THEORY OF MENTAL ILLNESS USED TO WRITE EMAILS
I have results from the project on stigma that I have been pursuing for three years.
You won't believe the end.
MENTAL ILLNESS STEREOTYPE IN UNITED STATES
First, I studied survey research and in 2010. I wrote a working paper that showed Americans with no education in mental health science have four beliefs about the mentally ill:
(1) they are unpredictable, dangerous, and incurable
(2) mentally ill behavior is objectionable and shameful -- it is to be controlled and corrected
(3) the mentally ill are responsible for any interpersonal problems they have at home and work
(4) the mentally ill are inferior in capability to those who are not mentally ill—they certainly cannot outthink or outwit others, at least not if something significant is at stake (such as, proving oneself to be more responsible and more ethical)
WRITING "MENTALLY ILL" EMAILS
I realized I could use this theory to write "mentally ill" emails. They are designed to provoke false arrests, for example, that would reveal the true intention of the arrests. But no one would suspect such a feat because the emails appeared mentally ill, and hence, inferior. I invented a new game.
Stigmatizing behavior (the discriminatory actions a person writing the emails I wrote can expect)
1. Withholding help
2. Social distancing
4. Anger and punishment
DATE TO DATE
Monday, October 26, 2015
Sunday, November 4, 2018
Result: 1105 days from the start date to the end date.
Or 3 years, 9 days excluding the end date.
Or 36 months, 9 days excluding the end date.
STUDENT-FACULTY MENTAL HEALTH INITIATIVE
Announced in Govt 204 classes - Sept 11, 2015
How to respond if someone says, “You are mentally ill.”
(a) "I was just doing my homework.”
(b) “What? Are you kidding? I’m not a French-speaking Canadian anymore?”
(c) “Wanna have lunch?”
Here is how you must not respond: by playing the game. Do not try to convince him you are “mentally well.” Believe it or not, the game he is starting is one where you are supposed to feel ashamed and, therefore, to escape shame, gain his acceptance. But remember, this is your roommate who is going to flunk Organic Chemistry and not get into medical school.
We're starting a conversation on campus.
Between students and faculty. It’s called the Student-Mental Health Initiative. I say, to combat the ignorance, let’s be open and honest about these issues. Because no one seems to know how to talk about them.
In the meantime, if you are feeling down, let me share with you my experience. There are many "symptoms" of depression: fatigue, sleeplessness, difficulty focusing, and so forth. There is only one to worry about--the one that is the danger--and that is hopelessness.This is it. This is depression. I’ve been there, as I’ve said. It can be rough.
Difficulty focusing? That you can handle. Use it to your advantage when I’m lecturing.
If you see someone who is feeling low, stay with them. If you are feeling low yourself, don't give up hope. Never. You don't know when things will get better, but they will.
We'll have a panel in the fall. But I will start today. I’ll go first. I’ll walk around campus and tell people I used to have severe depression. Before that, I had dysthymia, which is more like feeling low. I’ll tell them, this week my doctor says I’m not depressed. I’ll say at all times, I am not ashamed. I will say, I am proud of recovering from depression. I will say: I take medications, and I am not ashamed. Or maybe: I take medications and I forgot to take this morning’s dose. I won't be ashamed of that. I know my doctor will say, “don’t do that again,” and I'll try harder. But still, I will not be ashamed. I'll do that for you. Not in here. In the classroom, it's just bad teaching.
And I said, maybe when we get rid of stigma, we can agree on this:
Maybe the important thing is not mental illness. It is a distraction. I propose we agree two things are important:
(1) First, be effective. Do your work, be serious, study hard, have fun too, but only to take a break from your studies, don't make partying your major, getting a liberal arts education is important, remember it's okay to make mistakes, so don't get stressed out, and so forth. Getting things done--how about that.
(2) Second, have good moral character. Be honest, have integrity, be compassionate, show humility, be fair, except give me higher evaluations than I deserve, that sort of thing. Being a good person—how about that.
Sent: Friday, September 11, 2015 3:09 PM
To: David Dessler
Subject: Re: Fall 2015: Intro International Politics (GOVT204-0102-F15): practice quiz posted
Thank you so much for sharing part of your story with class today. Depression is something I have been struggling with for a long time. I do take medication and see therapists, but I've never had an easy time telling anyone about this illness. It has affected my grades drastically, and sometimes it is hard to deal with. Knowing this, it is incredible to see that someone as accomplished as you has been in my shoes.
I can't thank you enough.
Fri 9/11/2015 3:35 PM
RE: my classes today
What a beautiful message to receive from a student – thank you so much for sharing it with me. I’m glad the responses have been so positive – I was quite sure they would be. You have created an environment of trust and acceptance in your class, and that is a real gift to your students. You also represent hope to those who are struggling – that “someone as accomplished as you” has been in their shoes.
Hope you have a great weekend.
Virginia Miller Ambler, Ph.D.
Vice President for Student Affairs
BOARD OF VISITORS APPEARANCE AT PAUL SOUTTER SERVICE
“The way we honor Paul and others is to self-examine introspectively how can we do better and have that culture on campus that really is supportive, that’s authentic, that’s engaged around mental and physical health,” he said.
“On behalf of the Board, this is not the end of the conversation.” April 2015 Todd Stottlemyer, Rector