Here’s my dilemma. On one hand, I am a Mental Health Advocate and on the other I also live with a mental illness. I became so outraged at the portrayal of the mentally ill in Modern Family’s Halloween episode that I immediately jumped on the band wagon to get ABC to apologize. I hadn’t even seen the episode. I was going off of another blogger’s take on it…a very well respected blogger. I finally decided to watch this Halloween episode (today) and I realized something…I was wrong. Yes, there were some not so nice stereotype portrayals of psych ward patients and yes some not so nice comments. But, this is the reality we live in. People have these preconceived notions of the mentally ill and that is something that is very difficult to change. Now that doesn’t mean we should give up and not try to educate people, but when we immediately go up in arms over something like this I think it does more damage to our cause than good.
Let me explain. I didn’t agree at all with what was done on Modern Family, but I know I’ve been guilty of using the words “looney bin” a time or two when referring to my hospitalizations. So, are we saying that it’s okay for those of us with mental illness to use words like this and not others? I think this is hypocritical. Sometimes we have to make light of our situation. It’s a coping mechanism. If we are making light of it and others see this, they may feel it is okay to do the same. And really why shouldn’t it be okay? I think mental health advocates have reached a point where they take things too much to heart. I include myself in this. I think when this happens our message becomes lost. We get so angry that someone said something that was insensitive or portrayed us in such a way that was not appropriate that our whole education platform goes out the window. I do think ABC could have put something up at the end of the show saying that mental illness is a serious and put up the hotline numbers, but they didn’t. It was a perfect opportunity for them to educate and they blew it, but the mental health community’s reaction to this was a missed opportunity as well. We could have come from the approach of “Well, we don’t like what you did, but here’s some information on how to improve upon your portrayal of the mentally ill in the future.” We did not do that. We wrote letters saying how bad it was and we made those letters viral. I’m not saying that was completely wrong of us. It was just a missed opportunity to educate in a calm manner.
We need to lighten up a bit. We need to be able to laugh at ourselves and our situation. It can be so dark at times that a little laughter just might do us some good. Life is so short and so precious. We need to release the anger into the universe and approach these situations (irritating as they may be) from a higher ground. We need to educate. One way to educate is by sharing your story. By doing so, someone just may begin to understand and a little understanding is better than no understanding.
Thank you for reading!