In addition to President Obama’s win on election night there were some smaller but noteworthy victories in the field of mental health. One came after seasoned reporter Tom Brokaw used the term “schizophrenic” to refer to some American voting patterns that seemed to be all over the place.
“I am amazed by the schizophrenia of America’s political landscape,” he said, using the term in a way that those familiar with the disease found callous.
Following a commercial break and several negative tweets on Twitter about his misuse of the word the newscaster apologized for his casual use of a clinical term, acknowledging that schizophrenia is a serious disorder before reframing his words using less offensive language.
The apology seemed to do the trick. The day after the election, Tom Brokaw’s Facebook page had numerous posts that referred to the comment and the apology. Most were thanking him for making the gaffe right, others were clarifying why they took offense at his misuse of the term.
It may seem like a small thing, but the stigma can seem as overwhelming as the symptoms for those who suffer from a mental illness. Despite how far we’ve come, the American public still has a long way to go when it comes to understanding issues like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, posttraumatic stress disorder and depression.
Another positive step is the reelection of Jesse Jackson, Jr., to congress. The democrat from Chicago won 63 percent of the vote in the Second Congressional District despite having been absent from work since June. Jackson Jr. is currently at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota seeking treatment for bipolar disorder. It’s his second stay following a two-month stint there last summer.
After hearing news of his win the congressman released a statement through a spokesman saying, “Once the doctors approve my return to work, I will continue to be the progressive fighter you have known for years.” While his win may not be directly connected to his mental health issues, a loss for the candidate who previously won his seat by a large margin would have had some questioning whether it was his lengthy absence that put off voters or the reason behind it. The public understands medical issues like cancer or heart disease but has a harder time accepting mental illnesses due to a lack of understanding.
Fortunately the landscape seems to be changing as the media, medical professionals and those dealing with mental illness help to educate and inform the public.
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