Here’s an example of what I encountered many times yesterday:
Cindi says: “Flipping radio stations this morning, I came across a conversation that has me unsettled to say the least. (It was a national call in show.) The host was ranting that “all special needs people, children and adults, need to be segregated in their own facilities. We don’t want those people mixing with our normal kids. They should all be locked up where they can’t hurt anyone, since we never know... when they are going to go off their meds and snap. We don’t want special needs kids in school with our kids. They should have their own place, where we don’t have to worry about what they might do.” He went on to suggest a registry of people (again, adults and children) on any kind of medication, “so that they can be monitored.” And the worst part was, all the people calling in were agreeing with him!! I think I’m almost more scared than I was on Friday. Do we need to talk about guns? Yup. But we need to also talk about the state of mental health care and the surrounding issues. Too many morons out there that think like this are creating a culture of fear toward our kids. And they have enough challenges...”So how are we as families suppose to take this? This woman shares how she felt more scared after hearing this show than she was on Friday. I could relate to that. This kind of thinking terrifies me.
I also think it’s complete nonsense. The reality is that those with “labels” who are taking medication or undergoing therapy are safer than your own neighbor who has an “anger problem” but refuses to seek help. Labels and medications are one of many steps towards a safer society. This overgeneralization will only lead to more stigma which will cause those with mental illnesses to avoid treatment for fear of getting the “label”. As a result, we will in essence produce more unstable people.
But in the face of fear, in the desperate need to get a hold of what we can not understand, it’s easier to criminalize a whole population of people, who by the way are more likely to become a victim than to hurt others, than to look at the real problems such as our failing mental health system.
Yesterday I was contacted by a CBS affiliate radio station to speak on behalf of families who’ve felt scared of their own children. I was assured that I could remain anonymous and that the interview would be “delicate and sensitive”. I was seriously conflicted about whether or not I wanted to participate in such a public discussion, especially with the “pitch forks” of society pointing at us. On one side, I wanted to fight against the stigma that already exists for our kids and bring compassion to our families. I feel strongly that if we don’t speak up, we’ll never make a positive change. But on the other side, I was terrified of the negative backlash that would follow for my family, particularly my children if my anonymity was unveiled. As I sat nervously listening to the live broadcast, trying to make my decision about joining in, I started to hear the conversation turn heated and hateful. It was all I needed to hear before walking away.
You may be scared of my “labeled” child, but honestly, you scare the crap out of me.