Monday, May 12, 2008

'Mad Pride' fights a stigma

That's the title of this story in The New York Times that explores the growing "mad pride" movement, which aims to fight the stigma of, and deepen the understanding of, serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Here is an excerpt:

"Until now, the acceptance of mental illness has pretty much stopped at depression," said Charles Barber, a lecturer in psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine. "But a newer generation, fueled by the Internet and other sophisticated delivery systems, is saying, 'We deserve to be heard, too.' "

About 5.7 million Americans over 18 have bipolar disorder, which is classified as a mood disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Another 2.4 million have schizophrenia, which is considered a thought disorder. The small slice of this disparate population who have chosen to share their experiences with the public liken their efforts to those of the gay-rights and similar movements of a generation ago.

Just as gay-rights activists reclaimed the word queer as a badge of honor rather than a slur, these advocates proudly call themselves mad; they say their conditions do not preclude them from productive lives.

Mad pride events, organized by loosely connected groups in at least seven countries including Australia, South Africa and the United States, draw thousands of participants, said David W. Oaks, the director of MindFreedom International, a nonprofit group in Eugene, Ore., that tracks the events and says it has 10,000 members.

There's lots more to read. And The Huffington Post followed the Times story with this article called Glad to be Mad: Mentally Ill start 'Mad Pride' Movement. It includes links to some of the YouTube videos produced by the movement's unofficial spokesperson, Liz Spikol, who also blogs about mental health and illness at Trouble with Spikol.

(PS. I found the links to both stories at Trouble with Spikol)