Sunday, October 24, 2010

Demeaning Those Who See a Psychiatrist


Unless you have been living under a rock this past week you read, watched TV, listened to talk radio, about the firing of Juan Williams by NPR. No this is not a political diatribe, but a commentary about the fall out of words. The CEO of NPR derided Mr. Williams by telling him to discuss his issues with his psychiatrist. Immediately the reaction from Mr. Williams was to accuse the CEO of slander for implying he was unstable, which in effect that was what she was trying to do. She issued a public apology for the psychiatrist comment the next day. The media outlets lit up with the defamation charge against Mr. Williams not because of what he originally said, for which he was called racist, and for what they used as his reason for firing him, but the fact that he was slandered with the label of mental illness. Because the CEO of NPR said Mr. Williams should discuss his issues with his psychiatrist she implied he was considered unstable and that made him unfit to be a journalist or remain in their employ. Apart from the fact that this would be a direct violation of the Americans with Disability Act it truly bespeaks of a terrible amount of ignorance.

The reality is that I believe this does not bode well for our children. So many of our children see a therapist or psychiatrist among the many doctors that monitor their programs. For many of them on medication it’s the only way to receive the medications that help them with the focus, anxiety, depression, tics, and myriad of other co-morbid issues. That society does not see that this as a necessary outgrowth of actually alleviating a neurological based condition and that it actually helps them function is truly telling about the hills our children have to climb.

It is without a doubt terribly saddening because the nasty comments came from those that actually pride themselves on their open mindedness and their respect for the variety found in society. In fact these journalists who are supposed to be those that lead the way in thought and deed have shown themselves to be some of the most closeminded individuals on the planet. To deride someone for seeking help is beyond contempt. To belittle them for seeking health care is beyond contempt. To demean those that have issues and declare that they are unfit for society is repulsive and smacks of historical bigotry.

The sad thing is that no one came to the defense of those with mental illness. No one in the media or politics or science for that matter actually stood up and said this is repugnant to demean persons with mental illnesses and needs. Oh sure they derided the fact that Mr. Williams was declared unstable by NPR, but no one said so what if he did see a therapist or a psychiatrist? What does that have to do with his understanding and view of the world? What does that have to do with his ability to report and comment on the happenings of the day? What does that have to do with his ability to truthfully tell how he feels in a situation? Where were the mental health professionals? Where was the AMA? Where were any of the professional societies that support those who practice mental health?

No one stood up and defended those who have neurological imbalances. No one stood up and said this is defamation. No one stood up and said that people who take medication for psychiatric defined neurological issues are quite capable of functioning and leading full and successful lives. Twenty years after the Americans With Disability Act and there is still a stigma to having a disability, especially one that requires a psychiatrist.

Hubby has always been very protective of the boys and their privacy. He is afraid that one day the boys will go for a job and be turned down because the parent of a student they went to school with will remember that they had issues growing up. It is also why when the boys applied to college we also did not tell the colleges about their disabilities. With the reaction of society to Mr. Williams being defamed per the psychiatry comment, I can see where he gets his fear for the boy’s future and why we need to be even more vigilant and more proactive in protecting their privacy.

As we advocate for our children to be accepted by society because of their autism, it has become apparent to me that we have a much longer way to go than previously thought. For it is not just about their autism it is about their right to treatment and the fact that that treatment should be respected. Their need for treatment does not make them a lesser person. Their need for treatment does not make them incapable of being positive and productive members of society. OK, I will say it, society still really sucks.

Until next time,

Elise