Halloween-related exploitation has got to stop.
I am almost never on DA anymore; I sign in to support a few friends, and that's it. But with all the Halloween festivities going around, I keep seeing something that's really bothering me, so, fuck it, I'm going to tell you about it. (And please note this blog is targeted at NO ONE in particular
We, as a DA community, must stop using mental illness as a way to entertain ourselves on Halloween (and at any time, for that matter).
Let's differentiate between TALKING about mental illness and EXPLOITING mental illness.
I understand that many of us, myself included, have addressed suicidality or some mood disorder at some point in our work. Exploring the darker nature of ourselves and the fragility of humanity is one thing. But, when you glorify mental illness, reveling in the "insane" for how "scary" and "murderous" they are, you are propagating a stereotype that is actually HARMFUL to people who live with mental illness.
Why is it harmful to promote stigma?
"Stigma" refers to a stereotype, reputation, or label people get just because they live with mental illness and happens independently of their own actions. It is very difficult to live in a world where most people (1) are afraid you are going to "snap" and possibly hurt them, (2) think of you as less capable than they are, (3) don't trust you, (4) don't make any attempt to understand you because you are "weird" and "different," and (5) say horrible things about you, using words like "crazy," "unhinged," "unstable," and "insane" loosely to refer to people who live with your condition.
These are the people I advocate for on a daily basis, the people I dedicate my life and career to helping-- and they are the people you are hurting with your cheap jokes and Halloween gimmicks.
How does YOUR contributing to stigma hurt people living with mental illness? Here's how:
1. Stigma is often internalized. That means, when you treat them with ridicule, fear, disdain, or some other harmful vibe (even if you never interact with them directly), people will internalize that and feel the same shame, fear, and disdain toward themselves. If society tells us we're bad, we assume we're bad. Can you imagine going through life thinking you are meaningless because that's what your brain disease tells you, only to have that negative thought validated by society?
2. Stigma makes it difficult to seek care because you are afraid you'll be judged or get a "label." If everyone thinks people who hear voices are maniacal killers, for example, I am NOT about to go get a label that says I'm a maniacal killer! And so I may go without treatment, which makes me even sicker. I may lose my job, my health, my family, my friends, etc. because of untreated mental illness. Painting people with psychosis as maniacal killers in our little Halloween haunted houses, art groups, etc., creates a stigma that can prevent care-seeking.
3. Stigma isolates people. What's ironic about that is that AT LEAST 1 out of every 4 of us (25% or more) will have mental illness at some point during our lives.
4. Hey, does any of this sound like harassment or even bullying? Except it's not necessarily done to the person, but rather ABOUT the person or even about the environment itself.
Oh no, she didn't!
DA is supposed to be a relatively safe space, and yet these groups and actions are allowed. I mean, why not, if extreme sexual content is allowed, right? But
extreme sexual content doesn't SYSTEMATICALLY harm a single, VULNERABLE group of DA SUBSCRIBERS (actually, it harms young users, but at least they have the mature content filter). By targeting, either on purpose or coincidence, a specific group of vulnerable
people--those who live with mental illnesses--these "communities" and "artists" are marginalizing us. Would you marginalize racial minorities? Religious minorities? Sexual minorities? No-- that's against DA policy. So why is it OK to do so to people living with mental illness?
So, dark art? Fine. I LOVE dark art. Art that challenges the psyche? Love it. BRING IT! And I get that we have a right to freedom of expression. For some people, creating art and imagery, or writing content, that depicts what it's like to be in the hell we call mental illness is freeing and cathartic. I am totally down with this, and this expression is welcome at mental-health
My problem arises when people glorify "insanity" or paint people with mental illness as creatures to be feared and loathed. I wouldn't paint a Black man as fearful and murderous. I would never paint a Muslim as fearful and murderous. And would you ever paint something derogatory about someone who uses a wheelchair?? Why would you do that to someone with mental health challenges? It's a biological fucking condition, like cancer or diabetes.EDIT: Also, research from mentalhealth.gov and The National Institute of Mental Health shows that people with mental health conditions are more likely to hurt themselves than they are to hurt you. Moreover, even when people are psychotic, by a vast majority, people with mental illness are more likely to be violent toward themselves than to be violent toward others. They are more likely to be VICTIMS of violence than to commit acts of violence.
(thank you, neurotype
I'm not being super sensitive. I'm no snowflake. I'm not saying that I "can't be made uncomfortable." It's not about being made uncomfortable. It's not even about being politically correct. It's about people having basic human rights.
So, just stop. Dark art, fine. Sharing experiences, fine. Raising awareness, fine. Using mental illness for entertainment value? SO NOT OKAY.
Have a fun and RESPONSIBLE Halloween. Remember that Halloween-HQ
has a game going on, and it doesn't involve "crazy" or "insane" people.