Alright, this happened a few years ago but it still irritates me so I’m going to talk about it.
In 2006, a mental health charity in Norway opted to have a statue of Winston Churchill in a straight jacket erected. I thought to myself, “You know, that is an incredibly good idea I think.” Their line of thinking was since they used him a lot as an example in therapy sessions to show depressives that they could overcome and be functional that it might be a good idea to extend that. Churchill acknowledged his own battles with depression and referred to it as being in straight-jacket. He was also known to self-medicate through alcohol and used oil painting as a coping mechanism.
I hear often how others hear people with mental illness talking about famous people who suffered from the same things or were widely believed to. The people that complain about this are missing the point. It’s not that those individuals necessarily think they are special, unique snowflakes because of it. Yes, there are some that do and they are as irritating to us crazy people as they are to you. But it more has to do with holding on to some sliver of hope that the rest of your life won’t be complete shit if you have been struggling through a lot to that point. When you struggle with suicidal thinking daily, you start latching onto anything that might remotely be a reason to not slit your wrists in a bathtub.
At any rate, it is difficult to tell exactly why the statue was taken down as there are conflicting reports. But once it went up, plenty of people had quite a bit to say about it. Normals and the Churchill family seemed to think it was some great affront to Churchill to depict him in such a way. That it would somehow tarnish their memory of him. But of course, when you only want to remember the positives of people and not who they actually were this can be a problem.
I think its unfortunate that the statue was removed and that its intention was so badly misconstrued. It could have served as a beacon of hope and a visible reminder that there are others that walked the same path and struggled with the same demons. But on the flipside of the coin, it generated a massive amount of drama and attention which in turn was focus on the issue. So it wasn’t all bad I suppose.
Another point I hear fairly often is that you can’t look at a historical figure and decide whether or not that person might have had mental instabilities. Which is odd considering the way mental illness is typically determined is by analyzing someone’s actions over a long course of time. This is of course subject to the interpretation of the person looking back on it, but really; there is some things that just stand out and serve as a window to anyone that really knows what they’re looking at.
It’s not insulting or disrespectful to suggest that someone is mentally ill. It is really no different than suggesting that being a woman or being black is somehow insulting or disrespectful.
“People get so weird about mental illness. It’s no different than anything else. You follow the rules. You don’t put a heart patient on a roller coaster, and you don’t put a mental patient on a hunting trip with ya.”
– Christopher Titus “Norman Rockwell is Bleeding”
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