Sunday, November 4, 2012

Becoming an Advocate: The Haunted House Update

After my last post about the haunted house, I dropped in our community director to share my feelings about the haunted house and hopefully bring some awareness.

Honestly, this was a scary step for me. It’s easy for me to be an advocate for mental health behind a computer screen, but to show up in person made me feel vulnerable and exposed. I was also nervous because I was prepared to share a little about our family’s situation, I thought it would be necessary in order to bring awareness and create compassion if she saw an affected family face-to-face. So I swallowed my fears and headed directly to her office.

I first acknowledged all the hard work the staff did to put this event on and let her know that I didn’t intend to diminish their efforts by what I was about to say. She immediately responded with, “I didn’t see you at the event that night.” I said, “Well yes, our family chose not to go because of the Asylum theme.” I explained that we have a child with a mental illness and found the premise to be offense and didn’t want to expose our children to it.

I then explained how the individual scenes were images of real symptoms for those suffering with mental illness and portraying them at a family event is not only offensive but hurtful—pointing out that they would never have done a cancer ward theme. I shared how families like mine are affected by the stigma of mental illness and how my son has lost two of his best friends because the parents were scared of his illness. I told her that this event only feeds into those fears and strengthens the stigma that we’re trying to fight.

She was very good at listening, only stopping me briefly to say that the event was suppose to be a play off of old movies like One Flew Over the Cuckcoo’s Nest. In response, I told her that I understood their intentions were never to be offensive, but explained that it was possible that a girl who was privately cutting herself may have attended that night and been negatively impacted if she saw the scene of a girl slicing into her body with the signs “Danger! Psychos!” hanging on the walls. I explained how this girl might be afraid of being labeled a “psycho” and as a result may avoid treatment. I then told her that my son has experienced psychosis and questioned what he’d think of himself had he seen those signs on the walls?

I then shared that, as parents, we face ridicule for medicating our son and that their mockery of a MED STATION only adds to the abuse we feel.

I also reminded her about the high suicide rate in our small town and that this event doesn’t support those parents who found their children dead.

She seemed to be really listening, admitting that she had no idea families like ours were dealing with these issues. At one point her eyes softened and she started to tear up a little. She said, “You know, I did have a gut feeling that this would be wrong in the very beginning, but the younger staff members talked me out of it.” She then went on to share how she grew up with a child who was disabled and was well aware of the struggles that individuals face when they’re different than the “norm”.

Before I left I asked her if they would consider not using mental illness as a theme in the future and to remove the offensive images off of facebook.

She nodded her head in agreement and apologized for their insensitivity and promised she would have a talk with her staff.

I left feeling pretty proud of myself for stepping outside my comfort zone and was hopeful that this conversation may have a positive affect somewhere down the road. It’s the best I can do.


  1. Congrats, Mama Bear :D

    Let hope she will keep her promises, and let hope that the youngest members of the team will feel a boiling shame for their badness !
    There is no hope for those younger members of the team : they are bad persons for having done something like that. No reason to hope that they will amend themselves after what they decided to do.
    Again, they need to feel the stigma they created.

  2. I can hardly believe what i was reading in the previous post. You are so brave to share your feelings with the organisers. It really does just blow my mind that they would consider putting that together as a community event. I'm almost speechless.

  3. Rock on Mama Bear!

    Again, another example of needing more "adults" in charge of the situation. It is always good to listen to "younger staff" members and incorporate ideas. This is a very important step in raising a healthy village. But at the end of the day, good leadership and real grown up adults tow the line and speak up for what is right and shows "younger staff" the way.

    I'm so proud of you for going out of you comfort zone and respectfully being a voice for all those that are silent.

    Way to go!

  4. I think I speak for all of us reading your blog when I say, "thank you for being so courageous and for standing up for your family (and for all of us)!!" Thank you, Mama Bear!!

  5. Mama Bear's MILNovember 5, 2012 at 2:00 PM

    I AM SO SO PROUD OF YOU !! Not many things change unless there are those who are willing and brave enough to stand up and be heard. They are the ones that make a difference. You go girl ! You always do.


  6. You rock, Mama Bear! You handled a tough situation so well, and I'm sure that had a lot to do with how receptive the director was to your--very justified--concerns. Well done!

  7. Proud of you and really glad that I found this blog <3

    1. Thank you very much, I look forward to hearing from you again!

  8. Once again, you stood not only for your son, but for all of us. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  9. Beautiful! I have no other words for this post. You are an amazing woman.