Earlier this week an article was posted on xojane’s web page titled, “My Former Friend’s Death Was a Blessing.” I would link to the article, but it is no longer there. An apology from the editor is in its place. The premise of the article was that a young woman’s death was better than living her life with a mental illness.
When I first read the article, my breath caught in my throat, and my heart started to quicken. “Is this real?” I asked. “The author thinks people with a mental illness are better off dead?” I spent the remainder of that day reading responses and posts from all across the Internet. The reaction was swift. The outrage was real.
I wasted a whole day feeling bad knowing that some people believe mentally ill people are better off dead than alive.
I read the article again. The article is the voice and opinion of one woman, a woman who doesn’t know the symptoms of mental illness. The writer seemed to sloppily include details in her essay to try and prove what a “miserable” life her former friend had. She includes things like a messy room and Facebook posts, and claims the woman was delusional but doesn’t give any examples of specific delusions her former friend had.
It was a poorly written article by an extremely ignorant person. I am certain the author knew it would be controversial, but I am equally certain she knows nothing about mental illness. In an interview with the Daily Dot, the author said, “Do you know the laws in America? You can’t just put away mentally ill people even if they need help.”
Those “mentally ill people” happen to number in the millions, and when you consider all of their loved ones and friends, the number of people touched by mental illness is probably at least half of the population. After all, one in four Americans suffers from a mental illness in their lifetime.
I have frequently written that the Internet lights up and shoots fire every time there is a racist or homophobic article (rightfully so). I have also pointed out that this isn’t the case when horrible stuff is written involving the mentally ill. I have never seen outrage over the use of the words, crazy, psycho, tinfoil hat, insane, psycho, etc. Those words are common in our interactions on the Internet and our speech.
I have constantly felt on the outside. I have frequently felt that me, and people like me, are the punch line of people’s jokes, and little is being done to change this culture.
How fitting that the Internet finally responded to a hateful article written about the mentally ill during Mental Health Awareness Month.
What did I learn during my lost day trying to process this article? Some people (a whole lot of them) care about the mentally ill as much as they do about all of us considered “others.”
People care! Damn, I couldn’t be happier to know that. The outrage was beautiful. Thank you to everyone who wrote a response, left a comment, and wrote to the editors. That article said I would be better off dead and thousands and thousands of you proved that you don’t believe that.
I’ll take a poorly written article that shows the author’s ignorance any day if that article is going to receive the kind of response that “My Former Friend’s Death Was a Blessing” received. I know now that most people care about all marginalized people and not just some. I know now that people will speak up and fight for me and those like me.
We matter. We matter. Damn right, we matter.
Thanks, people. Thanks every single one of you. This writer’s heart broke open and saw goodness, compassion, and care in ways I’ve never seen it before. The ignorance doesn’t sting as much when I accept and acknowledge all of the support.
We can combat ignorance and hate against all people, one article at a time.
Links to a few of the responses: