Media Ignore Key Perspective About Arizona Tragedy
Mass media have aired many perspectives about the tragic shooting in Tucson. MindFreedom director David Oaks points out media have largely ignored the voices of groups representing mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors, with very few exceptions.
Martin Luther King Day - 17 January 2011
by David W. Oaks, Director, MindFreedom International
Rep. Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords has been well known for expressing concern about those using mental health care services. After she and so many others were so brutally shot in Arizona, the mainstream media do not appear to be showing that same concern.
The point of view of organizations made up of, by and for mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors has largely been absent in the major media avalanche following the shootings in Tucson.
Today, the nation celebrates the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., who devoted his life to giving voice to those who are marginalized and ignored. For more than a week, media have been airing debates about new laws that would directly impact those diagnosed with psychiatric diagnoses, but media are not asking the groups representing that constituency about their responses.
Today, of all days, it is time to witness the prejudice inherent in mainstream media about mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors.
Of course, the exact points made by mental health consumer/psychiatric survivor groups may differ. But it would be reasonable if this national debate included the constituency most impacted at the table.
After violent acts by religious extremists, we often hear from representatives of moderate groups from that religion, cautioning the public to avoid backlash, humanizing their constituency, and speaking out against prejudice.
What about us?
We have voices.
We have groups.
Our people are the ones who can tell the public what has worked, and what has not worked.
Where is the curiosity of our mainstream media, and our society?
Consumer/Survivor Groups Speak Out
On a positive note, I'm proud that several organizations representing consumer/survivors have been swift in speaking out about this tragedy. These groups do not necessarily all agree.
You may read my own perspectives in a lengthy MindFreedom blog entry, here.
At least all of the below groups are speaking out against laws to take away our human rights. At least all are seeking to put a human face on those of us with psychiatric diagnoses. At least they're trying to reach the public about an ignored perspective.
Here are a few examples of these organizational statements.
Disclaimer: This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, and each author is responsible for the content. Listing these does not necessarily mean that the statements reflect MindFreedom's position. For more information, use the contact data provided in the statements.
- National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (NCMHR): MindFreedom International is part of this national coalition of mental health consumer/psychiatric survivor groups that put out an immediate statement. You can download a PDF of NCMHR's statement here: or read the text on PRNewsWire here.
- Boston Globe: In a rare exception to the lack of coverage, a Boston Globe columnist did quote one of the founders of NCMHR, psychiatrist Dan Fisher, here.
- Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (CHRUSP) issued a statement that stated, "Disability profiling does not work to make anyone safer, and it further divides our body politic," and can be downloaded here.
Health America of Oregon (MHAO) is a branch of their larger organization that is entirely run by mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors. MindFreedom Oregon works regularly with MHAO in Oregon's state-wide coalition, Oregon Consumer/Survivor Coalition. You may read MHAO's statement here.
- Bazelon Center is not an organization of consumer/survivors, but has worked closely with consumer/survivor groups, and is a sponsor group in MindFreedom International. You may read Bazelon's statement here.
- Blogs related to consumer/survivors: MindFreedom maintains a folder of links to blogs that are either run by mental health consumer/survivors, or allies. Of course, only some of these blogs have commented on the tragedy, and these blogs represent a wide variety of views. If you want to browse those blogs, you can find MindFreedom's Blog Folder here.
- MindFreedom Blog: My own blog entry on the Tucson catastophe is here.
Again, this list is not meant to be comprehensive. Of course, if you have other examples of such statements - and any sightings of the media paying attention - you can e-mail them to email@example.com.
Action * Action * Action
Now is a time for each and every one of us to speak out about this media silencing. You can write a letter to the editor. You can use the Internet to create our own media.
Please speak out about the importance of listening to groups representing mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors. This is one way to resist the dehumanization of our constituency. The mainstream media has filed our constituency. Let's be "creatively maladjusted" to this bigotry, in a way that would make Martin Luther King, Jr. proud.