I went on a date last night. It was someone I met for the first time and he seems like a real genuine person. He was sweet, sincere and pretty open about his life. He was so open about his life that at some point, it became rather difficult for me to not be open about my life. We had met through a dating site and he didn’t know anything about me. It was hard watching the confusion on his face and answering the questions which followed.
“Is there a cure?” No, there is no known cure.
“Are you on medication? Not at this time, but I will take medication if I need it.
“Are you better now?” I am healthy now, but also vulnerable.
“Can you get sick again?” Maybe, but I am willing to do whatever it takes to stay mentally healthy.
He didn’t ask if I was dangerous. He didn’t have to. His fear was written all over his face, fear of exploring a relationship with the kind of individual depicted in the images below.
I couldn’t write about this yesterday.
To experience such blatant public bias toward persons living with mental health conditions, to witness such fear-based tactics, was rather disturbing.
I’m trying to write about it today, knowing that there is a direct correlation to these kind of messages and my dating life. I’m trying to write from a systemic perspective, but I confess that it is difficult.
I cringed when I read this billboard because it negatively shapes public opinion about people like me, people who live with health conditions which we did not choose. This billboard, and the flyer below, falsely convey that persons living with mental health conditions are dangerous. It serves an evil purpose by perpetuating the lie that some citizens automatically deserve to not have the same civil rights or housing options as others. No wonder so many people choose to remain silent about their mental health challenges. After all, who wants to be know as the “crazy” person who shouldn’t have access to a gun? Who wants to date that “mentally ill” chick?
This flyer was circulated in public parks in Lakeview, Illinois. A significant distinction between the billboard and the flyer is that the billboard was posted by the Kenneth Cole Foundation who is responsible for their postings while the flyers were apparently circulated by an anonymous source. Despite their public opposition to Rosecrance’s Recovery Center in their neighborhood, The Lakeview Action Committee was quick to distance themselves from the pink flyers, which remind me of pink notices and pink triangles and forsaking all regard for fellow human beings.
“These signs were not created, posted or endorsed by Lakeview Action Committee.” -Lakeview Action Committee’s Facebook Page
“This ad not meant to further stigmatize those suffering from mental illness community in need & already under-served.” -Mr. Kenneth Cole’s Twitter Feed
The point is, “we didn’t do it” and “we didn’t mean to do it” fail to take any responsibility for cultivating healthy communities. The issue is not whether the Lakeview Action Committee posted the flyers. Instead, what is this committee doing to cultivate health and wellness for ALL citizens, including citizens needing mental health and addiction recovery support? Similarly, the issue is not whether the Kenneth Cole Foundation meant to hurt anyone. This billboard is prejudicial and, even if unintentional, it is profoundly hurtful. At the very least, the billboard should come down. If the Kenneth Cole Foundation is serious about advancing collective healthcare and civil liberties, this is easily demonstrated by removing the billboard. If they want to use their artistic activism to make amends for the damage being inflicted, they will be quick to replace it with a lime green billboard that promotes an inclusive message of hope and mental wellness. They can post a separate billboard about gun control.
Kenneth Cole describes himself as a frustrated activist on his twitter account. I confess, I am also frustrated. In fact, I am beyond frustrated. What bothers me more than the billboard going up is that it hasn’t yet come down. It segregates persons who have good health from persons with poor health. It discourages people from disclosing mental health challenges and seeking support. It literally puts lives at risk.
Plus, it doesn’t do anything for my dating life.Read more "#TAKE IT DOWN"