4 Reasons Wristbands for Mentally Ill Folk is a Really Bad Idea
Yesterday, the news broke that a Tory (Conservative Party) candidate for Parliament in Cambridge, Chamali Fernando, suggested at a hustings that mentally ill people could wear wristbands to communicate our disorders. She said wearing wristbands indicating the nature of the person’s condition would be helpful to professionals as they often could not explain themselves (from The Tab). Let’s take a minute to pick over why this is a terrible, terrible, not great idea… in list form!
1. It would increase stigma: While there are any number of us that are out and ‘proud’ about our assorted mental disorders, a lot of people aren’t. Nor should they have to be. Having such an obvious label would likely end up with people avoiding the bearer rather than encouraging them to educate themselves on what their situation is.
2. It would make sufferers more vulnerable: Unless people around the bearers made a point to operate with compassion and educate themselves, the person wearing the bracelet would find themselves lacking in support that might have otherwise existed if they had continued to pass as ‘normal’. And, of course, with disorders like schizophrenia, ‘everyone knows’ that they’re all dangerous murderers… oh, wait.
3. It’s insulting: While there is some validity in suggesting that some people might be unable to communicate their distress, that’s a fairly small minority. Even if she didn’t mean it as a catch-all for everyone, her words demonstrated to me that she generalised the situation too much. That circles back around to the first point — stigma comes from ignorance, and however ‘well meant’ the suggestion was, it comes from a presumptive, uneducated place called Stigmaland.
4. It’s exhausting: It’s one thing for people you trust and are comfortable with knowing that you have a mental illness, but it’s a whole ‘nother thing when it’s the rest of the world. The people you are close to, who are in your space space, aren’t going to hover over you like you’re going to ‘go crazy’ at any second. If everyone in a work space knew about a co-worker’s mental illness, there would be the very real risk of ‘well-meaning’ people looking for signs of episodes in every tiny little thing. This is one of those very real problem areas where people start to dismiss one’s valid and real feelings (especially negative ones) as being due to their mental illness. So really, that would be a total backfiring, putting the onus of explaining things on the ill person, and/or having to pretend even harder to be ‘normal’ and ‘healthy’ just to get left alone.
But is it a completely bad idea?
No, there was some intended compassion in the suggestion, and in some cases, people might actually find this a reasonable way to make sure they aren’t beaten and incarcerated. I’ve seen some people suggest it’s no different from a Medical Alert bracelet, and at its heart, the idea is about the same.
The issue is she suggested colour coding for disorders, which really. REALLY. We are people, not easily labelled disorders. As those of us amongst the Bipolaratti know, you can have the exact same diagnosis as someone else, but your experience is vastly different. Some of us have it pretty good, others have it pretty bad, but we’re still all on the bipolar spectrum. Knowing that someone has bipolar because of their red and blue bracelet wouldn’t tell an authority whether or not the bearer was high or low, or how high or how low, or whether or not they rapid cycled or had comorbid personality disorders (though I guess you’re supposed to bangly with the comorbids *cough*).
What do you guys think?
While a non descript silver med bracelet listing medications wouldn’t be bad for some, I think color coding is as good as tattooing “pycho” on your forehead. And really, it sounds as asinine as these rainbow parties kids have with the different colored lipsticks and bracelets. Next thing you know, everyone will want one with as many colors as possible and it’d just become a joke.
Well intentioned people can be as bad as the evil mundanes.
If I’m honest, I find ‘well-meaning’ to be one of the dirtiest phrases in the English language. It’s just an excuse to be a dismissive know-it-all sitting on their fancy-ass throne.
I think I shall deploy Godwin’s Law unusually early in the conversation, by wondering whether they would like Jews to wear yellow stars too?
Fuckem. Just fuckem.
There’s enough social control in society already without branding people like cattle. If people want to show their … anything, there are already amusing t-shirts and so on.
*smacks Fernando upside the head with a large sole*
The next one will be frozen.
Yeah, quite a few people pointed the Star of David and the pink triangle and hasn’t labelling minorities worked out so well?! A non-frozen sole is definitely kindly.
I think expanding the uses for med alert bracelets could be useful, but they need to kept as stigma free as possible.
I think colour coding for med alert bracelets should only be done to indicate severity of condition, ie severe allergy versus mild etc. and the data should be under the band so it’s not on public display so people wont know why the person is wearing it unless the wearer chooses to tell them. (Don’t know much about med alert bracelets beyond they exist – thankfully not needed one.)
The idea of giving people trying to help more tools to help people properly seems to be a good one, but first we have to make sure that the system wont be abused by people in power to marginalise the vulnerable.
If you google Medic Alert bracelet, you can see that they’re pretty discreet. People with life-threatening physical issues don’t want to be grassed out either, hee hee. The one pendant I saw had the thing it was for on the back, so it’s not there glowing forth the person’s problem.
There’s assorted allergy ones. There’s some for kids which are (ironic for me cuz I’d wear them) latex (wth?) and some that look like dog tags as well as the usual sort. Yes, I have allergies, yes at least one is life threatening. I carry the epi-pen. I also have an alphabet soup of diagnosis. So yeah, Gauntlets of Psycho Power (and possibly super fueled by epinephrine. woo.)? I could be all sorts of fun on any given day and circumstances (yes, I laugh at funerals and cry at weddings 😛 Better than being like my uncle , who yelled for sammiches at my grandmother’s funeral. Dad’s epic genetics at work). I was hosed from either side. My great grandmother was known as a moody and “nervous” woman back in the early 1900’s. My great great grandmother on her side had a patronymic and was ALSO known as “nervous” So you can see how far back that goes, lol. And I’m the first one to believe in things like therapy and mental illness in my family. The family “nervousness” was quelled in 3 ways. Booze it to bed, have a snit or just work harder to stay too busy to think at all (who us? manic? nah.)
I bet I’d be watched in one of those ways where people just expect you to explode and sooner or later it will happen just because you kinda sorta want to just get it over and just make them deal rather than that creeping anxiety they fear you’re going to go “CNN News Psycho and bring a gun to the party (I did it for ….Joey, Johnny wasn’t my thing). Funny thing, is when the down side hits, I’m much much more apt to implode than explode. And I genuinely work at this because I’ve hit my limit. I will not go one step further in my life until I have dealt with this and gotten my meds/treatment/selftalk/whatever straight. Because I am done with feeling like this. I am not immortal nor infinite as much as my mind might want to believe, and just in case, I need to at least stop thinking I have “plenty of time’ to deal with my own head later. It is later NOW.
If we were labeled….I just…couldn’t wear them. Too many, too mixed up and too hard to tell where one colour ends and one begins. I’d need a freaking plaid rainbow with polka-dots. With “Good Friendly Luck” printed on it. I’m just a touch anti-label these days.
Mmm, I’m not keen on others labelling me, but I’ll label myself as I see fit. But yeah, I think a lot of us would have a rainbow and man like, dude. I don’t want to sit here and explain it all to you. Go do some reading, come back to me, we can chat about it. No I am not going to ‘go postal’, but yanno, respect that I need a bit of love, support, and understanding. And butts, always butts.
Like you, I have mixed feelings. I don’t know if I would wear one or not. But I also feel that we need to come out of the closet. Our best advocates in the struggle against stigma are ourselves. Studies show, for example, that people changed and kept their views about same sex marriage changed when they met a gay person or lesbian who told them why same sex marriage made a positive difference in their lives. If we stay in the closet, people won’t realize how numerous we are or why stigma hurts. We need to change hearts and minds. We can’t do that by hiding.
Agreed, and that’s why I’m out. But I also respect that not everyone is able to square that with keeping themselves together. Self-preservation in the face of mental illness is definitely of highest order. 🙂