RSI and the Media

Question: To all RSI Sufferers in the UK: I’m trying to find people who would be interested in talking to journalists about their experience about RSI. I am particularly hopeful that some of you may have found ways of coping by using technology, therapy or by changes to your working practice or lifestyle. Whilst I understand that many people are nervous of talking to the press I would like to reassure them that I will be conducting the interview, which I will then show to you for your approval. I will then try to place this ‘story’. I am also an RSI sufferer and have been so for almost five years.

I am working (on a charitable basis) with the RSI Association and it is RSI that I’m trying to get some coverage for, not my company. I am the PR Director of Talking Technologies, a London based speech recognition developer and reseller of Kurzweil products. This does mean that I spend most of my talking to technology journalists hence my work for the RSI Association. I would be particularly glad to hear from someone in Scotland as I have a journalist who would like to write an article about RSI for The Scotsman. If necessary, names can be changed. The important thing is that awareness is raised about RSI. This will help all of us: those of us in pain will be ridiculed less and those people suffering silently will seek help. And most of all, perhaps we can stop other people from getting RSI. This is perhaps the most altruistic aim and paradoxically, the hardest, as it seems to be impossible to make someone who doesn’t have RSI realize that it could happen to them.

Without wanting to cause any offense, what the press wants to hear is “Good News”. I know that this is hard to come by with RSI, and that many of us are facing severe difficulties in many areas of our lives. But that doesn’t sell newspapers. What we need to show is that RSI can respond to treatment if arrested early in its progress and that people with RSI are not in any way weird. If we can go some way towards removing the stigma that f***ing Judge Prosser nailed us with it may make it easier for those suffering in silence to admit that they are in pain. A recent issue of The Journalist, the magazine of the National Union of Journalists published the shocking news that almost 50% of workers at IPC Magazines (a large publishing house with such titles as Woman, Woman’s Journal, Country Life, Loaded and many others) are suffering from RSI symptoms. Journalists are one of the few professional groups that I mention RSI to who don’t think I’m exaggeration – they know how bad it can be because they’ve seen the problem amongst their colleagues or have suffered symptoms themselves. I would like to tap into this sympathy with some stories from the RSI front-line in the U.K. with your help.

Answer 1: I too am interested in seeing RSI gain a higher profile with the media. But I wonder how “good news” stories will achieve this. I am a little concerned about this. If RSI is sold to the media as a good news story which can somehow be improved or overcome or whatever, I believe this will in fact more difficult for those who have tried treatment without success to come out in the open. If many journalists are themselves sufferers (and certainly many people on sore hand are journalists) then the media should be open to real stories rather than ones which misrepresent the hard sought few as the average case. So few people understand or believe in RSI. I didn’t know what it was when the doctor diagnosed my pain as RSI. I get blank “oh yes” looks (I’m sure you can emphasize) here when I say I have wrist pain. Nobody wants to know. I lost a job offer because I was naive enough to admit to RSI. This is all new to me. But I am coming up against the wall of

  1. Pain
  2. Self-employment i.e. no claims
  3. No insurance to cover any form of alternative treatment
  4. Lack of financial resources to go the whole hog alone
  5. Fear of seeking any further medical advice lest it jeapordise my future job seeking plans
  6. Unwillingness to apply for incapacity benefit or whatever it is called because I would effectively be adding my name to the long term unemployed.

So in short, no access to affordable confidential treatment which would allow me to improve the situation I am in without putting the death blow on my nascent career. I am a social researcher. I have much to contribute to society. While the stories moan on and on about people who sponge off benefits (a fallacy I may add) there is no protection for those who just want the breathing space to recuperate and get back to being active. Any chance that this sort of socio-political slant could be worn by the media?

Answer 2: I was doomed to an early termination of my career when I began to suffer from RSI. After months of not knowing how to get around it, and getting rather depressed about it all, someone told me about the Computability Centre in Warwick, who in turn showed me Dragon Dictate. Together with the technology, which helped me get back to work and improve my morale, I explored alternative medical treatment. Rolfing has been my saviour and I’m now significantly better, though I often still finish my day in pain. So, the moral of the above is: get the news out so that sufferers know where to turn for assistance which might be of use. Shout it as loud as you can.

Answer 3: “There is no protection for those who just want the breathing space to recuperate and get back to being active”.  I can also fully empathies with this point of view. Reading it brought back to me the appalling loneliness and fear that I experienced when for 5 months I couldn’t tie my own shoe laces. It is clear that we need more resources for people who are suffering from RSI. Each year I meet around 15 new people who are suffering from RSI. We must agitate for better support for them. Most of us are unable to afford to go the whole hog – I spent well over 1000 pounds on private medical assistance (who would be prepared to wait for over a year to see a specialist when their life was in a state of crisis)? I think your article should clearly point out how widespread the problem is, and how few resources are in place to assist those who suffer. It should also point out what resources there are, and how to get them.

Answer 4: Quite agree. But no-one in HSE, or whoever you want to influence, will be bothered to do anything just because of the increased public cost. It hasn’t happened in industrial asthma, (where despite a 1995 study revealing 80% non-compliance with COSHH in small to medium sized businesses, and a massive rise in incidence leading to an assessed spend of over A3400 million per annum in NHS cost alone, HSE inspections have reduced). There is only one body who can really make a change in employer attitude to the introduction of safe working environments and practices and that is the insurance industry. When insurers see themselves paying out on more and more RSI/stress/eye strain claims, only then will they start to impose risk management/reduction strategies on their insured’s. Judge Prosser must be forgotten, and confidence in litigation increased. But then, as a lawyer, I would say that.

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