Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I would like to thank everyone for taking interest in my blog and cause. It has been less than a year since I have started this blog. I received a comment recently (July 27th) which lead me to wonder, am I do the best job I can? In my mind I am but I would like to hear from you. In my quest to fight stigma, my main concern is to inspire others to treat all illness as equal. Have I missed the mark? Have I contributed  to stigma? Is it wrong of me to mention words like SCHIZOPHRENIA, MENTAL ILLNESS, ETC? When I think of this topic, I think of AIDS and how we have almost erased stigma. It took a long time, but it happened. In order to see progress, sometimes we have to put ourselves out there, no matter what others think. I would like to see the same happen for mental illness, or whatever you want to call it. My gut is that you are all happy with my work thus far. I don't like to welcome criticism, but as an artist, it comes with the territory:)


  1. Hi AC,

    You are doing all you can humanly do as one person and need to remember to take care of yourself at the same time.

    Will e-mail you shortly with the decorating info.


  2. Thanks Chris,

    I sometimes forget about myself and need to breathe once in a while. It is 10:30 pm and I am still at work:( Only two more days till vacation!!!

  3. You are doing a good job fighting the stigma. I signed a petition to have the SZ diagnosis changed and need to send you that website. People that don't live this, just don't have a clue so you just have to be here for us and hope we can change things. I just say...THANKS for your blog. Keep on writing! Have a great vacation!
    Janet in TN

  4. I've been reading your blog with interest and I'm afraid I have to agree with the comments made by magnolia on your post from July 27.
    Where I live in the UK, all the major mental health charities have poured millions into anti stigma campaign after anti stigma campaign. They do not work. If anything, with each campaign the situation gets worse (I'm not suggesting they get worse because of the campaigns). Often it is the charities themselves, campaigners and mental health workers who are the worst culprits when it comes to stigma.
    There is absolutely no comparison between the stigma surrounding AIDS and mental illness. AIDS was initially thought of as a disease that only affected gay people, and any stigma was probably more a result of homophobia than the disease itself. Things only began to change when 'everyday' heterosexual people began to be diagnosed (and when global celebrities began to champion the cause of sufferers). Everyone understands pain, so It is easy for people to empathise with, and imagine themselves in the position of those suffering from AIDS or cancer or any other physical disease. It is extremely difficult (maybe even impossible) for most people without first hand experience to put themselves in the position of someone suffering any form of severe mental illness.
    There seems to be a never ending stream of self appointed campaigners who have decided amongst themselves that stigma is the biggest problem in my life and that they are going to speak for me and fight it on my behalf. I'm sure most do this for the best of reasons, but none have ever asked my opinion. I admire the fact that you are trying to make a difference, but I can't help but think that the considerable time and effort you put into your cause could be better spent doing something that, unlike anti stigma campaigns, would make a real, tangible difference to the lives of people diagnosed with a mental illness. Asking their opinions is a good place to start (but you actually have to listen to those opinions). My own experience is that my needs, thoughts and opinions are completely ignored, particularly be those claiming to be helping me. Maybe you could do something as simple as empowering those diagnosed with a mental illness to make their own voices heard instead of you speaking for them.
    I hope you're not offended by my comments (but you did ask). Sorry to be so negative but they are just my own opinions based on my own experiences and I'm sure many people will completely disagree with me. (Maybe I'm just having a bad day!) As I said, I do admire you and hope you can make a difference. I very much doubt another anti stigma campaign will produce any noticeable change to the lives of those you are trying to help, but I would be extremely happy to be proved wrong.

  5. Thank you for your very thought out response. Not talking about the issue will never be the answer. Why should we just push this under the rug? If you are unhappy with how the job is being done then are you doing something to raise awareness in your own way? More discussion will yield change. It can't possibly stay as bad as it is. I will never take that attitude.

    What I am doing will actually make a difference because I plan to inspire discussion in the classroom. This is where I was educated about AIDS, drugs, etc. Just like mental illness, there were many misconceptions and stereotypes that surrounded AIDS. So yes, there is a very obvious comparison. Not only were people prejudice towards the illness, but also towards the lifestyle of those who were linked to the illness. 

I agree with you that celebrity is powerful but I find it pathetic that we will listen to someone who is in the movies over your average joe. I was never educated about mental illness, which is why I was blindsided by my brother's illness. Nothing prepared me for what was to come. I fight stigma because most of what is out there is based on myth and fear. Raising awareness can take years before we see a difference. "Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” -Martin Luther King. There was a time when it was taboo to say CANCER. 

I do have opinions since I am forced to watch my brother suffer. I am not deciding for you what is the biggest issue in your life, rather what is big in mine. This illness affects me because it is happening to someone I love. This is my story and my journey. I don't intend to say that stigma is the biggest issue in your life but it is a very big issue and for many people. In the end, this is a social issue that needs lots of attention. 

I hope that my documentary will reach many and inspire even more. This is not an effort for me, it is my therapy. If my work will show one person how to detect symptoms, seek treatment or feel empathy, then I have done my job. My brother has stated that the stigma affects his choices. He is not the only one. I feel that I am empowering others and allowing their voices to be heard. My video shares the stories of five courageous individuals. Each of them has told me that they see potential in what I am doing. They appreciate my work but I understand that I can not please everyone. I will try to listen as much as I speak.

  6. Sorry, one last thing. I noticed that you mention the following on your about page: 

"Contrary to what a lot of people seem to think, this does not mean I am mentally retarded, a psychopath, a murderer, a criminal, dangerous, violent or stupid."

I would assume that in order to allow total strangers to view you for the wonderful artist you are, instead of a psycho, that we must fight stigma.

  7. Amber, I just wanted to say your doing a wonderful job. You have asked people with the illness what kind of voice do you want them to have! Your movie is not scrpited. I came on and said what I felt and I know that Ed's Mom did the same. Your work is so inspiring too. I mean for Mental Illness to be in the main stream of the art world is just fablous.
    Thanks for letting me put my two sense in,

  8. Amber, I think you do combat stigma with this blog, and create awareness and educate the public, and provide support for those whose lives have been affected by mental illness. I think that keeping silent about the misunderstood illness labeled Schizophrenia would only serve to continue the shroud of mystery and misunderstanding, and misnomers about the illness and fuel the discrimination, stigma, and mistreatment affecting people who have the illness. Rather than make things worse in that way, your blog serves to create positive change. And that is the best that any of us can do.

    Also, I would love to hear more about your documentary and any way I could be involved as you mentioned on my blog. Thanks!