Mad Stigma? No, But Madness Isn’t A “Super Power” Either

The New York Times put together a piece called “‘Mad Pride’ Fights a Stigma.

Part of the article focuses on people working to de-stigmatize mental illness — which is fine as far as it goes. The world is full of mentally ill people who aren’t dangerous and who lead full, productive lives. Just as an example, I’ve known a couple of people with bipolar disorder that are really creative and fascinating individuals — although they sometimes had issues they had to work out. Still, some of these people who have mental problems control their problems with medication, some of them pull it off with therapy, and some just scrape by without either — and they don’t deserve to be looked down upon just because they have a problem.

That much, I can go along with.

However, I do have a big problem with some of the people on the extremes of this movement,

Members of the mad pride movement do not always agree on their aims and intentions. For some, the objective is to continue the destigmatization of mental illness. A vocal, controversial wing rejects the need to treat mental afflictions with psychotropic drugs and seeks alternatives to the shifting, often inconsistent care offered by the medical establishment. Many members of the movement say they are publicly discussing their own struggles to help those with similar conditions and to inform the general public.

…Some Icarus Project members argue that their conditions are not illnesses, but rather, “dangerous gifts” that require attention, care and vigilance to contain. “I take drugs to control my superpowers,” Mr. DuBrul said.

While psychiatrists generally support the mad pride movement’s desire to speak openly, some have cautioned that a “pro choice” attitude toward medicine can have dire consequences.

“Would you be pro-choice with someone who has another brain disease, Alzheimer’s, who wants to walk outside in the snow without their shoes and socks?” said Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, executive director of the Stanley Medical Research Institute in Chevy Chase, Md.

Being seriously mentally ill is not a “superpower,” it’s not a “gift,” and, yes, one way or another, it does need to be treated. You want to see people who aren’t treating their mental illness? Go to any big city and start meeting the homeless. You’ll find plenty of people with “superpowers” there — and the sad thing is that a lot of those people, if their conditions were being treated, could be living fairly normal lives instead of sleeping on sewer grates and eating out of garbage cans.

This whole issue is a pet peeve of mine because it plays into the liberal tendency to treat destructive personal behavior as simply another lifestyle choice. Oh, you’re a man who “feels” like a woman? Great, have surgery and try to pass as female. Oh, you’re 15 years old and you think it would be fun to start banging every guy that moves? Well, here’s a condom, so now you’re protected! Oh, so you think your schizophrenia doesn’t need to be treated? Well, who are we to tell you otherwise? Have fun!

People, even people with the common sense to know better, get so caught up in the idea of being “tolerant” that they just stand by and watch other people do really stupid and destructive things with their lives. It may be too late for some of the folks who buy into these wacky philosophies, but it works the same way as conspiracy theories do: if you don’t challenge these horrible ideas, if you cede the debate to the wackos, you lose by default and a lot of decent people end up getting suckered by horrible ideas as a result.

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