Recommended Reading for November 30

How to Survive Thanksgiving When You’re In Eating Disorder Recovery [I should have posted this earlier, but there are major food-related holidays coming up in December.]

During the holiday season, support from family and friends can significantly impact an individual’s ability to effectively handle these stressful situations. For those supporting someone with an eating disorder through the holidays, the Eating Recovery Center offers these suggestions:

Language, Stigmatisation, and Mental Distress

I recall from some years ago when a mental health survivor of the system told me about a meeting he had with script writers working on a soap opera. They were trying to create a storyline regarding a character and his psychotic breakdown culminating in him running amok brandishing a knife. The script writers were happy with the storyline and were engaging in a discussion with mental health users to see whether they had anything to add. The guy telling me the story said the other people he was sitting with just sat there totally gob smacked. One of them explained to the script writers that the current storyline as it stood only reinforced stereotypes and stigma (mental distress=psycho=knife wielding maniac).

After much patient explaining the penny eventually dropped, wasn’t so much an eureka moment when that happened. They changed the storyline, taking out the needless psychodrama for psychodrama sake. Wasn’t perfect, it still referred to stereotypes and your average psych textbook but at least they took out the knife wielding moment. My own view and I said it to the guy who told me the story is that this exposes lazy script writing as opposed to researching the realities of mental distress.

Disability & Virtual Worlds: Universal Life

The island was designed visually and experientially to offer the best benefit to users with disabilities, fully available to adaptive services and developed in accordance with Universal Design principles. The island contains the following features: wide ramps scalable for avatars in wheelchairs; bright high-contrast signage more easily trackable by users with visual impairments; smoothly landscaped walkways to accommodate many types of users; and training offered in small sets to decrease fatigue.

Testing was performed in stages, with the first challenge being how to best present signage. Signs needed to be readable by the default camera view, which is angled downward at roughly 15 degrees from eye level, so all signs in the island’s Orientation Centre were compensated for the height of avatars using wheelchairs. The standard view in Second life includes the avatar in the frame, so signs were placed high off the ground. Paths and walkways were designed with as few stairways as possible, with no bumps that would make an avatar trip while walking. The surrounding land was modelled to meet the paths as closely as possible.

In the news:
Man builds stair climbing wheelchair

“It used to take us a good half an hour to walk downstairs from our fifth floor apartment to the ground floor after her injury,” he said.

“I realised that what she needed was an electric wheelchair that could go up and downstairs but such a thing didn’t exist.”

So, despite a complete lack of mechanical knowledge, Li sold his apartment for £44,000 to fund the project.

The wheelchair as a weapon

And though the 38-year-old father of two quickly learned sporting activities such as hand cycling and sit skiing, it wasn’t until he took a new self-defence class for wheelchair-users that he began to feel at ease with his new paralyzed status.

“When you become a paraplegic and are in a chair, physically your world changes. You’re looking up all of a sudden,” he says. “(The class) was a great way for me to get to know my body again, to get comfortable in the chair and to build up a sense of confidence.”

2 Comments

  1. Thank you very much for linking the last article, about self defense. It reminded me of someone I met in college. She wanted to learn martial arts and how to use her forearm crutches as weapons in case she were to be attacked, since she hated the concept of being perceived as weak and defenseless. I didn’t fully understand her reasoning then. Two years and a significant increase in cane usage later, I do. And it makes a lot of sense.

  2. Thanks for linking to my post on stigmatisation, language and mental distress. Langauge is a powerful tool and does represent the power dynamics that exist in this society.