Florida College Renames “Maniac” Mascot Because Of Your Emails!

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Your voices have been heard!

Risdon Slate, a fellow mental health advocate, told me in April about an offensive mascot called The Maniac that a Christian college in Lakeland Florida had created.  I wrote a blog about how that mascot appeared to marginalize and stigmatize individuals with mental illnesses. Several of you agreed and voiced your concerns in emails to the college’s president.

This weekend, Risdon sent me this follow-up.

Say Goodbye to Maniac, Hello to Scorch

Published: Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 1:32 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 1:32 a.m.

LAKELAND | The Southeastern University student body has spoken: Goodbye, Maniac. Hello, Scorch.

Southeastern’s new mascot was recently renamed Scorch by the students through a social media promotion. The school initially launched the mascot as The Maniac in April in a tribute to the school’s unofficial spirit squad “The Pyromaniacs.”

The name proved to be problematic with advocates against stigmatizing those with mental health issues.

One such crusader is former Washington Post reporter Pete Earley, who is also a New York Times best-selling author for “The Hot House” and 2007 Pulitzer Prize finalist for “Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness.”

Earley was one of a handful of people to email The Ledger in objection to the Southeastern mascot.

“The last time I checked, I was told that Christians supported helping those who might be sick or afflicted,” Earley said in a blog on his website. “They did not portray them in ways that belittled them and made their lives more difficult.”

Southeastern athletic director Drew Watson said the name was never meant to stick and the school even said in April it would change with the announcement of the social media promotion. It was meant to be a placeholder of sorts.

“The idea was to always throw it to the students,” Watson said. “We said all along we were going to rename him. There were people that had comments and an opinion but everything we do has that. There were some comments made but our retort to that was, ‘That’s not his name. We’re throwing it to the students and we’ll wait and see (what they come up with).’

“We certainly didn’t want to offend anybody.”

Southeastern also made some minor changes to the overall look of Scorch.

The school spent between $5,500 and $7,000 on the initial design, which was done by Cowan Costumes Inc., in Cleburne, Texas.

“We sent the suit away again,” Watson said. “He’s been upgraded. He still basically looks the same; we just made some cosmetic changes.”

Scorch coincides with Southeastern’s inaugural foray into football. The Fire will take the field for their first game in their new stadium Sept. 13 against The Sun Conference rival Warner University.

It’s also a part of a campaign the school is undergoing called Fire ’14.

“We’re trying to take the momentum of our first home game on Sept. 13 and parlay that into a big move in our community,” Southeastern Vice President for Student Development Chris Owen said in April.

[ Reach Ray Beasock at ray.beasock@theledger.com or 863-802-7537. Follow him on Twitter @ItsBEASOCK or @Ledger_Colleges ]

Thank you Risdon and those of you who made your voices heard.

(Within moments after posting this blog, I received an email from a reader in Canada who told me about Anne Theriault’s successful effort to get  advertising in buses in Toronto removed. The ads were for a mystery game that urged people to escape from a psych ward. Theriault said the ads might discourage people who need help from seeking it.

Unfortunately, nearly all of the comments that were posted in the newspaper about her effort belittled her and complained about her successful campaign to get the posters removed. This should not surprise anyone. Maniac Mascots and Psych Ward mystery games are minor battles when compared to world events. But it is the little things in life that eventually add up to big things, and I believe it is important to fight these battles, no matter how small, in our continuing effort to reduce fear and stigma.

By:  Staff Reporter,  Toronto Star

The TTC is pulling down a series of ads for a mystery game business encouraging participants to escape from a psychiatric ward.

On Friday, the Star reported that Anne Thériault, 32, was among four people who filed formal complaints with the TTC asking that posters promoting the Mystery Room’s psychiatric ward escape game experience be removed.

Thériault, a former mental health hospital patient, said she was “grossed out” by the ads, which she believes could deter people from seeking treatment by depicting psychiatric wards as places that should incite fear.   anne

Anne Theriault, a 32-year-old yoga instructor and former mental health hospital patient, launched a complaint about a series of ads on TTC vehicles for a Mystery Room game encouraging participants to escape from a pyshc ward. She commends the TTC for acting quickly and ordering the removal of the ads.

She found the postings for the North York company challenging visitors to escape a room by deciphering clues especially “stigmatizing” in the wake of actor Robin Williams’ struggle with depression and recent suicide.

“I feel like it is one thing for that type of (business) to exist, but it is another thing for public transit to post advertisements for it,” she said. “We fund the TTC and that type of thing is super stigmatizing to anyone with mental illness who is in treatment at a psychiatric hospital or is considering it.”

Though ads are typically removed following a process requiring five complaints from the public and a decision from an advertising working group, the TTC overstepped the procedure to order the ads removed, according to spokesman Brad Ross.

“While nothing in this ad contravened TTC policy or any laws, we concur with customer concerns that were raised,” Ross said in an email to the Star, citing the TTC’s commitment to crisis prevention. “We will also review future advertising to ensure issues around mental health are more closely considered.”

Ross is unsure how fast the postings will be taken down, but said Mystery Room can submit new ones provided they meet TTC approval, laws, human rights codes and advertising standards.

Mystery Room owner Joe Burton said he has submitted new “generic” ads that do not intend to offend.

“We didn’t mean to offend anybody,” he said. “We were just thinking of scary themes and someone suggested a psych ward would be scary, but we didn’t really think of someone who was in one who might be offended.”

Thériault commends the TTC for acting quickly. On Friday night, she received an apology from Burton. “It was clearly something he hadn’t thought about, but that he wanted to make right.”

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.