Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"Colorado crazy"

As many of you know I have dedicated two of my blogs to the stigma of having a Mental Illness, this topic has been a passion of mine for the last three hours since I enrolled in Graduate School. Heck even the topic of stigma popped up during my presentation in the AAPD orientation, so yes incase the reader is wondering this is going to be another longwinded blog about Stigma. Something happened on Friday that really sickened me and disturbed me, I did feel for the victims of the Colorado shootings, and however the Media's reactions to this whole event are what I found the most unbearable. Immediately after the shooting even before the shooter's identity was revealed, Hannity came on the air announcing to the audience that the shooter had a mental illness. You don't know the guy's name?, You have no idea what he looks like?, but automatically you assume he has a Mental Illness. Needless to say CNN followed up on the story a few days later saying that the suspect looked "dazed and confused" in court and this had something to do with his Mental Illness. Let's see the guy graduated summa cum laude with Bachelors in Neuroscience, he was an honor student and according to one of his professors Mr. Holmes got a 100% in one of the most difficult courses in undergraduate. Don't you think a guy of that stature who knows how everything about Behavior, is familiar with Mental illness and biology can't go into Court pretending to have a Mental Illness just to get an insanity defense? Hmm that sounds more likely than assuming he has a Mental Illness. CNN also alluded to the fact that the shooter identified himself as the "Joker" to authorities upon his arrest. Mr. Anderson Cooper (the man who revealed this) later said that the suspect "was not all there and did not realize what he was doing". Hmmm let us analyze this statement, the man went to a Batman screening, shot a bunch of folks and then told authorities he was the "Joker". Maybe if the Suspect stated that he was Batman we can make that statement, but his thoughts are completely congruent with his actions therefore disqualifying the notion that "he did not know what he was doing". Sure we can conclude that the man had a few screws loose or there was something wrong with his medulla ambagata, but stating that he has a mental illness is just plain stigmatizing. Now if an individual with a Mental Illness will be more afraid to disclose his or her disability because they will be worried about what others think. An uneducated Vocational Rehabilitation specialist who is trying to find a job for a client with paranoid schizophrenia might think twice about helping this individual find a job. These depictions can also hurt individuals with mental illness as they might be afraid to seek help due to the way Media Portrays them. One might be thinking "the media has no impact on the individuals themselves". Wrong again! Let's take Tiger Woods as an example, many folks think back to the 90s and see a "smiling, soft-spoken and amazing golfer" named Tiger Wood. Few years ago the Media started portraying Tiger Woods in a different light(for those following the story you know what I mean) suddenly Tiger started declining in his name instead of going +30 in various tourneys, he started going -2 and this has continued for many years afterwards. The same goes for other celebrities such as: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Brett Favre, the media ruined all of these amazing individuals and their careers have never been the same again. The difference between Michael Jordan and average day Joe (aside from the Mental Health diagnosis) is that they already made their life and career; many individuals who have a Mental illness have not. The power of labeling can ruin so much for these individuals. I don’t care about the Colorado shooter being associated with a mental illness because he deserves everything the man has coming to him, but what many folks do not understand is that these attributions do not hurt just the individual in question, but others with psychiatric disabilities who just want to be productive members of society. As Disability advocates we must stand up to the stigmatizer , look him or her straight in the eye and say “we are not going to take this anymore”. I understand Anderson cooper does not have much to do and his weekly television show flopped worse than The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, but this does not give him or Hannity the right to undermine someone’s potential. Am I saying the Colorado Shooter did not have a Mental Illness? No, I am just saying that we should look at all sides of a situation before we draw conclusions. Oh yeah the good folks at AAPD can count this as next week’s blog Until next time Rak

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