Friday, October 11, 2013

Mental Heath In Progressive #America: Mental Discrimination

Mental Health Discrimination

Jeb,” Gideon said, taking the doctor by the arm. Doctor Riley lifted his gaze to meet Gideon’s. “What do you plan to do about my son?”
“He’s had a seizure.”
“He’s already fragile. Will the seizure make his condition worse?”
“Only time can tell.” Gideon lowered his hand, turned his gaze to Franklin and stared. Doctor Riley stepped towards the brown-haired, green-eyed, English-descent man. “Gideon.” Gideon turned his attention to the doctor. “Perhaps it would be best to…”
“…you can stop there, Jeb. Juliette and I told you years ago why we left Upper Sandusky. I will not have the same discussion with you about Franklin I had with both our families. He’s an intelligent boy.”
“I’m not suggesting he isn’t.”
“Franklin will do well to stay where he is. I’ve given him a place at the machine shop designing more inventions. He loves his new office and is doing well overseeing the workers on the floor.”
“Gideon, when are you going to accept Franklin will never be able to run your store? He doesn’t have the social skills to do so. He needs help.”
“He has help,” Juliette answered. The men looked to her. “Franklin has all the help he needs to be successful in life. He doesn’t belong behind an institution’s wall. He’s a mechanical genius, Jeb. He loves tinkering with machines and playing mathematical games. God created our son for a purpose. If we place him within the institution he cannot live a successful and productive life. You’ve been a good friend. I pray the trust we have placed in you will not be forfeited.”

Welcome back to my series, Mental Health in Progressive America. That last time you were here we talked about the Eugenic practices that were popular throughout the United States and how they aided in the development of German Nazi's Eugenic Laws. This week I want to talk about discrimination. 

Although this is a blog series about Progressive America, mental health discrimination is not something new. The mentally ill have been in society since the beginning of time. Islamic mentally ill had been wonderfully cared for by their people far longer then European society. Europeans did not start to take care of the mentally ill until the Middle Ages when some of the mentally ill population were placed privately in small houses. These houses, and later on asylums, were places where once a person was admitted they rarely saw the light of day and were the victims of many injustices. Living conditions were deplorable and many atrocities occurred with their walls. They were a place where society could get rid of the less desirable and forget about them. 

The worst thing in society to be was mentally ill because people didn't understand about mental illness and being committed to an asylum was worse than death. In the passage that began this blog posting, Franklin's parents fear the doctor will send their son the an asylum. Even though the story takes place at the turn of the century the asylum was the last place anyone would ever want to send their loved ones. The living conditions were deplorable and there were many instances where those committed to the asylum were abused by their guards. Not everyone who was committed to the asylum needed to be there as well. 

People fear Franklin because they don't understand him. Fear has driven a lot myths about those who suffer from mental disorders and it is these myths that have harmed those have mental disorders. One of the long held myths about those who have Asperger's Syndrome is "that anyone who has this disorder is highly prone to violence. They are a threat to our society because they do not have feelings nor empathy."

This myth is false. People with Asperger's Syndrome have feelings they just don't always show them. They may appear mean because they don't know empathy but they can learn. One thing about people with Asperger's Syndrome that might surprise you to know is that these people are some of the most caring, loving and sensitive souls you will ever meet. Society is scared of people with Asperger's Syndrome and this is what drives people, such as the doctor mentioned in the passage above, to discriminate against them.

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