Those with mental health conditions could wear wristbands, says Tory candidate for Cambridge

‘It was a spur of the moment thing rather than a prepared policy’

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A Tory parliamentary candidate has sparked outrage after claiming mental health patients could wear wristbands in order to identify their conditions.

Cambridge candidate Chamali Fernando was speaking at a hustings event hosted by the campaign group Keep Our NHS Public when she made the comment.

She said wearing wristbands indicating the nature of the person’s condition would be helpful to professionals as they often could not explain themselves.

The statement was confirmed by Julian Huppert, current MP for Cambridge, who said: “I think it was also a spur of the moment thing rather than a prepared policy.”

Chamali explained those working in industries such as the legal profession could identify individuals based on wristband colour and this would place them a better position to help.

Political blogger Richard Taylor tweeted from the event and questioned if Chamali, who uses the Twitter handle @whereis007, was voicing her own opinion.

He wrote: “I wonder if wristbands for those with mental health problems is a Conservative policy or just @whereis007’s ?”

Speaking afterwards, he said: “She said as a barrister she would like to be able to help mentally ill people and suggested there should be more training for people in these kind of positions in common mental health conditions.

“She then said suggested a different coloured wristband for each mental health condition for those who are unable to communicate their conditions.

“This would immediately cause others to be prejudiced towards someone because you’ve given them a colour coding.

“She shouldn’t be coming up with a new policy at the spur of the moment.

“If she’s coming up with a new policy like this at a hustings what she do when she’s standing in parliament?”

A Tory spokesperson said: “It is unfortunate that Richard Taylor has completely distorted the comment.

“The question that was asked is how could the authorities such as the police better deal with people with mental health issues.

“At Cambridge National Autistic Hustings the Chairman of CNAS said he carries a green card in his wallet to identify his condition.

“Julian Huppert was the person to bring up the Green Card Issue at the Autism Hustings.

“There are people who have come into contact with the police and due to an underlying mental health condition are unable to communicate their condition.

“It was not that they should wear a wristband. That would be draconian, needless to say it would seem that Richard Taylor is seeking to grab a headline here.

“Chamali Fernando gave the example of how people are wrongly accused of obstructing the course of justice for failure to co-operate with the police through no fault of their own and in those instances an identifier could prove useful.

“It would be a matter of individual choice and through consultation with experts and would need to be accompanied with the requisite training for health care and law enforcement professionals.”

A transcript of the hustings, released by Cambridge News, claims that Chamali said:

“You touched on diagnosis levels and people waiting in custody without getting the treatment they need… I’m not trained to deal with people in those situations.

“I would like to see more training for legal professionals and police officers.

“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.”

Julian Huppert added: “I was really shocked at the suggestion that people with mental health problems should be expected to wear wristbands to identify themselves.

“I have fought hard for many years against the stigma people with mental health problems face. There is already far too much discrimination against mental health throughout our society, and a wristband saying ‘I am depressed’ is not going to help.

“We need to massively improve mental health support, which has been not good enough for many decades.

“I hope Chamali regrets her comments and will think carefully about her attitude to mental illness in the future.”