A place for support, intelligence, resources and recovery
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.
Now is the time to understand more, so we may fear less.”
On November 2, 2016 the Santa Barbara News Press published an article. The headline read: Democrats Rally in Santa Barbara.
So What? It’s political season and there's nothing unusual about like-minded folks getting together to support their cause. It’s what we do. This political season was not very friendly, even the most jaded civilians can agree on that. Something took place at this particular rally and I would like to address it here.
Karen F., a friend of mine contacted me recently, she shared that she wrote a letter to Senator Hannah Beth Jackson about a comment made at this rally. Karen and I are like-minded in our cause to end the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness. At the Mental Wellness Center our work is about saving lives, to ensure people living with a mental illness are able to pursue their potential with dignity, civil rights, free from stigma and judgement. We work hard to end misunderstanding and false beliefs about “mental health problems”.
You see, my friend Karen suffers from major depressive disorder. To stay well takes tremendous effort. She is doing quite well, lives a very successful life and has many friends and loved ones. But back to the rally. When the Senator spoke to the crowd she made a very disappointing quip, which was quoted in the News Press.
“Senator Jackson drew the loudest applause with a direct swipe at Donald Trump, telling the crowd, but not elaborating” , “he has mental health problems that make him a danger.”
Just a couple of weeks before, Senator Jackson was in attendance at the annual Mental Wellness Center Luncheon in full support of the work done for those who suffer from mental illness in our community. I’m sure the Senator knows that only a psychiatrist can diagnose “mental health problems” and even if true it is not appropriate to label those with mental health problems as dangerous. Research tells us people who suffer from mental health disorders are more likely to be victimized than be perpetrators of dangerous crimes.
To be clear, this is not a defense for Donald Trump. It is a defense for those who suffer greatly from the stigma perpetuated by comments made at their expense. It’s just not funny nor is it acceptable. If we’re honest, we’ve all made comments off the cuff at the expense of someone else. This has to stop, we can do better.
My friend contacted the office of the senator for a comment, explanation or perhaps an apology. No response. Senator Jackson, if you read this please make an effort to set a better example for our community, you can do better. And for those who laughed and cheered, think about the concept that we are all in this together, let’s support, not separate our community.
A copy of Karen’s letter is below, thanks for your strength and courage, friend.
I am a volunteer on the education committee at the Mental Wellness Center. We go out to predominantly the 6th grades in SB, some 9th grades, teaching a course called Mental Health Matters. Since you were at our recent luncheon on October 19, you probably know what I'm talking about. We teach 6 of the most common disorders with an emphasis on busting the stigma that surrounds them.
I was disappointed to read your comment from the rally with Kamala Harris yesterday where you "drew the loudest applause with a direct swipe at Donald Trump, telling the crowd, but not elaborating, that he has 'mental health problems' that make him a danger."
I am not here to defend Donald Trump, no doubt he has said some outrageous things and it would be almost impossible to do anyway, but I must defend people who suffer from mental health disorders. Part of the stigma we work hard at breaking is the unfair belief that some people have that people with these disorders are violent or dangerous. The truth is that they are no more violent than anyone else with or without a mental health disorder. In fact, they are more likely to have an act of violence committed upon them than they are to be the perpetrator.
I understand that politics can get ugly and this year it may be the ugliest I've ever seen, but I'd ask you when making comments about a person with whom you disagree, you find other ways to make your point than to bring up your opinion of their mental health. Only a psychiatrist can do that as I'm sure you know and even though I'm sure you received lots of laughs, and even I can see how it might be funny, it's really not funny to those who suffer.
Thank you for allowing me to express myself about something for which I care deeply.
In conclusion, I'd like to share another thing we teach in Mental Health Matters. It's wellness breaths. They're meant as ways to calm us, center us. We often say how they would be helpful before a test, before a big game, when we're just stressed or feeling uncomfortable/awkward. Join me, stand up, be brave, take wellness breaths and help us bust stigma!