Double Standards
Why do many people have a double standard when it comes to mental health disabilities? First they are supportive, then they are not. Ask many people in America today if they think that Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are disabling, serious disorders and they will look you in the face and tell you will whole hearted honesty that they are. These same people will go on to say that they are terrible disabilities and that they really feel sorry for people who have them. As if the pity wasn't bad enough! Then these people will go home and laugh at the television shows that belittle mental health disabilities, go and see "Me, Myself and Irene" at the movie theater, and joke about people who have mental health disorders with their friends.
 
 

The web pages of every news channel in Seattle carried the story of the young woman who killed her mother and dismembered her body. They also made a point of adding that this killer had bipolar disorder. I wrote to the KIRO webmaster, explaining to him that by stating that the killer had bipolar disorder, he was presenting an image of people who have bipolar disorder as being killers. I suggested that if the killer had some other, non-mental health related disability, it probably wouldn't be mentioned. I asked him to remove the statement that the killer had bipolar disorder. The webmaster responded very nicely, and told me that I would soon receive an invitation to a forum where I could express my opinions to KIRO staff. I have yet to receive this invitation. The statement in the web page was not removed. I wrote to the webmaster two days later to ask again that it be removed, but received no response, nor was the statement removed.
 
 

Yet recently, when a Seattle police officer was shot during a bank robbery, the web pages of every single news channel in Seattle miraculously changed to reflect the story within minutes. It seems that the news channels want to be seen as supportive of mental health disabilities – unless it effects their story. The news media's first desires are to present stories that are controversial or otherwise attract attention to the commercials that bring a profit to the people who support them financially.

This two-faced support/nonsupport of people with mental health disabilities and disability culture is deplorable when you take into account that television and web page news media are the place the vast majority of people in the country get their "news" and impressions of others from.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

The things it all seems to come down to is 1) money, and 2) self – esteem. Jim Carrey's "Me, Myself and Irene" is clearly a case of mental health disability and culture bashing for profit. His banner for the movie bears a picture of his head, split down the middle, with the statement, "From Gentle to Mental." Money at the expense of others is Mr. Carrey's method of operation since he has no real creative humorous abilities. I am quite sure that Mr. Carrey will appear on television at some time in the future proclaiming, with appropriately surprised face, "Oh no! I didn't mean for it to be negative toward people with mental health disabilities! It was all just a matter of having fun! I know that mental health disabilities are serious disabilities…"
 
 

The news media, on the other hand, won't pass down the opportunity to be controversial or earn a buck or a rating for anything, despite the abuses they may have to dish out in order to receive them. One of the newscasters on television for the Seattle area had a brain tumor removed, and her news station made a concerned effort to show support for her over the time she was in the hospital. Even though this newscaster's brain tumor made her a mental health patient, the news station continues to bash on people with mental health disabilities. I wonder how the newscaster feels?
 
 

People who show concern for others with mental health disorders and then turn around and promote stigmatizing jokes, writings and behavior, have a self-esteem problem in my eyes. From Jim Carrey to the evening news to the guy on the corner telling a "nutcase" joke, the impression they give is all the same. People who have trouble with who they are like to make efforts to keep people they view as "less than" themselves, down, in order to keep their opinion of themselves up. Such people need to be viewed as being uneducated, and responding to them without support for their statement is one of the best things you can do.
 
 

Used with permission - Thomas C Nelson - June 2000

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