Thursday, January 1, 2009


Human rights are defined as basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled. These rights include civil, political, social, cultural and economic rights. When I think of civil rights, I am most definitely reminded of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. I designed the photo montage (above) to show that with perseverance, progress can be made. This movement gives me hope that one day, we may eliminate discrimination against those living with a mental disorder. 

Our civil rights protect us from discrimination based on gender, religion, race, sexual orientation and protect our individual freedom of belief. However, while this freedom allows for ideas of hope, love, equality and peace it also allows for ideas of oppression, discrimination and prejudice. History and current events show how many of these freedoms have and continue to be abused. 

Mental illness is a taboo subject and extremely misunderstood. Like any disease, no one asks to be burdened with a mental disorder. However, societal stigma forces shame upon these individuals. I found the following quote which was posted in response to a news article. The article voiced a one sided story about a celebrity who was stalked by an individual struggling with a mental disorder:

"Hire someone to kill the fu*ker. The only thing that wouldn't be fair about it is that the woman being harassed would have to pay for that service. "One Fine Day" every fu*king lunatic will be dead or behind bars waiting for the death penalty."  

TRANSLATION: It isn't enough of a punishment for people to have a mental illness thrust upon them but they should also be locked up for the rest of their lives, or be killed. Maybe I am reading too far into this but that would mean anyone with a mental disorder is NOT entitled to the same human rights as everyone else. I have read that discrimination against mental illness is about 20 years behind all other forms of discrimination. This means that there is a long road ahead of those who are trying to reduce this stigma. 

Samuel Adams, one of the Founding Father's of America, once said, "It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds." This has proven this to be true for African American's and all the progress they have made. Those with a mental disorder may seem like they make up a minority group, but actually, 1 in 4 people will have a diagnosable disorder. That equals 60.1 million people in America. If you add family members to the group, we may end up becoming the majority. We need to end the fear, discrimination and stereotypes. Progress is defined as steady improvement, as a society or civilization. We can eliminate stigma with education, realistic news stories of hope and an open mind!

I would like to end with a story that may ease society's fear of schizophrenia. When my brother was recently working towards recovery, he found his own peace by attending church. He said he felt safe there which is ironic because many do not feel safe from people with schizophrenia. Anyway, as they passed around the prayer basket, my mother caught a glimpse of what his prayer read. She told me that he asked for world peace. I ask society, is this someone we should be afraid of?


  1. I am sure that you will repost this in its entirety!

    Anyway, this is a private comment for you. You had expressed interest in my visual work. Recently I have mostly been photographing. I do have a group show coming up in February, which is about portraits and mental illness.

    I'd be happy to send you a few prints to show you a bit of my work. Most recently, two of my photos were rented for the film "Cover". I've rented it to see if they made the final cut!

    If you wish to reach me, my email is I'd have emailed you, but I would have had to use the post-stamp system, which I've never figured out.

    Happy New Year and all that noise. I look forward to hearing more of your story.

    By the way, have you read the book by Wally Lamb about twin brothers, one of whom is schizophrenic? It's deeply compelling.

  2. Great article, I agree completely, I'm gonna follow it if thats ok with you.

  3. Great post. This article reminds of another article I read on Schizophrenia Connection about digital records. Obama plans on letting medical records go on the computer for all health professionals to refer to, however, this could lead some health professionals to discriminate against individuals with a mental illness by not giving them the same treatment as other people the article on Schizophrenia Connection/


  4. Ashley,

    Do you have a link to that article?

  5. The article is called "Digital Health Records:Not So Fast", and can be located at:


  6. Valash,
    Thank you for the link and being vigilant. Confidentiality is always an issue for those with mental illness. It's not just digital records, but how health professionals and workers handle sensitive information. I believe information about my son was made public, but in his case no one seems to care. At least he is not aware of it, although he has suffered the consequences in ways I will not say here. In reality, when confidentiality is breeched, everyone suffers, so thank you for reminding us to be ever vigilant when their rights are or might be compromised.

  7. I read the article at health central and some of the comments. The concerns are real and immediate. I have a friend who is a computer architect, and I asked for his input. He was reluctant to say any system can be full proof if someone really wants to obtain your records for whatever reason. And he gave some scenarios other than mental illness that are frightening as to how access can result in damage and even death. However, he suggested that information can be encrypted with access requiring physician finger print +key code and patient finger print + key code, as a two part access process that would time out in 15 minutes. In the event patient cannot give authority a family member or other identified individual would be given prior authority to access in their stead. He did caution that hacker threats are real and always a threat. No system can be 100% safe. We cannot fight the digial age, but we can make recommendations to protect the confidentiality of those with mental illness as well as other sensitive information that a patient does not want released unless they authorize.