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