WESLEY’S COVENANT PRAYER

I’ve been struggling recently. I struggle nearly every day of my life, but there is almost always victory in the struggle and triumph in the fight for life.  Yes, it is a fight to live.  I fight nearly every day of my life, so much so, that fighting feels more like living. Recently, however, I […]

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#makeitright

This morning, a representative from Kenneth Cole was emailing mental health advocates who had contacted the company regarding a hurtful billboard with the following message. “Thank you for your feedback. We stand by the need for gun law reform in addition to obtaining more resources for those who struggle with mental illness. In hindsight, we were overly […]

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#TAKE IT DOWN

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.

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I love you, Daddy.

I have the best Father in the whole world.  I know that many people are professing this today, but my Daddy really is the best.  Before I was even conceived, he already loved me.  He knew I was special and that there would never be anyone quite like me.  He has been with me through […]

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THREE NIGHTS

Night 1 I watched the footage of Ferguson burning as it unfolded last night.  I listened to how different media outlets described what was happening.  Throughout the night, local media was first to report on various incidents while national media was a bit more polished.  They should be.  They’re speaking to a national audience. My […]

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Dear Mr. Rauner

Dear Mr. Rauner,

I hope you are well.

I just finished watching the Gubernatorial Debate held at DuSable Museum and am deeply concerned by your remarks about “making sure that we keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill” and the “key is to keep the guns out of hands of criminally and mentally ill.”  Let’s talk about this.

I am a voting citizen who lives with a mental health condition.  It is upsetting to hear the words “mentally ill” because these words are used to distance persons with mental health conditions away from natural supports within local communities.  Typically we don’t describe people with physical health conditions as “physically ill” and it is segregating to say “mentally ill” when describing people living with health conditions that we did not choose, nor do we want.  The context in which you used the words are particularly disturbing because you equated “mentally ill” to dangerous.

Your words are heavy statements of condemnation for those of us who are sometimes fighting just to stay alive.  I was genuinely saddened when your opponent failed to bring up any aspect of mental health during the debate, but at least he didn’t perpetuate a negative public perception and threaten to take away the constitutional rights of persons with psychiatric disabilities.  I am a good person.  Why are you threatening to take away my constitutional rights?

So here is a question from your online audience.  You said during the debate that we need to create opportunity.  What kind of opportunities do you envision for persons with mental health conditions?  If the most important aspect of an assault weapon discussion is to keep guns out of the hands of people like me, then in what other areas will or won’t we be allowed to participate in our community as full-fledged citizens?  Please tell me why persons with disabilities should even consider voting for you.

Sincerely,

AJ

Click here to view debate.  Assault weapon discussion begins at 34:38.

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