After two years of this new web site for MindFreedom International, one of the most unusual reactions has been people who have publicly told their stories wanting to get their identities as “psychiatric survivor” off the web site. We’ve complied. But Mad Folk everywhere: Come out, come out wherever you are! Let the world know you have personally experienced the mental health system!
My expectation when we started was that a lot of people would want to add their stories to the MFI web site.
But I have to admit, that it is not uncommon for me to experience the opposite reaction. About half a dozen times I’ve gotten a request that is something like the following:
“When I publicly told my story of being a psychiatric survivor, I didn’t know your web site would become so popular! Now when I search for my name via Google, your web site comes up, and anyone can see that I’m a psychiatric survivor. I may lose a job… or a client… or a speaking engagement. Can you take any reference to my being a psychiatric survivor off your web site?”
Of course we comply.
Even though when we gathered MFI personal stories we also obtained two (2) signed full informed consent disclosure forms, giving total agreement to getting their story out in any way possible.
And even though when people told their story publicly — say in a speaking engagement or book — it’s now public knowledge, and no one can put the mad genie back in the normal bottle.
What’s really mystifying is that several of the folks seeking to get back in the Mad Closet have their stories out there publicly in some other way, including in their own published material or speaking engagements. Trying to be “half out of the closet” is a little like trying to be “half pregnant.”
Also, once a story is out on the Internet, it’s difficult to wipe out completely, even after we take it off our web site. For instance, Google keeps a “cache” that searchers can access even years later, and while Google can be asked to take off the story out of “cache,” that takes some effort. And there are things like “Way Back Machine,” an Internet service that keeps ‘snapshots’ of the Internet over the years.
I mean, your “crazy horse” is out of the barn, folks!
But more seriously, I’m concerned by the number of people who want to somehow get back into the “mad closet.”
Has everyone seen the movie Milk yet? I highly recommend it. The ‘queer’ movement, as some of its leaders call it, really got a boost by people coming out of the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/questioning/etc. closet.
In fact, there has even been a National Coming Out of the Closet Day in that LGBTQ movement since 11 October 1988.
Maybe it’s time for a “coming out day” in the “mad movement.” After all, the percentage of the public that has ended up in mental health care or who admit to having mental and emotional problems, in some way, shape or form during their lifetimes, is enormous. Maybe just about everyone at this point?
Imagine the power of millions of people saying matter of factly, “Yes, I experienced the mental health system and/or I experienced mental and emotional problems. We’re weird, we’re here, get used to it! Go ahead and Google me! Mad Pride!”
In fact, several people who have never been officially “treated” by a licensed mental health practitioner identify as “psychiatric survivors,” in solidarity with us, because they know that the impact of psychiatry on their relatives, neighbors, colleagues and society means that everyone is negatively impacted by psychiatric oppression. I think this is a beautiful act, and I applaud it.
Given that it’s normality that is wrecking the environment, bankrupting the economy and entering needless wars, one would think it would be people who mistakenly think they are “normal” who would be clamoring to be in some kind of a closet at this point.
Here’s my friendly message to folks who want to stay or get back into the Mad Closet:
Thousands of mad activists who have come out and stayed out of the Mad Closet have done so at some personal risk in terms of discomfort, potential discrimination, sacrifice of income, or just plain stress. I think most of us have done this gladly. It’s freeing to be out of the Mad Closet!
After all, if any one person qualifies as “crazy,” then the whole human race is crazy, so be crazy and proud! It’s a human thing.
But if you’re in the “Mad Closet,” and you really truly don’t want to come out of the Mad Closet, then please stay there until you’re good and ready, for goodness sakes.
- Don’t tell me.
- Don’t post your story on a web site.
- Don’t tell your story on the radio.
- Don’t tell your story into a video camera, or into a microphone at a speaking engagement or protest, or in your own book under your own name.
Because if you tell your story publicly, and then ask us to help you get back in the Mad Closet, it’s just plain extra work for something that won’t work.
Also, MindFreedom’s “media machine” may be small and alternative, and may be run by psychiatric survivors, but we are indeed part of the media, too. So if other media can run your public story, why can’t we?
But suppose you are out of the Mad Closet and you want to get back in? If you really want us to, we’ll “search and delete” your entries on our web site, if you want us to (be specific).
But if possible, please try to enter back in the closet on your own steam, okay?
It’s one thing for us to come out of the Mad Closet to support the civil and human rights of you and millions of others. But do we then have to do extra work and feel responsible to help your futile attempt to get back into the Mad Closet?
I’ve been out of the Mad Closet so long I don’t even know where the door is!
The best of modern science now knows that no one truly has a grip on a mysterious reality that is far stranger than science ever imagined. So it can be scary out here, but I hope you come out of the Mad Closet, everyone, and stay out.
Perhaps a surprising number of your clients, your employees, your audience members will be individuals with psychiatric diagnoses themselves, and they may benefit from you being out of the closet. And who knows, you may even land a few more speaking engagements, book contracts and clients because you are out of the closet.
Embrace the human paradox: None of us have a grip on reality, but we all need each other to make our best darn attempt at co-creating that reality, together.
Want proof we’re influencing that reality a bit? Go ahead and Google someone’s name on this MindFreedom web site. It is surprising how high up the rank you may find them. Maybe, slowly, we’re starting to reach the world. All together now….