Posts tagged ‘ABC’
I don’t know if this coverage, questioning bordering on critical, is an anomaly or the beginning of the backlash but I hope it continues. It’s an unfortunate fact that television shapes the way millions think. Getting people to question whether human behavior needs a diagnosis can’t be a bad thing and it’s good to see the mainstream media casting even a shadow of doubt on the whole charade as it usually turns a blind eye in the name of its sponsors in pharma. Maybe the medical model has finally jumped the shark with the DSM-V.
Last night, ABC aired Primetime: The Outsiders which was supposed to highlight the Mad Pride movement. Oddly, it opened with a story on mustangs running wild on “government land” and being captured and broken at the hands of maximum security prisoners. While they briefly mentioned that the prisoners could relate to the captivity of the horses, they didn’t say what the horses might have done to be separated from their freedom. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t cocaine and robbing safes though. It seemed like such an obvious parallel to the many people confined in the psychiatric system that I honestly thought at one point that was going to be their angle, but no. Apparently the similarities were lost on them.
The show was predictably topical and seemed to reduce the movement to a group of weirdos who don’t know what’s good for them, however inadvertently. With few exceptions, when they mentioned someone going off meds, they were quick to follow with people’s fears about what that might lead to. When they showed people insisting on choice and rights in mental health they followed it up with an advocate of forced psychiatry who used the phrase, “rotting with their rights on” to describe those that don’t know what’s best for them. Of course, they couldn’t be bothered to show any real information to support these fears — but fear sells when facts fail.
In their role as mainstream media, ABC perpetuated the stigma that the Mad Pride and related movements fight so hard to bring to an end. They did what the media usually does, which is to lump all mental illness together with the violent schizophrenic as its flagship. Rather than allow this movement an uninterrupted voice by way of at least a full segment, they used a story of a sensational murder at the hands of a young man diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic to punctuate virtually every sentiment from the Mad Pride crowd. (As a side note to anyone who saw the story, I can’t imagine that the kind of forceful institutional “care” offered by a public mental hospital would do much to ease a person’s fear of the CIA’s action through authority figures.) It wasn’t all bad. There was sincere talk of reducing the stigma associated with mental illness. Joe Pantoliano even said he wants the discussion of mental illness to be as “cool, sexy and trendy” as that of erectile dysfunction — whatever that means. Still, it lacked any of the impact that showing true balance would have had and even had an air of possibly using the movement as just another angle for the age old violent-mentally-ill story. I would love to have seen time given to statistics that are counter to popular notions, alternatives, people who have fully recovered, why people are leery of the system but I think that day is still pretty far off.
Imagine the impact that a story on recovery from “serious mental illness” could generate. So many people don’t even know it’s possible. With David Oaks (director of MindFreedom International) as a guest, I’d imagine that they could have had the opportunity to speak with a wealth of people who have left the psychiatric system to take care of their own emotional well being — with or without drugs. It seems like a vague half attempt to address Mad Pride and the idea of freedom of thought without showing in any depth any unquestionable success stories such as Stuart Baker-Brown or any number of others that comprise this movement. That said, David came across loud and clear and, as always, spoke well to the issue, unswayed by the many distractions thrown into the ring. If there is any good that came out of this, people watching may find that alternatives are out there. Many people don’t know their options and many more don’t know there is a movement behind them, a large and increasingly vocal group in their corner.
People that need to get violent impulses under control need to address them but no more or less whether accompanied by odd thought and behavior or not. There is a vast movement of people simply wishing to embrace their uniqueness and the highs and lows that life offers without having someone else determine to what extent they may experience them. There are people who wish to choose their own path to wellness and are willing to make some noise until that basic right is afforded them. Industries and governments shouldn’t be in a position to make these critical choices for us. Refusing drugs and confinement or demanding to take an active role in their own health regardless of their chosen path does not equal reckless abandon and opposition. Most who bear these diagnoses and resultant stigma have a lot more in common with the captured and broken mustangs in the first segment than the killer in the rest and it’s a shame that couldn’t come across.