Play.

“Welcome back to the program! Now we’re going to watch contestant X’s promo video for their cooking show.”

Wow, X’s promo was super disjointed, I really can’t figure out what his show is supposed to be about.

I hear the judge make a few similar comments, and then I hear it. She says, “Come on, X, you’re making me totally….” No, wait, there’s no way. There’s no way she said that.

Pause. Rewind. Thank goodness for PVR. Replay.

“Come on, X, you’re making me totally schizophrenic!” She said it. What does that even mean? It makes no sense; I must have heard it wrong.

Pause. Rewind. Replay.

“Schizophrenic!” It hits me again like a toddler trying to get my attention. It happened. She said it.

Pause.

What channel is this on again? Oh right, the most popular North American food channel. Should they know better? Yes. Wait, maybe. Wait, definitely yes.

Rewind, replay. Bang, it hits me again.

Should this judge know better? People make mistakes; I know I have. But yes, she should. Even if she doesn’t, this isn’t live television. Someone must have known better. SOMEONE in that editing room should have said, “Hold on a second, that’s not okay.”

Pause.

But no one did. No one knew better. How is that possible? It isn’t even a common phrase. I could understand better if it was an old habit, an old stigma-ridden soundbite that people say by accident without noticing. But I feel like she just made this one up on her own and went with it.

Replay. Bang.

She thought it was funny. She thought she was making a joke. How is that funny? Why is she laughing? Why is everyone else laughing? They all think this is funny. They all think that using Schizophrenia as a descriptor for a common emotion is comedy.

Pause. Deep breath.

I have to do something. Mental Health Week just ended and every day I shouted from the rooftops about mental health awareness and stigma. But what do I do? This is a huge company. This is the one of the biggest channels in cooking. This is my favourite channel. People do make mistakes; maybe I should just hope that they’ve learned their lesson and let it go. Nobody likes a complainer anyway.

Wait, stop it Kath. The whole point of Mental Health Week was to speak up, and here you are trying to convince yourself to stay quiet. Nothing will change if we don’t speak up. Okay, yes, it’s time to stand up and say something.

Replay. Bang. 

I still can’t believe she’s laughing; I can’t believe they’re all laughing. Did the editors laugh too? They all need to know that mental illness is not a punchline.

Pause.

What’s the best way to get the attention of a big company? I could write an email. I could write a letter. Wait, remember that time I tweeted about my jerk taxi driver and the company sent me chits in the mail? Yes, that will work. Twitter it is.

Rewind. Replay – one more time to make sure I’m not being dramatic. Bang. Nope, not overreacting.

I open Twitter. Be honest, be direct. Be specific about the problem. What if I make them feel bad? That’s good; that’s what they need. What if they think I’m just a troll with nothing better to do? It doesn’t matter; this is bigger than me. This is important.

Tweet. Deep breath.

Wow, immediate message from the channel’s account. Sincere (at least I think) apology with a promise to ensure that the message gets to the right people. I thank them, share my hopes (on behalf of the mental health community) that this will never happen again. They hope I continue to watch their network. We’ll see.

Did I do enough? Will they actually share this message with the appropriate people and think twice before they air this kind of stigmatizing, belittling and simply rude content? Who knows.

Stop.

***

Honestly, I still don’t know. I can only hope. And I think that’s the lesson here. Even for me, the Foghorn, it took a lot longer than I imagined to build up the courage to speak up about this glaringly obvious mistake. Standing up to stigma is not easy. Trying to change the way that things have always been done will draw attention to you, whether you want it or not. This was small. All I did was send a tweet, and I still struggled with the decision. As I said in my last post, it is incredibly important to challenge stigma, but I also want to recognize how difficult it can be, and congratulate all of you every time that you do. Don’t feel guilty if you weigh the options before you respond. I get it. And I hope that more often than not, the scales tip in favour of speaking up instead of staying quiet.

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Kath

About Kathryn Christie

As an HR Consultant with a deep passion for Mental Health, Kathryn spends her days pushing paper and her nights volunteering with the Canadian Mental Health Association as a co-facilitator of the Family and Caregiver Education program. Her passion extends beyond the realm of her volunteer work which has brought her to Healthy Minds Canada to share stories, support and inspiration with her community.

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