2015 has been a grim year for the United States, with hundreds of gun violence incidents involving four or more victims, equating to more than one a day. This flood of horrors includes mass shootings (four or more victims, regardless of fatalities) and mass killings (four or more people shot and killed), and it accompanies the 1,100 and counting people shot by police in the US over the course of the year. Our collective crisis of violence is deeply disturbing, and so is the simplistic response: The instantaneous attribution of violence to mentally ill people, despite scientific evidence, and the pointed silence on mentally ill people shot by police.
For the mentally ill community, every single mass shooting results in a collective bracing against the tide of disablism that will result as the sane public insists that only crazies do this sort of thing, and that to stem the tide of gun violence, we need only make it impossible for mentally ill people to get guns. This rhetoric, complete with slurs, comes out of the mouths of presidential candidates. It crops up endlessly on social media. It appears in opinion editorials in major newspapers. It serves as a reminder that we are the dregs of society — that despite amply illustrating with statistics on mental illness and violence that we are not a threat, we will continue to be viewed as such.
Continue reading “Crazies, Guns, and Public Policy” »
In case you missed it, Project Semicolon posted a video by Wesley Chapman for World Mental Health Day, proposing an ‘end to mental illness’ by 2025. Complete with sappy music and a series of bucolic landscapes, the film is a strikingly disablist (notably, there are no captions or transcript) screed against the mentally ill community.
The faith-based Project Semicolon has exploded into the news of late thanks to its hallmark tattoo, but the distribution and support of this video illustrates a fundamental lack of understanding about mental illness, complete with eliminationist attitudes.
We decided it was time for a line by line breakdown, featuring s.e. smith, Lisa Egan, Alice Wong of the Disability Visibility Project, and David M. Perry.
Continue reading “Roundtable: Project Semicolon Promotes Mental Illness Eugenics” »
I am a multiply disabled gay dude with lefty-queer feminist politics living in San Francisco. Last year, I made the decision to put my health (my mental health in particular) first. That meant ending a long relationship that had come to an extremely unhealthy place. It was the hardest decision I had made thus far. Before I began my road to recovery, I embraced my single life with vigor: I partied, I was ecstatic, I was charismatic, I dated several people at one time, I didn’t hold my liquor, I was high as a kite, I had uneventful encounters with men, led men on, I smoked cigarettes like I was born with one in my hand–and I knew, fun as all of this was, that the gig wasn’t going to last much longer.
While I was highly aware of what I was doing during this period and have no regrets whatsoever, I wasn’t putting my health first. I needed to come to a stable place in my life after all the noise and drama of the previous four years since my diagnosis. In order to do so, I made the tough decision to pull out of the bar scene for a while. Being single and gay in the city dovetails with being in a bar or club. Fun as the scene is, my path to recovery butted heads with meeting potential paramours in loud, sweaty bars. I chose to be alone and invested time in friendships and my work. I was never a heavy drinker, but drinking and staying out until 2 AM was no longer an option for me. Doing so would not give me the steady sleep pattern that I now know I need in order to control my mental stability. But that was how I met men in order to go out with them–perhaps that is how many of us meet potential paramours. It isn’t an option for me anymore, however, and I am more than okay with that. Tempting as it can be, I am no longer up for a lost weekend. It was hard to pull back from all that fabulous wild abandon, but once I found my way to health, good things happened. I am now published, which is something I thought would not happen for a long time.
Continue reading “On Being Crazy and Brave While Dating” »
Human rights activist, attorney, writer, Iranian American, and Muslim American feminist: Melody Moezzi is all of these. She is the award-winning author of War on Error: Real Stories of American Muslims and published her memoir Haldol and Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life last September. She also blogs for the Huffington Post, Ms., and BP Magazine and has provided commentary for CNN, NPR, and BBC, among others. Her memoir is a frank account of her journey with bipolar disorder, her times in and out of mental health care facilities, as well as her life as an Iranian-American woman in Middle America and the South. Written with grace and often hilarious, Moezzi’s book fills a gap in mental illness memoirs, in that is told from her perspective as a Muslim American feminist activist and attorney.
Continue reading ““We cannot talk about mental health without talking about prisons”: A Conversation with Melody Moezzi” »
The United States has been convulsed in recent years with arguments over mental health services, usually in the wake of rampage violence, which is blamed on mentally ill people regardless as to the mental health status of the culprit — to commit such crimes, evidently, is to be a ‘madman,’ regardless as to any actual evidence for or against that thesis. The sane want to see the insane locked away where we can’t hurt anyone, while the insane just want to access some mental health services so we can live our lives in relative health, happiness, and safety.
In other words, all we truly want are some basic human and civil rights, along with a recognition of the fact that we are human beings and deserve the same respect accorded to all people. Living with a mental illness does not make someone a criminal, and the increasing trend towards criminalising mental illness is both frightening and dangerous. It is turning mental health providers into police, police into mental health providers, and patients into pawns to be moved around a very dangerous and sometimes explosive chess board.
Continue reading “A Nightmare of Prison Mental Health” »
Mental health reform in the US typically comes up in one context only: in the wake of incidents of rampage violence. Such incidents are tragic and horrific, and almost as soon as they hit the news, observers decide the person responsible must have been ‘crazy,’ absolving themselves of further exploration of the incident — crazy people ‘just do that,’ and that’s how it is.
Despite the fact that this is a rampant misconception, it’s a commonly held and supported belief, bolstered by media coverage of rampage violence and mental illness. Typically, the longtail aftermath of such incidents is to demand two things: better gun control (usually from the point of view that guns need to be kept out of the hands of mentally ill people) and better regulation of crazy people — for, surely, if mentally ill people were compelled to take medication, register with government agencies, and undergo similar indignities, they wouldn’t be prone to randomly shooting scores of innocent people. (Something the vast majority of mentally ill people actually aren’t prone to doing in the first place — to the contrary, mental illness is a very serious risk factor for being exposed to violence, and mentally ill people are usually victims, not perpetrators, of violence.)
Continue reading “What Would True Mental Health Reform Look Like for the US?” »