Stupidity Award for Promoting Prejudice

I’ve decided to begin giving an award to persons or groups who show that they are prejudice against persons with mental illnesses. I’m calling it the Stupidity Award for Promoting Prejudice or the SAPP.  I’m sad to announce that the first recipient is Rick  Chandler a writer with NBC SPORTS. 

In a column published February 5th on Off the Bench, Chandler encouraged the Waunakee Wisconsin High School dance team to not change its “rather unique routine” when it competes in an upcoming state competition. Chandler writes:

 In it, the team “gets crazy” while wearing uniforms resembling straitjackets and restraints with the words “Psych Ward” on them. The girls, however, have been forced to tone down their routine after complaints from mental health advocates and parents that their act mocks the mentally ill. Political correctness gone mad? You be the judge….

Not that they should be apologizing in the first place. Exactly who is crazy here? If the girls feel in retrospect that their routine is insensitive and wrong, they should admit it and dump it. If they don’t feel that way, they should keep it unchanged and go full-speed ahead with the madness. Teaching our children to back down under pressure is not cool…Look, until we get a complaint from Giants’ reliever Brian Wilson, I say that his dance routine is good to go as is.    

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No Laughing Matter

   

 I believe all of us should do our best to fight  stigma. It might be as simple as not laughing when someone tells a joke that belittles a person with a mental disorder. Or it could be as bold as launching a boycott of a business whose commercials or product names are stigmatizing. 

This week, Karen Easter, in Knoxville, Tennessee, became appalled when she saw an offensive video clip that was posted on the website of  the Knoxville News Sentinel newspaper. The clip had been taken with a cell phone and it showed an adult man talking off his clothes and walking down the center of a busy shopping mall. The story that accompanied the clip reported that the man had removed his clothing because he believed there were “snakes in his pants and he had pain in his legs.” You could hear the person who took the video laughing at the sight and the website story immediately attracted a score of sarcastic comments along the ilk of  “spitting snakes” and other sexual innuendos.

The caption called the man a “streaker” but when you  read the story, it became clear that this young man had a mental problem. He was taken by the police to a local mental health center. 

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The Day Stigma Ends

I’m always eager to testify or speak on Capitol Hill about the need for mental health care reform. Last week, Reps. Grace F. Napolitano (Ca-38 District) and Timothy F. Murphy (PA-18 District) invited five speakers to talk at a briefing sponsored by the Congressional Mental Health Caucus, which they co-chair.

Members of Congress don’t  show-up at briefings very often — at least the ones that I’ve participated in. When they do, they generally only stick around long enough to make a statement. After that, they move on to another event.  That’s fine because the most important faces at a congressional briefing are the legislative staff members. They’re the ones who actually draft legislation.Click to continue…

Outpouring of Frustration, What’s Next?

I have been inundated this week with emails, mostly from parents and family members, expressing frustration and anger about our broken mental health care system. 

Here is a sampling:

*You touched my heart today on Sunday’s CNN show. I tried to get my son help over and over. He is now in prison. .. What now? No education, no job, a criminal record….no help.

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Typing As Fast As I Can

I had about five minutes to read, answer and then email my responses back to USA Today yesterday during a live, Internet chat about my article:  Don’t Blame Jared Loughner’s Parents.  

It was the first time that I have ever participated in such an exchange with readers and I found myself scrambling to keep up. I was only able to answer about half of the questions that were sent to me. If you think five minutes is a long time to do this, well, then you are quicker than I am.

Here is a copy of the questions and my answers if you missed the discussion. For those of you who participated, thanks! I hope it was helpful.

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Pete’s Live Chat at USA TODAY

USA TODAY is now accepting written questions for Pete . He  will be answering them on line starting at 1:30 p.m. EST on Monday, January 17, 2011. 

You can ask your question by clicking here. 

Pete’s Op Ed piece,  Don’t Blame the Parents of Jared Loughner, has garnered more than 300 comments since it was posted Friday on the Internet. Many of the comments showed a profound ignorance about mental illnesses and the struggles that parents face when an adult child becomes sick.

What sort of questions will be asked Monday?  Will you be asking one?  Join the discussion, share your story, and help educate readers.