Stigma: Usually A Worthwhile Fight

I was recently sent an article arguing the “offensiveness” in linking certain patterns and beliefs to mental health. The subject was a paranoid schizophrenic painter by name of Martin Ramirez. A curator suggested certain symbolism in his art denoted a “more sane and less mentally ill part of Ramirez”. Apparently, this was some indicator of a greater problem in perception of the man.

This raises a significant question to me. Who actually cares about this kind of thing? The article does suggest the sentence could have been taken out of context- which it was. It was some curator trying to comment on the unique work of Ramirez while acknowledging what drove his thought processes. He wasn’t a psychologist. The curator didn’t struggle with his own mental health. That is apparent by his comment.

The article goes on to state that it is a perfect example of the kind of attitudes we experience on a daily basis in our private and professional lives. Demanding that degree of understanding from normals is as futile as bailing out the Pacific with a thimble. Even the people we are closest to in our lives often do not fully understand why we do what we do or what we think what we do. How are we to expect society to do that on a whole? They cannot. It’s impossible.

Normals can play an ancillary role in the struggle for understanding and social acceptance but it is ultimately up to we, the mentally ill. Our path is no different than that of the Civil Rights movements that have occurred throughout this country’s history. The only difference is our bond crosses race, sex, orientation, and faith.

We as a whole should focus on picking ourselves and others that are mentally ill up. Why? The more of us that are well and able to show through action that we are deserving to not be treated like a sideshow the greater impact there will be. Would it not be better to see Senators or Representatives that have fought with and learned to manage their mental illness? Would those kind of people not be more inclined to push for more effective protection against the jackals in the insurance industry? Would that not offer more hope to people that they could get well?

Fighting stigma is important- if it matters. I understand that people lose careers, families, and their sense of self every day because of mental illness. I feel for you. I really do. But the battle for Political Correctness will only provide the illusion of progress.

Don’t believe me? Then why are so many women still paid far less in the same position with the same education and experience as a man? Why did it take Congress 30 years to repeal sentencing parameters being five times longer for the same amount of crack-cocaine than regular cocaine? A crack rock is to cocaine powder what ice is to liquid water; they‘re the same thing. The only difference was crack was the drug of the poor and minorities while cocaine continues to be the drug of the middle to upper class.

There is no perfect equality and there never will be. Someone will always be under foot, oppressed, and fighting. Does that mean we should not stand up for ourselves against the tide? Absolutely not!

It does mean we should pay more attention to which battles are worth fighting. Focus on the battles that will allow us to conduct our lives in a way that is gainful and meaningful to us. I’m not interested in the illusion of equality and opportunity that so many people have in this country. I’m interested in real opportunity for the mentally ill, women, minorities, and anyone else deserving.

Opening our own avenues of opportunity will bring equality and understanding.

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