One word I hear mentioned a lot in relation to health is invalid.
Not so much as a description of a sick person, but from the mouths of the sick I hear a lot of;
‘My feelings aren’t valid’
‘I feel invalidated’
‘No one listens’
‘I need an advocate’(1)(2)
From the vulnerable I hear it crying out like an echo, coming up again, and again, and again.
It’s like a sound that isn’t heard.
Why do sick people feel invalid? Why do we need advocates to speak for the sick? Does being sick mean that you can’t speak?
Or does it mean that others don’t hear what is being said?
There are lots of situations where having another person or ‘advocate’ to fight for someone else’s corner is necessary, not just in legal situations but in health settings as well.
I decided to look at where the words invalid and invalid come from.
One word two different meanings. (3)
One is ‘invalid’ in relation to sickness, one means ‘invalid’ in relation to having no cogency or legal force.
How does suffering from disability, illness or injury lead to invalidation?
How did sickness become to invalidate? (4)
As I read around the subject I came across this article http://eqi.org/invalid.htm it defined invalidation in the following terms;
‘Invalidation is to reject, ignore, mock, tease, judge, or diminish someone’s feelings. It is an attempt to control how they feel and for how long they feel it.’
‘Psychiatrist R.D. Laing said that when we invalidate people or deny their perceptions and personal experiences, we make mental invalids of them. He found that when one’s feelings are denied a person can be made to feel crazy even they are perfectly mentally healthy’.
‘Invalidation goes beyond mere rejection by implying not only that our feelings are disapproved of, but that we are fundamentally abnormal. This implies that there is something wrong with us because we aren’t like everyone else; we are strange; we are different; we are weird.’
‘Psychological invalidation is one of the most lethal forms of emotional abuse. It kills confidence, creativity and individuality.’
The article ends with;‘I still remember many years ago when I was driving my car thinking about how people in my family would so often argue and debate about everything. I stopped the car, opened my laptop and wrote in a large font ‘
‘Feelings Are Not Debatable’
I found this article very sobering,
Not only can people feel invalidated when they are unwell, but by actually invalidating people’s emotions healthy people can become sick.
The article actually links this type of invalidation to personality disorder. (5)
This made me think about another area of invalidity.
In Britain there has been a welfare state (6), which has supported the vulnerable and provided subsistence level state benefits to live off.
In 2008 a new benefit called ‘Employment and Support Allowance’ was introduced to replace the old ‘Incapacity Benefit’.
As part of ‘Employment and Support Allowance’ sick people have to complete a questionnaire and sit a medical assessment.
‘Charities and disabled groups say the assessment is “not fit for purpose”, with appeals against 40% of claims that are turned down. They cite cases of suicide where the coroner has said denial of benefits was a contributory factor. The BBC’s Panorama this year found a case of a man who died of heart failure just 39 days after being found fit for work’ (7)(8) Randeep Ramesh Social Affairs Editor The Guardian Thursday 13 December 2012
So, invalids who don’t have their health needs validated and recognised by the state are actually dying because of the lack of recognition or validation of their health needs for benefit purposes.
In terms of health I would argue that validation of health needs, experiences and emotions would lead to a healthier society.
If invalidation leads to sickness I would argue that currently our society is heading in the wrong direction, people can only be well when they are valid.(9)(10)