New Amsterdam and Stigma

I’m watching an episode of New Amsterdam – and one patient attempts suicide. Fortunately, she survives. Trouble is, there is so much stigma surrounding the family that the patient is worried she will lose her mother’s love if she undergoes therapy.  

Here is how the stigma is dealt with: 

  1. A judgmental mother. She does not even acknowledge her daughter’s attempt. “She slipped,” she says. 
  1. A culture which describes illness as “weak.” I’m not sure if it’s the Asian culture (which is not specified), or 21st-Century American culture. Both are equally hateful of the ill.  
  1. They are trying to wrangle around her getting therapy with lies.  
  1. Now, the doctor is talking to the mother. He brings up another point: that the mother might have blamed herself.  
  1. Now the psychiatrist talks to the patient. She is describing symptoms of anxiety and depression. 
  1. Now the mother is admitting she needs help too, after her daughter apologizes.  

Anyway, there are a lot of sadness and shame associated with the daughter’s depression. Fortunately, there is a lot of love, and burgeoning understanding, between the mother and daughter. Love wins out in the end.  

Do not dismiss this case. Stigma is real. Thanks to stigma, people are not getting the help they need. Thanks to stigma, there have been people in psychosis causing chaos on the roofs of buildings. Thanks to stigma, people are suffering in silence. Thanks to stigma, people have died by their own hand. Why is it not enough that people are suffering and dying to fight stigma? How many people have to die?

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Show More Little Persons of Color!

Just a little thing to grind my gears a bit….

Well, “The Little Couple” is on TLC right now. (Should it now be called “The Little Family” because they have two kids? I don’t know.) I like the show a lot, since it follows a couple that’s pretty typical. She’s a doctor, he’s an entrepreneur. The thing is, they’re Little People. Sure, they have needs and whatnot due to their being of short stature, but it is just a part of them. Being Little People does not take over their lives. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. I also noticed they’re white and generally upper class. It would not bother me so much, except that I do not see a lot of Little People of different races or classes a lot on TV. I mean, it would be ridiculous to say that Little People of Color don’t exist. The TV family’s son is Chinese, and their daughter came from India, so of course people of color are being secretly represented.

But this is often not the case.

The only other time I saw a Little Person of Color was on Cops. He appeared in two segments – one ending with his arrest, and the other ending with a job offer from a nearby nightclub that employed Little People. (The segments took place in Las Vegas.) I wonder if, being white or upper class, would the guy from Cops have had a better shot, and not needed a job offer from the nightclub? He might have been a doctor or entrepreneur. Perhaps this intersection of race and limb size has increased his suffering and decreased his chances.

Baby Steps in the Right Direction

So, I watched an episode of “God Friended Me.” It involved a woman and her autistic son. I believe the portrayal of the autistic son was realistic, albeit there were several stereotypes I have to point out.  

Let me say, first of all, that I liked the casting of the family. The actors were black. Personally, I do not see enough diversity in the casting of autistic people, especially since people tend to think we all are white males who look and act like Sheldon Cooper. We’re not clones; Hollywood and Television City tends not to see that for the most part. Personally, I want more diversity in autism portrayals.  

So, let’s talk about some stereotypes. The first stereotype I came across was that the child was nonverbal. I know nonverbal autistic types exist. The truth is, most of us are verbal – quite verbal in some cases, but I digress. It’s mostly a stereotype. A second stereotype is that the child has extraordinary talent – a savant trait, if you will. Now, it was not explicitly named, though it was heavily implied. I don’t know how many of us have a real savant trait, but I hear it’s not the majority. Finally, there seemed to be a sort of “magic key” stereotype that also creeps into many portrayals of mental illness as well. Why do they do the “magic key” thing anyway? Most of the time, it does not work. 

Maybe I’m being too hard on stereotypes. The actor was not portraying an autistic meltdown, for example, and the child was finding his own way to communicate, which is often a foray into more traditional avenues of communication, such as the child’s smile.  Maybe having one or two stereotypical behaviors helps identify the character, as long as there is truth to them; the lack of empathy stereotype is wrong and harmful, though. It may be some time before we get a real, authentic portrayal that offends few.  

After saying all this, I still believe “God Friended Me” took steps in the right direction.

Everybody Chill: The Rate is Better Diagnosis

Sorry, but I will not sugarcoat it. I don’t know how. By now, I’m sure you have heard that the new autism prevalence is 1 in 59, up from 1 in 68. And do you know what? I don’t think sugarcoating applies here. If we did not attach a stigma or hate to an autism diagnosis, as American society tends to do to the non-white-bread types, I would not have to warn you.

 Now, let’s get down to your real question: Why? What could be the cause of a higher prevalence than before in the United States? I just put a clue up above. It’s wider screening, especially among children of color. A recent article by the Associated Press cited closing gaps of diagnosis between Black (20% gap – 10% gap) and Hispanic (50% gap – 20% gap) children. It looks like we’re casting wider nets than ever to grab these children and propel them toward a new understanding.

 So, what are we supposed to do with this new information. Well, I’ve got a strange idea: Close your eyes, relax, and see this new rate for what it is: good news on better understanding your kids.

Stigmatizing Help: WHY?????

Mariah Carey spoke of first being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2001. Since she only recently came out of the mental illness closet, I figured she suffered greatly due to the stigma and the secret she held. And it was also true; she admitted to this suffering. Sadly, this is not the only case of suffering due to stigma I can personally account for.
I know a person who came out of the mental illness closet almost immediately after being diagnosed. Unfortunately, she lost a lot of friends along the way. Also, she was blamed for extreme measures being taken to control her by one of those former friends. She suffered through adjustments through medications for a year, and she did it alone.
So, who did she turn to when she needed help for tough financial decisions when undergoing these changes? NOBODY. She and I have large amounts of financial debt and cannot even declare bankruptcy to clear those debts. We are hounded by mail. We are hounded by phone. We are hounded by bad credit scores. And we have no one to turn to in our hour of need. Where is everybody? Everybody we know turned away when we came out of the mental illness closet.
Why do we hate getting help? Why do we discriminate against those with mental illness? Stigmatizing mental illness is only society shooting itself in the foot. Less people seek help, which leads to more hiding, which leads to dramatic confrontations of the jackass-on-a-fast-food-roof kind. Don’t you see? Making help a thing of weakness and vulnerability only makes us weak and vulnerable against the coming drama. We need to stop stigmatizing getting help for your problems. It would have saved years of pain and suffering in Carey’s case.

Kroger April Early Shock

Well, Kroger has decided to get their Autism Awareness out early this year. That was a shock. I know I was expecting it, but something inside me this year has decided to raise anxiety. I mean, stuttering has come out of me this year, too. I don’t like it. 

It’s not quite full-blown yet, but it’s starting up fast. Today I saw two women wearing the Kroger Autism Awareness Shirt – light blue with a “ribbon” made up of primary color puzzle pieces. They haven’t pulled out an infographic station yet, though. As I have said recently, you know how I feel about the puzzle piece. Anyway, the start has hit me hard this year.  

Maybe I ought to ask how those who wear the Autism Awareness Shirt are connected to it. If it means an autistic relative, maybe I can give a few tips on how to help. Who knows?  

I think I need to go self-care a bit right now.  

Revisiting Mental Illness Stigma on TV

Now, I’ve been watching the TV show OutDaughtered. For those not in the know, the father has been dealing with a form of depression. He has been getting encouragement to get professional help, and it takes a final exposure of the mother’s pain to do it. That’s all I’m going to say on this one. 

I’m not saying there is a perfect show about dealing with mental illness stigma. What I am saying is, this show kept the stigma to a minimum. It was mentioned a few times, but it was kept in a more visceral sense, and it was definitely fought with. That’s what I want when dealing with mental illness stigma – fighting it like the plague.  

It’s a funny thing, how different TV shows deal with mental conditions. I know I criticized The Carmichaels in the past about their handling of mental illness stigma, and they are about a black family. To ME, PERSONALLY, these things are completely unrelated. If OutDaughtered were about a black family, or The Carmichaels were white, I would have dealt the same reviews. I still think they ought to fight stigma as much as they can. Somehow, I still believe The Carmichaels would have revisited the issue with mental illness stigma had they not been canceled. As I have said before, I liked The Carmichaels. I just wish they would have fought the stigma of mental illness more.