Mental Health Group Forced To Remove Statue Of Churchill In A
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 14, 2006
NORWICH, ENGLAND--Winston Churchill in a straitjacket.
It's an image that the mental health charity Rethink had hoped would symbolize the way people with mental illness are stigmatized in society, and how they can break free of the bonds of discrimination.
Even though he appeared upbeat in public throughout much of World War II, it was revealed later that the popular Prime Minister experienced bipolar disorder, then referred to as "manic-depression".
"This is a man who battled behind the scenes with depression but went on to achieve greatness," Rethink said in a statement on its website. "If his mental health problems had been more widely known at the time, he may never have been Prime Minister and the course of this country's history may have been very different."
"The message we want to portray is that it is possible to recover from mental illness and overcome it and be successful," Rethink director of campaigns Paul Corry told the BBC, "because Churchill is an example of someone who was able to do that."
Unfortunately for Rethink, the image -- made real in a 9-foot glass fiber and bronze sculpture -- was not seen that way. Rather than being welcomed, the statue drew waves of criticism after it was unveiled over the weekend outside The Forum, a Norwich library and tourism center.
Churchill's grandson, Conservative MP Nicholas Soames, called the piece "absurd", "pathetic", "sensation-seeking", and "offensive" to the Churchill family "and to the people who revered him".
"What I would question is whether his depression was ever really a straitjacket for him," Allen Packwood, director of the Churchill Archives Centre, told the BBC.
"To show him in this way insults his memory," Peter Threadkell, of the Norwich branch of the Royal British Legion, told the Daily Express.
The criticism grew to the point where Forum officials asked Rethink to remove the statue on Monday. It had been scheduled to be on display through the end of the month.
"We certainly were not trying to insult anyone and we are deeply sorry for offending the Churchill family," Corry said. "The reason we chose Churchill was to try to celebrate his life -- to celebrate the fact that this was a man who was voted the Greatest Briton in a BBC poll, yet who experienced mental health problems all of his life."
In a statement on its website, Rethink included the following: "We believe that we need to break through the barrier of discrimination if people with mental illness are ever going to be able to achieve their full potential."
"It is very far from being an insult to the memory of Winston Churchill."
"Today, hundreds of thousands of people with severe mental illness are facing appalling levels of discrimination -- we believe that Churchill-in-a-straitjacket symbolizes a modern-battle against mental health discrimination that he would have been keen to engage in."
Rethink noted that it is looking for a new home for the statue.
"Churchill sculpture sparks uproar" (BBC News)
"Health charity removes 'Churchill in straitjacket' statue" (Press Association via 24dash.com)
"The Rethink Challenge" (Rethink)