist. 40 years ago our neighbour painted a swastika on their shed. None of the other neighbours said a word. That swastika is still there today. And still no one has said a word.”

However Mental Health Rights Scotland responded by apparently trying to undermine her experience in an insulting tweet which read: “It is only a symbol. What it means to you is in your head. Drawing attention to it only promotes the racist connotations. Better to ignore it as your neighbours do - or transform it into something more artistic. ... More offensive is the dangerous state of the shed.”

Twitter user Jo Marius responded: “Claiming that calling attention to racism is what creates racism, and that people who experience racism are the ones responsible for transforming it are both incredibly racist things to say.”

As well as individuals prominent charities and rights groups at home and abroad weighed with criticism of MHRS.

Central Scotland Regional Equality Council said that as a group campaigning for human rights “you show an alarming lack of awareness. Hopefully that's all it is and not an indication of your own prejudies.”

However MHRS insisted on defending the original tweet, miring itself in further outrage. “The meaning depends on the context, which was 40 years ago. I don't see why people in a different place, having no connection with the event, should take offence 40 years later.”

It is not clear who runs the account on behalf of MHRS. However it has been known to tweet controversially in the past. Its chairman is Barry Gale and it claims to be an association of service users and carers who are campaigning for recognition of human rights in the Scottish mental health system.

Dave Caskill, a Twitter user who has been in touch with MHRS as a service user, said the organisation deliberately courted controversy. "The problem seems to be they lack a wide range of expertise and are led by users," he said. "THey don't seem media savvy and deiberately tweet controversial statements to get publicity. I was in touch about contacting my MSP regarding lack of mental health awarness with my local council but I got ignored despite repeated requests for support. So I'm not really sure how effective it is an organisation."

TFN has contacted MHRS's chair and vice chair for a response. 

UPDATE: Barry Gale posted this comment with regards to our article: "I continue to deny the groundless allegations that I or MHRS supports racist ideology, and that I ever claimed that all racism and the holocaust are a figment of anyone's imagination. What I do claim is that I am being deliberately misrepresented by people who refuse to accept my denials."

5th June 2020 by Kirstein Rummery

As a mental health services user with Jewish family I don't want racists and antisemites campaigning on my behalf. I don't want them enabled to do ANYTHING this offensive on social media, but certainly not in my name. I would urge any individuals or organisations working in the mental health field to give these people a very wide berth.