In an alternate universe…

As I brain stormed ideas for this blog entry, a Twilight Zone episode continued to consume my thoughts:

        A woman wakes up in the hospital with her face bandaged. The nurse (whose face you don’t see) unwraps the bandages and screams. The nurse calls the doctor into the patient’s room. The doctor (whose face the audience also doesn’t see) states that the woman can not be healed or fixed. Next, the camera shows the audience the woman’s face. She is beautiful with flawless skin and a glowing complexion. The doctor then tells the nurse to call Them to pick p athe patient und take her away. After commercial break, the door to the patient’s hospital room opens and a man (that looks like Barbie’s Ken) walks into the room. He tells the woman patient, “Hello. I am bringing you to a land where people like us can be together and live in peace”. The patient willingly goes with this stranger without question. The camera then shows the audience the doctor’s and nurses’ faces: pig-like with noses that look like snouts. Although this Twilight Zone episode addresses the subjectivity of beauty and the ways in which society upholds the criteria for what is perceived as beautiful or not, this episode can relate to how mental illness is currently understood and perceived.

What if in an alternate universe, having a mental illness diagnosis was seen as a glamorous entity. In this alternate universe, people rush to psychiatrists, therapists, and clinics to be assessed for a mental illness. Having a mental illness diagnosis of depression, bipolar, or schizophrenia (to name a few) is normalized and accepted as a label that belongs to the majority. The individuals without a mental illness diagnosis are perceived as marginalized, lacking super-human capabilities, or as abnormal.

Would stigma still exist in this alternate universe? I believe yes, but in a different way than stigma exists in our society. Stigma would be internalized by those without a diagnosis, instead of by those who have one.

Would having a diagnosis provide the individual with access to special or desired resources? Probably so. Although in our current society, resources are provided to people with a mental illness diagnosis, many factors continue to interfere with the individual’s ability to actually have access to them. Some factors, to name a few, are healthcare (insurance or lack thereof), transportation, locations where services are provided, price & quality of such services, and shame/embarrassment that is experienced by many when acknowledging to family and friends that they have been diagnosed or exhibit the symptoms that warrant a diagnosis.

Would people be accused of ‘faking’ symptoms or behaviors in order to receive such a diagnosis in this alternate universe? Probably so. In any society where there is a created stratification based upon any innate (physical, biological) or socially constructed characteristics (racial, socioeconomic, gender, occupational), accusations of fraud will more than likely exist.

Even though our current society has a large prevalence of mental illness, individuals diagnosed with a mental illness are portrayed by the media (and from society’s choice in terminology) as ‘crazy’ or ‘deviant’. But in actuality, many are misunderstood and are at times, seen as having a characteristic fault.

We do not live in the alternate universe that I have described above. No, we do not. However, we can live in a society where we do not place judgement on others when life becomes difficult. We can change our current society into one that encourages sharing our struggles and challenges in order to strengthen each one of us. We can, together.

 

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Infographic of Mental Illness Facts

Infographic of Mental Illness Facts

This is a wonderful infographic representing the prevalence of depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia throughout the United States. Mental Ilnness affects people of all ages and all cultural backgrounds.

1 in 17 Americans live with a serious mental illness
1 in 4 families have a relative that has a mental illness

We are all in some way impacted by mental illness.

Stand together to decrease stigma.

If you’d like to read more regarding USC’s MSW program &/or about the infographic presented above, please visit this link:  http://msw.usc.edu/mswusc-blog/facing-mental-illness-infographic/

Media’s Depiction of Rape Case underlies Stereotypes

If you’ve been living under a rock, here is what you missed:

On March 17th, two boys (16 years old) were found guilty in a Steubenville, Ohio courthouse [see bottom of blog for link to video] for raping a 16 year old girl from West Virgina. The girl’s identity is being kept confidential for privacy.

The way the media, especially a CNN reporter, is presenting the case is disturbing. A CNN reporter highlights the boys’ extracurricular activitiesand their “promising futures” while the girl is not mentioned. Yes, the reporter was just doing her job.

The CNN reporter states: “Incredibly difficult, even for an outsider like me, to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart…when that sentence came down, [Ma’lik] collapsed in the arms of his attorney…He said to him, ‘My life is over. No one is going to want me now.’ Very serious crime here, both found guilty of raping the sixteen-year-old girl at a series of parties back in August.”

By framing the case as the CNN reporter did, the reporter is covertly and unconsciously perpetuating the stereotypes that exist regarding individuals involved in a rape. Some general thoughts that exist in society, but not actually in the CNN report, are: the male(s) in the situation “couldn’t control him/themselves”, “men are sexual creatures”, “the girl didn’t really mean ‘no’, she liked it”, “the girl was playing hard to get”, or “the girl must have been dressed provocatively”.

These are all wrong.

As a young woman myself, I am infuriated that this is how society, in general, views and understands such violent incidences of rape. Instead of pointing the figure at the girl (who didn’t ask for the event to happen to her) or pitying the boys who are, after all, in charge of their own decisions, why not point the finger at all of us in society. What about us as a society take part of the blame for what has happened to this young girl? 

Simple answer: because it is easier not too.

Here are some resources for victims of rape:
1. National Sexual Violence Resource Center: http://www.nsvrc.org
2. Take Back The Night: Date Rape Resources: http://www.takebackthenight.org/resource-category/date-rape
3. Safe Horizon (largest victim’s services agency in USA with 57 locations): 1.800.621.HOPE (4673); http://www.safehorizon.org

Resources in California:
4. San Francisco Women Against Rape (SFWAR)’s 24-hour Rape Crisis Hotline: (415)-647-RAPE
5. Bay Area Women Against Rape in Oakland, CA: Hotline Phone: (510)-845-7273 & (510)-430-1298
6. Highland Sexual Assault Center in Oakland, CA: Hotline Phone: (510)-534-9290 &  (510)-534-9291
7. Rape Trauma Services in Burlingame, CA: Hotline Phone: (650)-692-7273 & (650)-652-0598; Other Languages: Mandarin
8. SafeQuest Solano in Vallego, CA: Hotline Phone: (707)-557-6600 & (707)-402-7800

SafeQuest Solano in Fairfield, CA: Hotline Phone: (707)-422-7345 & (707)-4027800

9. Volunteer Center of Napa Valley Inc. in Napa, CA: Hotline Phone: (707)-255-6397 & (707) 253-6100 ext.109; Special Services: Adults Molested As Children, Spanish
10. YWCA Rape Crisis Center in San Jose, CA: Hotline Phone: (408)-287-3000 & (408)-295-4011
11. Tri-Valley Haven for Women in Livermore, CA: Hotline Phone: (925)-449-5842 & (925)-449-5845
12. Women’s Crisis Support and Shelter Services in Santa Cruz, CA: Hotline Phone: (888)-900-4232 & (831)-425-4030

Link to CNN report to Steubenville, Ohio case: http://gawker.com/5991003/cnn-reports-on-the-promising-future-of-the-steubenville-rapists-who-are-very-good-students

Ruby Wax’s Ted Talk (2012): “What’s so funny about mental illness?”

http://www.ted.com/talks/ruby_wax_what_s_so_funny_about_mental_illness.html

Here is my favorite Ted Talk video. It is my favorite video because the presenter, Ruby Wax, highlights the complexity that mental illness has on the lives of those personally experiencing the illness and its placement in society. Wax’s transparency is empowering.

We can destroy stigma together.

I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did.

Temple Grandin’s Ted Talk (2010)

http://www.ted.com/talks/temple_grandin_the_world_needs_all_kinds_of_minds.html

TedTalk description of video: Temple Grandin, diagnosed with autism as a child, talks about how her mind works — sharing her ability to “think in pictures,” which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids”

The bottom line of Grandin’s presentation, in my opinion, demonstrates the need to expand the definition of intelligence and organize the educational system in order to enhance the skills of each child.

Strength: What is it exactly?

I’m not talking about strength in the physical sense, like when someone lifts 300 pounds. The kind of strength I’m questioning is internal strength.

What is internal strength? How are we able to identify it? Does an individual, or group of people, gain this type of strength through experiences? And if so, what kinds of events or situations does a person have to experience in order to have achieved internal strength? Or can this type of strength be purchased through material goods?

I don’t have the answers to these questions. But what I do know is that, I see internal strength everywhere. Internal strength can exist in anyone regardless of age, sex, race, or class. I see an immense amount of internal strength when a person admits their mistakes and when someone has survived long-term struggles like oppression, trauma, pain, and heartache. Internal strength, in my opinion, is when a person asks for help and guidance. I identify internal strength when I see a person take a leap of faith into the unknown, such as when the leap is motivated by a desire to follow their dreams or to listen to their heart.

 I witness internal strength the most is when I look into my mother’s eyes.

Internal strength is a mysterious thing. This intangible entity is typically not self-prescribed. The people who truly have this internal strength, 9 times out of 10, wouldn’t say they do. Internal strength is a characteristic that others use to describe another.

I can say my mother has this internal strength; but she wouldn’t agree.

My answers to the questions I asked in the beginning of this entry are simple:
                    Internal strength is when an individual overcomes any and all obstacles without losing sight of who they are and without losing hope for what the future holds. I am able to identify internal strength when I see it because I was somehow socialized to believe that this internal strength does not exist in everyone; it comes from a special combination of events, circumstances, and amount of growth. Internal strength, in my opinion, cannot be bought.

Resiliency is the demonstration of internal strength.