Health is More Than Physical

I was on the phone just a moment ago while at work, talking with a prospective tenant when the maintenance man overheard me describe the apartment management's age restriction policy: Minimum of age 62 or 55 with a disability. When I hung up, he chirped, "Unless it's a mental disability!" And laughed.

I stared at him for a moment, then informed him that our policy is, in fact, inclusive of the mentally disabled, to which he laughed again, said "I know," and wandered off.

Really? Some people genuinely find that funny? Oh, wait, they do.

For a person to be 100% healthy, zie must be both physically and mentally hale. If someone is perfectly physically fit but has debilitating mental illness, then zie is not healthy. It is terribly bigoted to even joke about invisible disability - mental or otherwise - as invalid, because it is marginializing to the people who have to live with it every day, not to mention the very existence of such jokes bolsters the negative stigma of having a mental illness:

Transcript after the jump.

[Quote appears.]

"The definition of insanity is doing the SAME thing over and over again and expecting DIFFERENT results." -Albert Einstein

Bob Irvin, MD: I'm a psychiatrist. I work at McLean hospital, which is over in Belmont. It's Harvard's largest and probably oldest free-standing psychiatric hospital, which means it is just all psychiatry. No other kind of medicine happens there. I'd say mental illness, it's a very tricky, tricky kind of illness, because it's pretty much on a continuum with just being normal.

Wendy Richardson, MA: I think that stigma comes a lot from fear. People are afraid of something that's different.

Teenage boy: She asked me to be in a couple groups where we talk about, uh, depression and things like that, but I told her I didn't want to do that because I didn't want to be associated with having depression.

Unidentified Man 1: You know, especially several years ago with all the, and you know this, all the Hollywood stars going into, quote, "rehab", but they still won't talk about, "Well, I just got out of rehab 'cause I'm schizophrenic or bipolar," because that's still - we don't talk about it.

[Movie freezes, definition of stigma is displayed: "Stig * ma [stig-muh] (noun) 1. a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one's reputation"]

[Movie switches to a group of people in chairs in what's apparently a support group setting. People in the group are speak:]

Paul Summergrad, MD: The stigma is not something that just affects patients or people that suffer with these illnesses, it affects the people that take care of people.

Unidentified Man 1: As a non-psychiatrist doctor in training, there is a huge bias against mental illness patients in the hospital, even if they come in for physical reasons.

Woman: When I had to go to the ER the second time to get stitches, the doctor just, he just, "Is that self-inflicted?" and I was... "Yeah." Pretty ashamed of myself at that point. He didn't give me anaesthetics at all. He just, like, sewed me up without anaesthetics. He just didn't talk to me the rest of the time when he found out it was self-inflicted.

Unidentified man 2: That's unethical.

[Brief muttering in agreement among the group: "That's unethical." "It's punishment." "Yeah, like a punishmental--"]

Unidentified man 1 [over the muttering]: Well, sure it's unethical. It's totally unethical and it happens all the time. It's terrible. It's terrible and it's trying to teach you a lesson. The famous book, House of God, GOMER, "Get Out of My Emergency Room" - that's what it stands for, okay? So, if you come in, we're going to do whatever we can to get you out and not back.

Disabled people do not deserve to be the punchline of your ill-conceived humor.

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