AUTHOR: Beth TITLE: All the People, All the Time DATE: 1/13/2005 06:30:00 PM ----- BODY:
Where do I begin with this? I guess, with my qualifications. I am a mentally ill person. Hi! How are you. I actually have the same precise diagnosis (although, obviously, a vastly different history) as Andrea Yates. Major Depression, Recurrent, with Psychotic Features. Yep. Heard voices and everything. I do plan on writing a book...eventually. Anyway. I first got wind of this story when my morning show mentioned it in passing. A little later on, I found the story in the Globe. Apparently, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company is marketing a bear for the Valentine's Day season that's wearing a little straight jacket and is called the "Crazy for You" bear. This has pissed off mental health advocates--although I must point out that during all the flak over this, I've only heard of or read about one mental health advocate, Jerry Goessel, executive director of the Vermont chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, speaking out on this issue. According to Jerry (can I call you Jerry?):
"A straitjacket is not a symbol that we want to associate with sales of a teddy bear for loved ones over Valentine's Day. And the use of commitment papers, legal documents committing an individual to involuntary treatment, is not something to be taken casually."
And furthermore, Jerry feels that the bear is "a tasteless use of marketing that stigmatizes persons with mental illness." Uh huh. I see. Well. In my personal experience, you know what stigmatizes the mentally ill more than anything? Caterwauling from so-called "mental health advocates" about the tiniest perceived slight or "stigmatization", and the forest-for-the-trees outlook many with their heads so far up their own asses about one particular social issue clutch so steadfastly. Plainly put, Jerry, this is crazy. Can I call you crazy? Where were you on that 60 Minutes thing about ADD? Where are you on mental health parity in our monstrous healthcare cluster fuck system? Where are you on making sure that doctors spend more time seeing patients rather than justifying their hospitalizations on the phone with the assholes at the insurance companies, as was the case when I was hospitalized four years ago? Where are you on addressing the issue of mental deficit and mental illness when it comes to the criminal justice system? Where are you on treating the hundreds of thousands of mentally ill homeless with no access to any kind of care whatsoever? Where are you on employment law and anti-discrimination issues in the workplace? Flapping your gums about teddy bears? Frankly, if someone gave me this bear for Valentine's Day, you know what I'd do? Brace yourself: I'd laugh. Remember that concept? Why? Because it's a joke. A spoof. A play on a cliched line that's been around for eons, and manifestations of it on Valentine's junk have been too. No one at Vermont Teddy Bear was thinking, "Ha! The seriously mentally ill totally suck, man. Let's make fun of them!" What's not a joke, to me, are the many actually serious and intentional ways the mentally ill are still stigmatized in society. Things, like, you know, in courts and government and silly shit like that. But I guess those things aren't pressing enough. What's also not a joke, in my humble opinion, is the way NAMI is doing itself and those it advocates for a total disservice by focusing on this frivolous issue, both in terms of the time and energy committment it could be spending elsewhere, and by tackling an issue so ludicrously minute that the next time a truly serious story crosses the boards, they'll be the Lobbyists who Cried Wolf. So hey, buy me the bear if you want. I promise I will not accuse you of "stigmatizing" me by giving me a stuffed animal. Although the stupid thing costs $70. That I find objectionable.