“Mad Pride” Fights A Stigma by Gabrielle Glaser reports on the frank talk, public exposure, and anti-stigma efforts of people who experience “extreme mental states.” Books like Kay Redfield Jamison’s autobiography of bipolar disorder An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness and movies like A Beautiful Mind on the mathematician John Nash’s schizophrenia have brought mental illness further into the public light. Now a grass-roots movement is going further: “these advocates proudly call themselves mad; they say their conditions do not preclude them from productive lives.”
It is a diverse movement, centered on anti-stigma efforts, on quality of life, and on treatment options.
Members of the mad pride movement do not always agree on their aims and intentions. For some, the objective is to continue the destigmatization of mental illness. A vocal, controversial wing rejects the need to treat mental afflictions with psychotropic drugs and seeks alternatives to the shifting, often inconsistent care offered by the medical establishment. Many members of the movement say they are publicly discussing their own struggles to help those with similar conditions and to inform the general public.
Themes such as creating “a new language that resonated with our actual experiences,” better public and medical recognition of the nature of their problems, and being given the same sorts of leeway and freedoms that “normal” people enjoy are what drive the “mad pride” movement. They are at once post-conventional due to their extreme mental states, with behaviors and subjective experiences that society would rather not see (social denial), and want to express themselves and have others understand–such a basic human desire.
Liz Spikol, a bipolar writer in Philadelphia, is one of the emerging voices through her blog at the Philadelphia Weekly and YouTube videos (“trouble spikol” is a good search term). Here’s one to watch.