Fury As Charity Claims People With Mental Health Problems Are A ‘Disease Burden’

Campaigners have reacted angrily to an email from the charity Rethink, which appears to suggest that people with mental health problems are a “disease burden” on the NHS.

The email announces the launch of a ‘Manifesto for Better Mental Health‘: a set out recommendations for the government on how people with mental and physical disabilities can be treated more equally.

Rethink say they’ve joined forces with “colleagues across mental health to agree on five areas we are calling on all political parties to commit to if they are elected in 2015”.

Part of the email from the charity reads: “Mental health accounts for 23% of the disease burden, but it gets just 13% of the NHS budget and funding has been cut even further for the last three years”.

The same language also appears on the charity’s website.

Disability rights campaigners say they were “shocked and bewildered” that the charity Rethink could think that the term “disease burden” was in any way acceptable.

Denise McKenna, co-founder of the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), responded by saying that the “brutal language” used in the email had “caused offence” and “should never have been used in a mail-out to random disabled people”. Denise McKenna writes:

“We were shocked and bewildered that Rethink thought it acceptable to use the term “disease burden” in relation to mental health in a bulk mail-out.

“In this context it is brutal language and has caused offence to those of us who live with mental distress and to other members of the disability movement who have received your mailing.

“Disease burden” is a specialist piece of jargon used in disease informatics but, even when used in this context, disabled people do not accept that it is neutral.”

“No language is neutral and this term should never have been used in a mail-out to random disabled people.

“You are no doubt aware that the words “disease” and, above all, “burden” are highly toxic to disabled people and those living with mental distress. It was crass to send this out willy nilly. Is there no sensitivity at Rethink?

MHRN and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) have urged Rethink to “issue an immediate apology to all of the people who received this mailing and rightly experienced it as offensive and hurtful”.




  1. I am disabled and see no offense what so ever as its standard legal informatics

    • I have a diagnosis of schizophrenia I find the claims of being offended extremely odd. Of course there is a disease burden connected to mental illness. Surely we have more important things to squabble about

  2. Oh yes only organisations with an alternative agenda will lick the rear end of political parties – in which case they should have their Charitable status withdrawn as part of the process of becoming politisised!

  3. How in the world do you make "Mental health accounts for 23% of the disease burden" into "Charity Claims People With Mental Health Problems Are A ‘Disease Burden’"? It simply does not say that. Are people just reacting to the word "burden"?

  4. I'm Autistic and I find this completely outrageous! If I, and others like me, only count for 13% of the entire budget, we're clearly not that much of a burden! You should Rethink your standpoint, what an ugly thing to say -.-

  5. 'The disease burden' is the standard medical resources term. It doesn't imply any individual is 'a burden' and isn't intended as a negative implication for those affected. The disease burden of any society is just the level of ill-health that exists, and the charity was making the good point that considering the impact and affect of mental health conditions and distress, more funding is needed, as it is currently weighted towards physical ill health.

    And yes, I am disabled myself, and don't take offence at the term.

Comments are closed.