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mental health mondays :: stop. just stop.

i really hope that this is the last time i have to write this piece. because i feel like i've written it a lot, in different ways. like here. and here. here too. oh, and here*. i've probably written about it more than that, but i just can't be arsed to find every instance.

people who have mental disorders are not any more prone to criminal behaviour than anyone else.

as i said, i'd like this to be the last time i write that. but i hope for a lot of things that are never going to happen and i have the feeling this is one of them.

the latest thing to set me off [people who know me have heard this rant from me more times than i've written it on the blog, that much i can guarantee you] was actually something that kept coming up in publications that really should know better.

as you no doubt heard, [now ex-] police officer darren wilson was not charged with the murder of unarmed teenager mike brown. there are probably a number of reasons for this, but a great deal of the grand jury testimony that served to sway the decision came from "witness 40", a woman by the name of sandra mcelroy, whose version of events backed wilson's to the letter.

jurors were advised that she suffers from memory problems as a result of an accident in 2001. you would think that that alone would be enough to raise some concern, but apparently not. she also made made comments about the case on facebook as early as mid-august, although she didn't contact police until almost a month later. in the days surrounding her first chat with the police, she became even more vocal on facebook, going as far as to post something that read "michael brown already received justice". she's also an avowed racist, who said that part of her reason for being in that particular ferguson neighbourhood that day [which she wasn't] was to help her become less prejudiced against black people and to help her stop calling them n----rs [which was actually her second story of how she ended up in the neighbourhood]. oh, and she has a history of lying when it comes to making criminal reports. all of these things make it clear that she was anything but a reliable witness and that, no matter how well she prepared herself for her actual appearance in court, the prosecutor should have known better than to present her as trustworthy. [although it's been alleged that he was aware that she was unreliable and that he called her to testify anyway, which is worse.]

so why is everyone getting hung up on the fact that she's bipolar?

the original report on the smoking gun calls it out in their opening paragraph, giving it equal importance to her lying and racism. democracy now went further, putting that information in the headline. "hip-pop culture" site global grind, decided that her bipolar disorder was the only thing worth mentioning in the headline, that the lying, the memory problems and the racism were secondary. i could put more links in here, but i think you get the point. which is more than the media seems to be getting.

the fact that she has bipolar disorder, even the fact that she doesn't take medication for that disorder, says precisely nothing about her reliability as a witness. to say otherwise is to tacitly make the claim that people with bipolar disorder are unreliable witnesses, either because they are incapable of remembering events correctly [there is no science to indicate that is the case] or because they are given to criminal malfeasance and likely to lie to a jury. by making it a central argument in their case against mcelroy, otherwise progressive media [mainstream and right wing media aren't touching this story with a ten foot pole] are choosing to marginalize an already misunderstood group and perpetuating a really gross sort of ignorance.

the logic here is specious. at first blush, it sounds like it should be related, but the only reason for that is because of the pre-existing societal prejudice against bipolar people and people with mental disorders in general. there seem to be so many good ways to discredit this person, why are all of these media outlets choosing to put such emphasis on the one that denigrates another group? is it just lazy reporting, playing on popular assumptions? or is it indicative of the same sort of ignorance and prejudice that sandra mcelroy exhibits?

i'd love for somebody to explain this to me, because i don't want to write another version of this post in a few months and because i don't want to see something that makes me want to write on the subject again. i just want this sort of "crazy-baiting" to stop.



* the magical asterisk is there because in that particular case, there's some disturbing indications that the jury may be about to acquit a man who carved up a human body because that's just what crazy people do. i know that there are people who are mentally incompetent when they commit crimes. there was a gruesome case a few years ago where one man cut another man's head off on a greyhound bus because he believed he was a demon. that's what being clinically insane is. when you make an attempt to hide the remains [which he did, other than those he sent through the mail, which was done anonymously] and then make an attempt to disappear in europe, it's pretty obvious that you're aware that you've done something bad. however, the jury in this case is now into it's eighth day of deliberation because he might just be a crazy person who had a bit of an off day. i'll be off planning my crime spree if anyone's looking for me.

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