Yesterday the New York Times explored the burgeoning "mad pride" movement, which aims to fight the stigma of serious mental illness like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and even, in some cases, celebrate it.
"Until now, the acceptance of mental illness has pretty much stopped at depression," said Charles Barber, a lecturer in psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine. "But a newer generation, fueled by the Internet and other sophisticated delivery systems, is saying, 'We deserve to be heard, too.' "
About 5.7 million Americans over 18 have bipolar disorder, which is classified as a mood disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Another 2.4 million have schizophrenia, which is considered a thought disorder. The small slice of this disparate population who have chosen to share their experiences with the public liken their efforts to those of the gay-rights and similar movements of a generation ago.
Just as gay-rights activists reclaimed the word queer as a badge of honor rather than a slur, these advocates proudly call themselves mad; they say their conditions do not preclude them from productive lives.
Mad pride events, organized by loosely connected groups in at least seven countries including Australia, South Africa and the United States, draw thousands of participants, said David W. Oaks, the director of MindFreedom International, a nonprofit group in Eugene, Ore., that tracks the events and says it has 10,000 members.
Or check out the mad pride movement's most hilarious, if unofficial, spokesperson Liz Spikol's blog The Trouble With Spikol, which chronicles her struggle with bipolar disorder.
Or watch two of Liz Spikol's many YouTube videos: First, she tells an abbreviated version of her life story.
Then discusses her experience with electroshock therapy (or electroconvulsive therapy, ECT).
For more information on mad pride and mental illness advocacy, visit these websites:
The Icarus Project
National Alliance on Mental Illness
The Freedom Center
The Radical Mental Health Collective
Or to buy these books on the subject:
An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness By Kay Redfield Jamison
The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness By Elyn Saks