I am out in the open about my experiences with mental health challenges. I think that is why so many people tell me about their own experiences of mental health challenges. This past year I have lost count of how many people have told me in hushed tones that they have, or have had, mental health challenges but that they cannot talk about it in public, and they definitely cannot talk about it at work.
These are adults in 2023. People who work in offices, corporations, hospitals, schools, tech firms, social service agencies, non-profits, therapy, real estate, and in state jobs.
What kind of culture do we live in that we shame people into concealing a part of their life? A culture where people feel if they are open about their experiences of mental health challenges, that they will be seen differently, treated differently, and discriminated against.
What kind of message are we sending our children about experiences they may have in their lifetimes? Shame is one of the most potent negative emotions, with sometimes lethal consequences.
I am not saying people should feel bad about not sharing their experiences or should do anything that makes them uncomfortable. They are merely reading the room. They are making a sound choice based on observation and experience.
What I am saying is that we need to change our culture. Those of us who are able need to stand up and say it is ok to acknowledge our mental health challenges as part of our life journeys. If we don’t have mental health challenges, we must stand up for our siblings, parents, children, neighbors, and co-workers.
We need to stop using language about experiences of mental health challenges like “crazy,” “mad,” and “insane” as slurs. Using that language negatively adds to our culture of shame.
Those of us who have experienced discrimination, bullying, shame, coercion, human rights violations, and being silenced because of our human experience of mental health challenges are reclaiming the word “mad” as a symbol of pride and are publically proclaiming it.
I am marching at Mad Pride this Saturday because I want to live in a world where our human experiences are not categorized as “worthy,” or “unworthy,” “normal,” or “abnormal.”
I am marching in Mad Pride because people with lived experiences of mental health challenges currently have very little political power. We are tokenized at best and often excluded from decision-making tables. Our opinions about where state and federal dollars should be spent to support our community are met with patronizing nods and ultimately ignored.
I am marching at Mad Pride this Saturday because I want children to know that experiences of mental health challenges are a part of many, many people’s lives and may be part of theirs too. Those experiences can be difficult and scary. And they can also be transformative, take you in new directions, make you more empathic and more resilient, and you may see the world in new and more interesting ways. And you will not be alone. You will belong to an amazing collective community of artists, scientists, philosophers, teachers, students, social workers, lawyers, mothers, fathers, siblings, athletes, technicians, musicians, dancers, doctors, and so much more.
I am marching in Mad Pride this Saturday for me, for you, and for all of us. I hope you will join me.