OK I admit it, I’m one of those people who thinks language matters.
Go ahead, call me a buzz kill.
Its not that I can’t take a joke. I can laugh at myself. I definitely have a sense of humor.
But I’ve also learned that when it comes to mental illness the vast majority of people in this world truly do not understand. Most of our society view mental illness, and those suffering from it with derision. They just don’t get it. And they joke about it, a lot. Like a person suffering from bipolar is “just off her rocker” or “sick in the head” or as Dr. Phil so disappointingly put it this week: the “insane”…“suck on rocks and bark at the moon.”
I want to smack him.
Here is a man with a medical degree, a psychologist no less, who is respected in society. So much so that Oprah regularly used him as an expert, which helped launch a popular talk show that is viewed by millions.
People listen to him. His words count, so much more than my little words on this blog. And that kind of crap–that kind of blatant stigma by a medical professional and public figure–sets us back.
Yes, he’s helping to continue a discussion that needs to be in the public light. More people are talking. USA Today ran a wonderful article by the father of a son with mental illness. But even in that article, the reporter called those of us with mental illness “mentally ill.”
That’s another sticking point for me. I HAVE Mental Illness. I am NOT mentally ill. My mental illness is just a part of me, it is NOT all of me.
I would never see a child with autism as “Autistic” or only their autism.
I would never see an adult with Diabetes as just a “Diabetic” or only their diabetes.
I would never see a person with Cancer as just a “cancer patient,” they are so much more than their cancer.
So why oh why am I seen as “mentally ill?” Why oh why do we continue as a society to joke about people suffering with mental illness and think of them as just a bunch of crazy people.
Ok, its possible Castro could have mental illness. I really don’t know. But to jump to such a shocking conclusion that a person who commits violent crimes must have mental illness. And is in fact “the face of mental illness” makes me want to scream.
I do have mental illness. I know many men and women who also have mental illness, and none of us have ever even thought about committing a violent crime.
I think I am the face of mental illness, Mr. Williams.
But you know what, this kind of public stigma in mainstream media is what keeps people from seeking treatment.
Envision a new mom suffering from postpartum depression who sits at home with her baby watching Dr. Phil. She hears his words and she says to herself, “No one will take me seriously. I’m just crazy. I’m insane. They will take my baby away if I talk. If Dr. Phil thinks insane people ‘suck on rocks and bark at the moon’ why would my own doctor help me? There’s no hope.”
Now envision a young man suffering from untreated mania watching the nightly news. He hears Brian Williams call a rapist and long time kidnapper “the face of mental illness” and he thinks “I can never open up about my issues. I can’t talk to a doctor. Someone might find out. My employer won’t trust me. I’ll be labeled and shamed. I might lose my job.”
These situations happen. What I have described above is real.
Hundreds of thousands of people sit at home and do not seek help. They are suffering in silence. Losing their jobs. Losing their families. Becoming homeless. Dying by suicide at an alarming rate. All because they feel as though they cannot reach out for help. That society would be better off without them. That our world doesn’t want to deal with their form of “crazy.”
Mental illness is real. Its not a joke. Its not a headline. Its not a ratings boost.
Its time the media take responsibility and change the conversation.
I’m starting right here on this blog. Will you join me?