Donald Trump May Be Mentally Ill, But It Isn’t Helping to Say So

trumpThere’s a flurry of posts and articles swirling around calling Donald Trump mentally ill, speculating on various disorders he might have or outright diagnosing him: sociopath; narcissist; oppositional defiant disorder. While it’s clear that he’s temperamentally unfit for the presidency, I think we need to be aware of how accusing Trump of being mentally ill is making things much worse for people who are already really vulnerable and who Trump’s administration is only going to make more so: those with so-called ‘mental illness.’ Continue reading Donald Trump May Be Mentally Ill, But It Isn’t Helping to Say So

The National Suicide Hotline

friendshipDoes this post look familiar? “Would at least three of my Facebook friends please copy and repost? I am doing this to prove that someone is always listening. #SuicideAwareness 1-800-273-8255.” It’s been making the rounds on Facebook lately and it’s heartening to see that many people care about those the incoming government is planning to leave behind. So I mean absolutely no blame or shame with this post. From someone who has attempted to call and use the National Suicide Hotline, you need to know that encouraging people to call it is not the most helpful thing you could be doing. This is a difficult time of year for many people and things are about to get a lot rougher in general in the coming months, but this is why we need to do much more and much different than directing people in mortal pain to talk to a stranger (who may or may not be available anyway). Continue reading The National Suicide Hotline

Mental Health Awareness Month, Part 2

How about holding out hands instead of pointing fingers?
How about holding out hands instead of pointing fingers?

Last week, I saw a post by a mental-health advocacy Facebook page: a short video featuring “shirtless hunks” (this is how the video referred to them) – soldiers who’d returned home and lost fellows soldiers to suicide. “More vets commit suicide every year than die in wars,” the short video said, and then called for compassion and “action.” I commented, protesting the objectifying language, the use of the word “commit” and the frustrating vagueness of the unspecified call to do something. Continue reading Mental Health Awareness Month, Part 2

Mental Health Awareness Month, Part 1

A stigmatizing picture, the likes of which are all-too-commonly included with “helpful” articles published by mental-health advocacy organizations.

In another round of “awareness” campaigns, this whole month has been dedicated, supposedly, to that of mental health. Last month was for autism. I’m weary to learn what June will be for, what real-life experience for millions will be reduced to a cause for which people post factually-inaccurate and stigma-producing articles and memes in service of nothing more than feeling like they’re contributing to making the world a better place. I was going to just ignore this “awareness”  month campaign (I’ve shared my issues with “awareness” previously) but there’s just too much misinformation, shallow “participation” and ego stroking for me to stay quiet in good conscience. So I’m just going to address a few myths about mental health here. Continue reading Mental Health Awareness Month, Part 1

The Man In The Tree

Tuesday, March 22, 2016 A man who climbed to the top of a tree near 4th Avenue and Stewart talks to police negotiators who are trying to get him down.
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
A man who climbed to the top of a tree near 4th Avenue and Stewart talks to police negotiators who are trying to get him down.

A short version of this appeared in the Seattle Times as a letter to the editor today.

Cody Lee Miller, the man who climbed a giant sequoia tree in downtown Seattle on March 22nd, was formally indicted Monday, April 11th. As if Twitter wasn’t alive enough with ignorant mockery and cheap jokes at his expense during the 25-hour period he remained in the tree, the justice system once again revealed itself to be a farce. He appeared in shackles, at wrists and ankles, before a judge – his unruly hair and clear need of psychiatric care seemingly of no consequence – April 11th for his arraignment. The judge’s order mandated he stay away from the tree but that’s only relevant if he can make the $50,000 bail placed on him. Continue reading The Man In The Tree

What If My [Mental Illness] DOES Define Me?

Finger pointing to word in dictionary
Finger pointing to word in dictionary

It’s heartening to see the media take up the call to action to talk about mental health after decades of silence. The problem is how its talking about it. The first major issue I see is with the unquestioned propagation of the biomedical model as if its science-verified fact. Look, folks, even mainstream The Guardian is running pieces that are saying that it’s pretty clearly not. Mental health advocates, communities and support networks perpetuate this model – not as a highly specious one or one of an array of options but as back-uppable fact – not because they’re trying to be deceptive but because they really want people to understand that it’s not the sufferer’s fault. If something is wrong with your brain, then your depression is not a moral failing, your anxiety is not a choice, your OCD is not a character flaw, etc. You are the victim.  Continue reading What If My [Mental Illness] DOES Define Me?

What I Want The World To Know About Wanting The World to Know, Part 2

the red carpetA few weeks ago, I’d written about writing To The World and how counter-productive I think it is. That’s coming from a place of deep concern for those who experience mental and emotional distress. Not enough people are angry about the hideously broken system that is mental healthcare and I want that to change. One of the ways I see that happening is for people to raise their voices…effectively, at appropriate targets.

Most writers of the articles I detailed in my first post about this would probably vigorously deny that they commit any of the errors therein. If that’s the case, then you’re not really writing to The World. That’s fine – preferred, in my opinion, but then stop claiming to. What does “What I Want The World To Know” really mean? It seems to me that it means, “Ouch, Stop Hurting Me.” It seems to me that it means “I Want Stuff To Change.” It seems to me that it means “Can We Come Together On This Thing Here?” Those are all beautiful statements, far less presumptuous and tired than “What I Want The World To Know,” so why not say them? Authenticity is more than a buzzword. Continue reading What I Want The World To Know About Wanting The World to Know, Part 2

Emotions are Not The Enemy, Part 2

flagAs I said, there is always a reason for a particular emotion. Depression, for example, means a lot of things to a lot of people; rather than ask people, we do brain scans. Then we medicate feelings with drugs that have side effects similar to the symptoms we’re trying to treat. But, as one psychotherapist says, depression is the pysche’s way of saying, “I’m not going any further until you stop this bleeding.” So how do we stop the bleeding? Continue reading Emotions are Not The Enemy, Part 2

Another Shooting

gun controlDisclaimer: to make it clear from the beginning, I am not a gun nut, I have never fired a gun in my life and don’t ever intend to. I am for sensible gun laws. I am not obsessed with the 2nd Amendment. My main concern here is with how we are talking about gun control.

I cannot join the bandwagon clapping their hands at Pres. Obama’s speech regarding the massacre in Oregon on Thursday. And I’m pretty disappointed that The New Yorker called it powerful – no wonder we’re “numb” if that’s what we think “powerful” is – but I guess you can’t really expect much different from mainstream media anymore. Mostly what struck me about the president’s speech is how hard it was for me to distinguish his talk about those with mental illness from Donald Trump when he talks about Latinos, Syrian refugees, women, the poor, etc.: Pres. Obama continues to demonize and stigmatized those suffering with mental illness even though there is a TON of research that deeply problematizes the categorical link the president reinforced between mental illness itself and violence like this. There are, however, plenty of studies (that are, of course, being suppressed) that conclusively show a statistically significant link between psychiatric MEDICATIONS and acts of violence. This is not the only factor here, but I’m from Columbine town: after that iconic massacre, drug companies were required to put black-box labels on their drugs. That’s it. Yet we bicker and fight about gun control as if it’s this solve-all god. I’m sorry, but if your medication causes the same side effects as the “illness” you’re trying to treat (homicidal and suicidal thoughts being the relevant ones here), you are doing it wrong and we’re the ones left holding the (body) bag(s). Continue reading Another Shooting

Life and Death is No Laughing Matter

hand gun“No one asks you why you cry but if you kill yourself, they all ask why.” A few weeks ago, during the Friday afternoon soiree we had at my office for a co-worker’s last day, this was how she explained her capstone research project that she was expecting to spend this coming school year finishing. That line was how she introduced her plan of interviewing people who live outside around Seattle investigating the question “Can love really change the world?” That line is the first thing one of her first subjects said to her (she’s already started some interviewing) and it arrested her. Honestly, it should. That line.

Continue reading Life and Death is No Laughing Matter