Will Malson

Page 1 of 4

Mental (Dis)order
When people want to take you to a different place, a different reality, they usually start with something very basic and something we can all relate to, I think very well. The land of Disney. Now I'm not going to be talking to you about anything specific to Disney, or cartoons, or anything like that. It's just an example. When people think of Disney they usually think one of two things: Mickey Mouse, or popular yet not always talented musicians. I'd like to talk about the former. Hopefully Mickey Mouse will help me convey the subject a little better. In the cartoon, you have the obvious mice, a couple ducks, some other assorted animals, and most importantly, two dogs. One of the dogs, Goofy, stands on two legs and walks and talks and eats and thinks just like a human does, or a cartoon-human anyway. The other dog, Pluto, stands on four legs and walks and talks and eats and thinks just like a dog does. The problem here is that they're both dogs. One dog is not just smarter, or more intelligent, but acts like a completely separate and distinct animal species when compared to the other. Maybe that's not clear enough though. Replace the word "dog" with "human". Does that strike you as a bit different? One human is not just smarter, not just different in walking- or eating-habits, but is essentially a completely separate and distinct animal species. Not to over-extrapolate the issue, but, that's basically what the Nazi's did to justify the holocaust. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not condemning Walt Whitman for creating Mickey Mouse the way he did. I'm not calling him a Nazi or accusing him of dehumanizing anybody. It was just a cartoon to him, and he probably didn't mean anything by it. But what I'm trying to do is give you a mental cue, an image in your mind of what I'll be expounding upon in these few minutes I have. I want to take this opportunity to let you know the main theme of my speech. Already I think you can almost guess the subject, but just in case, so you're not lost. I'll be talking about why we should treat everybody as an equal. That's incredibly broad, and not nearly narrow enough for discussion, so I'll explain. I know as good people, you try to treat other people with the amount of respect you would want to be treated with. But oftentimes, we take "equality" as something that must be earned or something that is not given to everybody but still call it "equality" anyway. I'll be talking about the act of unknowingly treating people like the cartoon of Mickey Mouse unknowingly treats dogs. Don't take this the wrong way. I'm not from PETA, or the Humane Society, or from Amnesty International, or anything like that. What I mean by "people", the dangers of unknowingly treating "people" like the cartoon of Mickey Mouse unknowingly treats dogs, is someone with a mental problem, or tick, or a mental disorder. A lot of times people tend to overgeneralize and stereotype people with any kind of mental issue or issues, and treat them like they are less than human. We act like Goofy and treat them like Pluto. Now, Goofy may treat Pluto decently, and we may treat these people we don't match well mentally with decently, but the problem is, we treat them like lesser humans, or in Mickey Mouse, like lesser dogs, to the point where we can no longer distinguish the impaired-dog or the impaired-human from something

Will Malson

Page 2 of 4

entirely different; a complete other animal species. It's not necessarily because we see them as lesserhumans. We may not look at them like that. It's not necessarily a conscious decision or a conscious reaction. Our sub-conscious is fickle that way. We want to treat everybody the same, but at the same time, we can't help but treat them differently. In your day-to-day life, how many people do you think you come in contact with that have some sort of mental problem? If you had to guess, what would you say? Who is it? Maybe it's that odd coworker who talks to himself sometimes when nobody's around, or maybe the boss that gets there at 9, leaves at 5, and keeps his or her desk spotless. Or as a kid, if you were public-schooled, maybe that lunch-lady with the lazy eye who was always in a bad mood. But there's always at least one person you know who doesn't have any sort of mental problem. The one you can be sure of, the one who will always keep you sane. Would it come as a shock to you if every evaluation of the mental health of someone you know that you just mentally conducted was wrong? Not just wrong, but exactly the opposite, or almost the reverse. On a scale of 1-10, how astonished would you be? This is another reason we should treat people the same without assuming anything. Even highly qualified psychiatrists and psychologists are unable to make any sort of judgment on the mental health of a subject or subjects. A couple weeks ago, I watched a documentary called "How Mad Are You?" conducted by the BBC News. In it, 10 people were chosen to spend a week at a resort. 5 had been diagnosed with mental disorders; 5 were judged mentally healthy for purposes of this test. Throughout the week, they were given tests to complete and activities to test their mental capacities. During all these activities and tests, a panel of 3 famous psychologists, experts in their field, were observing and making judgment calls as to who had what disorder, or if the subject had a disorder at all. On the 2nd day of testing, this panel had to choose two people - one that they thought had a mental disorder, and what that disorder was, and one person who they thought was least likely to have any kind of mental problem. The first was correct - they successfully identified an individual who suffered from OCD. The second was another story. The individual they chose that was least likely to have a mental disorder laughed at their diagnosis - and left the room. They were completely wrong. At the end of the week, the panel had to pick out all 5 people with mental issues. They knew one, the member with OCD. Their second diagnosis was also correct, a member suffered from bulimia. The next three guesses were completely wrong. Out of these 5 people that they thought had mental disorders, only 2 actually had a mental problem. They correctly guessed OCD and bulimia, but passed over depression, bipolar disorder, and social anxiety with schizophrenia. [3][“How Mad Are You?" BBC Headroom, No author (BBC), November 5 2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/tvandradioblog/2008/nov/05/horizon-how-mad-are-you, http://documentaryheaven.com/pt-12-how-mad-are-you/, http://documentaryheaven.com/pt-22-howmad-are-you/] Isn't that amazing? When it comes down to it, it's nearly impossible to tell if any given individual has a significant mental handicap or difference from yourself. If I listen several famous people with a mental problem, would you nod your head and say "yes, I know they had that"? Let's try it.

Will Malson

Page 3 of 4

According to Mental Health Ministries, Isaac Newton, most famous mathematician of the 17th Century…suffered from "nervous breakdowns" in his life and was known for great fits of rage towards anyone who disagreed with him which some have labeled Bipolar Disorder. Ludwig van Beethoven, composer, had bipolar disorder which some have said gave him such creative power that his compositions broke the mold for classical music forever. Winston Churchill…told in his own writings of suffering from “black dog” Churchill’s term for severe and serious depression. [1]["Famous People and Mental Illnesses", Mental Health Ministries, No Date, No Author given, http://www.mentalhealthministries.net/links_resources/flyers/famouspeople.pdf] According to the BBC News, Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton may have suffered from a type of autism. [2] ["Einstein and Newton 'had autism'", BBC News, No Author given, April 30, 2003, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/2988647.stm] Are you surprised? I'll close with something else that might surprise you. Look around the room. Is there anybody you think suffers from a mental problem? Do you think I have now or have in the past suffered from a mental problem? Do I appear sane, rational, mentally collected? Would you believe that in the past I've suffered from extreme paranoia, seizures due to a mental problem, week-long insomnia, and hallucinations? Well, I haven't. But if I had, would you judge me for it? Would you treat me differently from the way you treat anybody else? People with mental disorders are still that - people. They deserve the same level of respect and the same opportunities as anyone else, and they deserve to go urn-judged by society. In closing, I would urge that you reconsider actions you may take, or have taken, in the direction of someone with a mental problem, if any. Everyone is created equal; no one is greater than the other in terms of equality opportunity. No one should be denied rights or civil treatment because of something they can't control. No one is and should be a lesser human.

Will Malson

Page 4 of 4

Citation Page
[1] "Famous People and Mental Illnesses", Mental Health Ministries, No Date, No Author given, http://www.mentalhealthministries.net/links_resources/flyers/famouspeople.pdf [2] "Einstein and Newton 'had autism'", BBC News, No Author given, April 30, 2003, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/2988647.stm [3] "How Mad Are You?" BBC Headroom, No author (BBC), November 5 2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/tvandradioblog/2008/nov/05/horizon-how-mad-are-you, http://documentaryheaven.com/pt-12-how-mad-are-you/, http://documentaryheaven.com/pt-22-howmad-are-you/