This story is over 5 years old.


A UK Conservative Candidate Suggested Those with Mental Illnesses Wear Colored Wristbands to Identify Themselves

Probably not the best idea. Actually, it's the worst idea in recorded history.

Photo via Flickr user jonanamary

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

A Conservative parliamentary candidate has suggested people with mental health problems wear colored wristbands to identify themselves to people, sort of like a fun mental illness-only traffic light party where, instead of fucking, you stand around and talk about the perks of cognitive behavioral therapy. The Conservatives: the People's Party.

As political blogger Richard Taylor reported, barrister and Cambridge area hopeful Chamali Fernando told a Keep Our NHS Public-hosted hustings of the wristband idea, suggesting different colored bands could be used to indicate various different mental health issues and suggesting lawyers such as herself could treat people differently based on their wristband color. Because you never know when someone's a mental health sufferer, do you? Ugh! So frustrating! Like: Be more upfront about it, sadlads. This wristband idea is definitely the solution to that particular problem.


"I would say, in answer to your question, there are issues surrounding early diagnosis," she said, in response to a question about mental health. "We need to make teachers, health professionals—lawyers, even—police officers, all aware of key mental health issues in the community. I would like to see more training for legal professionals and police officers." So far, so good!

Then, uh oh: "Maybe it's something as simple as there are certain conditions which are more common, where people can wear a wristband to identify they have that condition, so that then we can perhaps, not diagnose, but spot it earlier and ensure that we deal with it." Ooh. So close. Good intentions but ultimately you've gone "full Tory" there at the end.

Is it even worth wading in to how flawed this is as a concept? Well: yes, go on then, let's. If we cannot have a run at one of the most bizarre concepts ever pitched as part of a parliamentary campaign then what is the point of being here, frankly. If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it, did it make a noise? If a Tory candidate says something so out-of-touch it may as well have been telegraphed to us from the moon and nobody is around to call them a "silly fucker," did they say anything at all? And so:

i. Yeah, you can't really color-code people with mental health issues, mate, it's a bit concentration camp-y;

ii. One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health condition over the course of a year, meaning some 1.6 million people would have to wear a jaunty colored wristband under Fernando's hastily proposed reign of terror. The only people who really benefit from that are people who own wristband production factories. Have we ruled out the idea of Fernando being on the bung from a colored rubber wristband cartel, and this whole scheme is a way of keeping her rich Big Wristband friends even richer by handing them a government contract to produce 1.6 million zanily colored wristband per year? We absolutely have not;


iii. You'd really hope a well-educated law graduate with 12 years' experience as a barrister would be less of a colossal dumb-dumb than this, but nope: colossal dumb-dumb;

iv. The stigma surrounding mental health is bad enough as is, and wristbands or misfired policy suggestions that include the word "wristbands" aren't going to make it any easier. Here's a good troubleshooting rule of thumb I like to apply to any idea I ever have: how could a teenage boy misinterpret this in the most dickhead-ish way imaginable? Having been a teenage boy, I know that the urge to draw a cock on or take the piss out of every atom in the known universe is an overwhelming one. Q. How would a teenage boy react to seeing someone wearing a mental health wristband? A. By getting everyone on the bus they are on to shout abuse at them. I'm not saying we should shape UK policies around the base urges of teenage boys, but if your idea can be torn apart by one of them shouting on a bus, then maybe have a rethink;

v. Most crucially, you can tell what a bad idea it is from Fernando's own post-wristband reaction, revving the pedals so rapidly backwards that a fire could feasibly be started on the hubs. "Richard Taylor is distorting commentary for his self publicity purposes," Fernando tweeted today, before stating BBC Cambridge contacted her for a comment but dropped the subject "bcz they realised [Richard Taylor] was probably misleading public." She's yet to release a statement going, "Yo! I don't really think those with mental health issues should wear cute colored wristbands so we know where on the crazy scale they are!" and there's much to be read in the attack-your-accuser-instead-of-defending-yourself method of political firefighting. Much to be read, such as: you regret saying the words you previously said with your mouth in front of people, because of how wrong those words were;


The fact of all this is: Chamali Fernando is never going to be voted in as MP for Cambridge because it's a notorious left-of-center stronghold—currently Lib Dem after being Labour for a decade beforehand. Also because she said people with mental illnesses should wear colored wristbands, but mainly the other thing. That said, it doesn't mean she can't cause damage while she's running her doomed, doomed campaign for parliament, and comments such as this are just that: damage. The Conservative Party doesn't have an especially good track record on mental health, and archaic, ill thought-through comments such about wristbands only serve to push the policy conversation backwards.

Also, I thought we all accepted that wristbands were lame and appalling when Lance Armstrong turned out to be a uni-bollocked Bond villain? Come on, Chamali Fernando. Get up-to-date. At least suggest color-coded iPhone covers, or something.

Follow Joel on Twitter.