"Switched at Birth" portrays people with mental illness as violent

In Switched at Birth Season 3, Daphne tried to help Sharee and her mom, who suffers from bipolar disorder, and ended up having to save her boss's life when Sharee's mom became violent and attacked another person on the show with a knife. I was surprised and outraged at this portrayal of mental illness because Sharee's emotional journey felt dead on, especially the helplessness and the guilt, and given that the show provides a compassionate view of people with disabilities, such as accurately portraying the deaf community's many challenges.

Given television's abysmal track record when it comes to portraying mental illness, I was hoping--albeit in vain--that Switched at Birth would not fall into this abominable stereotype. 

However, Sharee's mother, the representative person on the show of people with mental illnesses, attacked another person on the show with a knife. This portrayal unequivocally reinforces the harmful stereotype that people living with mental illness are unstable and violent. Whereas it is clearly documented that people with mental illnesses are not perpetrators of violence, but are actually 10 times more likely to be the victims of violence compared to people without mental illness.

Less than 50% of people with mental illness receive treatment, and these portrayals of people with mental illness as violent prevent them from seeking treatment.



Big Brothers Big Sisters Discriminates Against Those Receiving Mental Health Treatment

It's time to change - let's end mental health discrimination.

If you have ever seen a therapist for any reason and are thinking of joining Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) - a great program for which I am a volunteer for almost year - expect to provide your therapist's referral. The reason for this policy is to ensure that a volunteer is not a danger to his little brother or sister.

When applying for the program, I myself provided such a referral. I have no problem with asking my therapist to provide a referral, stating that I am a safe individual to become a mentor, and I encourage the practice of ensuring child safety in any way possible.

The problem with this policy is that BBBS requires a therapist's referral from only potential mentors who have been in therapy. This practice is discriminatory agains those who have been in therapy, and here is why:

The reason this policy is discriminatory is because those who have not been in therapy are not required to provide such - or any - referrals. The glaring explanation for this policy is that it is derived from the stigmatizing - and unfounded - belief that those who have been to therapy are a danger to society.

I do not have any objections to BBBS asking for referrals from therapists, however, I feel that the policy is discriminatory against those who have been to therapy because only those who say that they have been in therapy are required to give a referral from their therapists.

I think everyone who is considered for becoming a big brother or a big sister should be treated equally and that this policy is discriminatory on the basis of having attended therapy. And since those who have seen a therapist are required to give their therapists' referrals, everybody should be required to see a therapist (if they don't already) and get a referral.

This is exactly the kind of discrimination that perpetuates stigma and prevents millions of Americans from seeking treatment. This policy is a shame for the BBBS program, those who have seen mental health professionals, and society as a whole - because mental health affects everyone - and needs to be amended.


Entry on Mental Illness Added to AP Stylebook

For years, the news media used inaccurate, careless, or stigmatizing language or practices in reporting on mental illness.

Finally, the Associated Press (AP) has included rules on mental illness in the new edition of the AP Stylebook, the bible used throughout the industry.

In other words, the mental health community has won a huge victory—a seismic shift in the terrain of popular culture. If necessary, mental health advocates, looking forward, can cite the AP Stylebook as an authority in getting wayward editors and reporters to change their way in how they report about mental illness.

The new rules include:
  • Mental illness is a general condition. Specific disorders are types of mental illness and should be used whenever possible
  • Do not use derogatory terms, such as insane, crazy/crazed, nuts or deranged, unless they are part of a quotation that is essential to the story.
  • Wherever possible, rely on people with mental illness to talk about their own diagnoses.
  • Avoid using mental health terms to describe non-health issues. Don’t say that an awards show, for example, was schizophrenic.
  • Do not assume that mental illness is a factor in a violent crime, and verify statements to that effect. A past history of mental illness is not necessarily a reliable indicator. Studies have shown that the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, and experts say most people who are violent do not suffer from mental illness


What Social Anxiety Feels Like

To understand anxiety, it is necessary to come up with vivid metaphors.

When I become anxious in a public place, a bothersome and uncomfortable feeling comes over me. I feel embarrassed as if I spilled soda all over myself and my clothes are wet and dirty. My thoughts are turned painfully inward, and it feels as though I am the center of (unwanted) attention.

I feel vulnerable and want to escape. I am extremely self-conscious, as if everyone's eyes are on me: judging my appearance and pose. I may even feel conscious of my walking and start to deliberately putting one leg in fromt of the other and may even trip. I keep thinking, "I look weird," and "I act awkwardly." It is as if I am a criminal, escorted by the police in handcuffs on a perp walk. I feel uncomfortable in my own skin and just want to disappear, to find an exit, to escape.


Disabled Parking Placard for Depression and Anxiety

Disabled placards should not be denied to people with depression and anxiety. Depression is the number one cause of disability in America. That means it's more crippling than any other ailment, including cancer, arthritis, and heart disease. Anxiety, including panic attacks, PTSD, GAD, and Social Phobia, can be just as crippling. Yet, I was denied a disabled placard for Anxiety by my PCP, which is discrimination against people with mental illnesses.

For example, when I had depression, I often worried that I will get a ticket. I once parked near a fire hydrant at night without any warning signs or a red curb, and got a ticket which caused significant distress. I filed a dispute, which, after a half-year "evaluation" period, was rejected. Dealing with parking tickets is anxiety-provoking and energy-depleting.

Walking through a busy parking lot can trigger anxiety. Sometimes I felt the need to run and get away, like I'm being chased by an unknown predator or like I'm falling down from a ten-story building. It's an awful, emotionally-draining feeling, and should not be endured by people with anxiety disorders.

I also worried about hitting other cars and people as I was looking for a parking space. I'd feel much safer to know where I'm going to park.

The anxiety made it significantly harder for me to function, just as if I had a broken leg. This anxiety is excessive and much more intense then what most people feel.

Anxiety is a disability; and a frighteningly real one. Therefore, we need to give disabled placards to people who have depression and anxiety.