Guest Post: Why I didn’t celebrate “World Mental Health Day”

Everyone, please welcome our first guest poster, Arwyn of Raising My Boychick. Arwyn lives in the United States’ Pacific Northwest with The Man, the Boychick, bipolar type 2, and migraines. When the intersection of her neurology and the kyriarchal society she lives in allows, she writes feminist thoughts inspired by parenting a presumably-straight white probably-male at Raising My Boychick.

When I heard Friday night that Saturday October 10 was World Mental Health Day, I was excited: another day like Celebrate Bisexuality Day, but for us crazy folk?? Sign me up! When I Googled it, however, this is what I found:

World Health Organization:

Mental, neurological and behavioural disorders are common in all countries around the world, causing immense suffering and staggering economic and social costs. People with disorders are often subjected to social isolation, poor quality of life and higher death rates.

Bellevision Global (a parish in the United Arab Emirates — particularly look at the pictures on this site, if you are able):

Mental illness such as anxiety disorders, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, if not properly diagnosed and treated would lead to poor work performance, family disruption, and contribute greatly to the global burden of disease.

Emax Health:

[United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon] states, “Mental disorders contribute to more disease burden and disability in developing countries than any other category of non-communicable disease, yet only a small minority of people with mental disorders in these countries have access to mental health services.”

Well ain’t that just fucking cheery. Thanks ever so much for the pathologization folks; there can never be enough support for the “those crazies = horrible miserable burden on society!!1!” meme.

To be fair, there was some good coverage as well. From the World Federation for Mental Health:

“Today, we call on all governments and partners to include measures for mental health in efforts to achieve human development and respond to humanitarian crises,” Ms. Obaid said. “Mental health is central to human dignity.”

See the difference there? How the first three talk about how those people (that’s me, gentle reader!) affect the rest of us (that’s all you normal, sane, not-crazy people; you know, the ones that matter)? How they say the reason “mental illness” needs awareness is because they (still me!) are a burden, a drag, a fiscal drain? And then how the last one is based on the radical idea that, gee, we are actually people and we matter too? Tiny difference there, don’tcha think?

If you’ve been following along, you know that I’m not in the greatest head space right now — to say the least. And yet, silly me, I still expect that when a group (or a day) purports to be helping me, to be bringing awareness to my needs, I not be dehumanized, pathologized, Other-ized, and victimized once again. I expect that it be recognized that my dis-ease, my dis-ability, arises from the intersection of my being and the kyriarchal society I live in. I expect to not be confronted with still more language and images that portray me and mine as miserable, sick, taunted, shunned, hated, and ignored. (Are we those things? Yes, in this fucked up kyriarchy, we are. But we’re also joyful, healthy, embraced, befriended, loved, and celebrated, and we damn well should be portrayed that way too. The constant portrayal of us as stigmatized contributes to our stigmatization.)

So no, I did not celebrate World Mental Health Day, because it was just World Fuck Over the “Mentally Ill” Day, which makes it different from the other 364 days a year… not at all.

Wake me up when it’s World Mad Pride Day. That, I think I can get behind.

This post is being moderated by the FWD staff.

11 responses to “Guest Post: Why I didn’t celebrate “World Mental Health Day””

  1. Chally

    Yay, I’m so glad to see you here, Arwyn. :)
    .-= Chally´s last blog ..I roam the Internet, claiming my places… =-.

  2. sojourner5

    You are so right when you say that “I still expect that when a group (or a day) purports to be helping me, to be bringing awareness to my needs, I not be dehumanized, pathologized, Other-ized, and victimized once again.

    Have you thought of commenting on those websites or sending an email to the contact saying exactly what you are saying above? Knock some un-common sense into their heads?
    .-= sojourner5´s last blog ..Lightning in the Dark by buffalopine =-.

  3. Ouyang Dan

    “suffers from” is language that has been so institutionalized in my vernacular that I never really thought about it.

    The stigma seems to be that if a person is non-neurotypical that sie can not lead a happy fulfilled life, or that sie is incapable of anything other than being a burden or harming others. It’s a tired trope, and you are right, it isn’t something worth celebrating.

    Your guest post, on the other hand, is.

    Rawk.

  4. dreamingcrow

    Yes, this. Thank you.

  5. Adrian

    I hadn’t realized it was so hurtful to refer to mental illness and neurological disorders with terms like “disability” and “disease burden.” Can you recommend alternate language, or point me to some references? I’m sorry to impose, when I’m sure you have tons of things you’d rather be doing.

    I’m starting to get a involved in a project dealing with different kinds of pollution, and phrases like that turn up a lot.

    High levels of [a toxin] in the air, especially during childhood are associated with increased rates of asthma, which contributes thus-and-so to the global burden of disease and disability. (“Global burden” being a very rough estimate of the costs of treating all that asthma plus the indirect costs of people not being able to work because they’re sick or staying home with sick kids, plus the cost of people with asthma being more likely to get pneumonia and so forth.) The conclusion is that the health effects are so bad, we really really need to keep the toxin out of the air.

    High levels of [a different kind of toxin] in drinking water are associated with increased rates of neurodevelopmental disorders…I’d rather not be gratuitously insulting by saying, “it contributes thus-and-so to the global burden of disease and disability. The health effects are so bad, we really really need to keep the toxin out of drinking water.”

    I’m pushing for keeping the toxin out of the air AND the other toxin out of the drinking water. But I realize that it’s not always possible to fix everything, and policymakers often look at that “global burden of disease” number to set priorities for pollution control or medical research. I’d appreciate any help you might offer.

  6. thetroubleis

    Thank you for articulating what I haven’t been capable of writing. Alienating and stigmatizing those you claim to advocate for the is unhelpful and insulting to say the least.
    .-= thetroubleis´s last blog ..What’s wrong with me? =-.

  7. Shiyiya

    Mad Pride sounds awesome. Being othered is a lot less so (I’ve got a nice collection of labels and acronyms myself). Awesome post.
    .-= Shiyiya´s last blog ..Lost =-.

  8. Anji

    Hear hear, Arwyn. :D
    .-= Anji´s last blog ..Cosigning – An Open Letter To Feministing =-.

  9. attack_laurel

    “Mad Pride Day” FTW. :)
    .-= attack_laurel´s last blog ..Trans Feminism and Me =-.

  10. Tera

    Hear, hear! *hand-waves of applause*

    Does every “awareness” campaign have to include some Sobering Statistics about how much we PWD cost? Sheesh.

    Mad Pride Day would be *so* awesome.
    .-= Tera´s last blog ..New blog of awesomeness =-.

  11. Arwyn

    Thanks for the comment luv everyone. I felt a little silly that my first guest post to this fabulous and erudite blog was one of my shorter, snarkier, swearier pieces, but I guess it wasn’t received too badly! ;)

    sojourner5 — I’ve sort of thought about it, but contacting others cold is one of the harder things for me to do. Plus, WHO: not exactly a tiny organization. Now I’m thinking about it, though… Thanks for the encouragement.

    On Mad Pride Day: Apparently it is actually celebrated by some already, sometime in July. July 14th maybe? I’ll definitely be back to blog about it more then. I say we try to spread the word and the Mad Pride a little.
    .-= Arwyn´s last blog ..Why I say I’m OK =-.

Subscribe without commenting