I went to bed last night and a controversy was just starting to brew on one of my favorite sites to write for, The Mighty. One of the articles I wrote for them was shared over 1,000 times on Facebook. The message of that article was about stereotyping people with schizophrenia, and it reached a very large audience. Bravo! Good for me, good for them, good for breaking myths, stereotypes and helping people understand that schizophrenia isn’t a one-size-fits-all disease.
When I woke up this morning the controversy raged on, and if fact, it had grown while I was sleeping. Now there is a petition against The Mighty asking them to apologize to the disabled community for the harm they do. (The post/article that started the controversy was about autism. A parent wrote an article and created the game BINGO with her/his child’s symptoms. Some Mighty readers were outraged by the article because they thought it made light of, or made fun of some of the hardest and most difficult aspects of autism).
Okay, then. I’m not going to disagree. Last week The Mighty posted a cartoon by a woman with schizophrenia that said she wanted to be called, “schizophrenic” and she said she had every right to request that. You can find the cartoon here. The editors at The Mighty contacted me before running the cartoon and asked me what I thought about it. I thought it was taking us back to the early days of my diagnosis (twenty years ago). I thought it was harmful. I thought it was against most of what I work toward (considering schizophrenia as an illness and not who or what I am). Okay, so I was able to say what I thought. Other people with schizophrenia thought the cartoon was funny and right on.
I think that young people today don’t know how difficult it was twenty or even ten years ago to talk about a mental illness (exactly what I said in my post yesterday), and it is sites like The Mighty that have made mental illness and other disabilities mainstream conversations. Do they always get it right? Not for me they don’t, and they never will for everyone, because they are telling the stories of individual people with disabilities and individual families caring for people with disabilities.
Talking about disabilities like talking about race, or gender, or LGBT issues will never be perfect for everyone, but there are people/agencies/organizations/media outlets that are very successful at getting the conversations going. Those conversations are critical to acceptance by the larger community, and they are critical for change.
Of course I am not going to agree with every single person who has schizophrenia, and I don’t even think that should be the goal. The goal should be to end stereotypes, discrimination and stigma, and having a massive platform like The Mighty to tell our personal stories helps to do just that.
I am standing behind the work of The Mighty. Nothing manmade is ever perfect, but it can be useful, empowering, beneficial, and life changing. #IAMTHEMIGHTY #GOMIGHTYGO