Saturday, September 5, 2015


There are those who will stand and applaud and then, there are those who will be deeply offended. I am in the latter. To be perfect clear, it's important to note this very basic fact. Two separate issues are being mangled together. This is being done by someone with celebrity status. The celebrity would be Kenneth Cole. And the issue would be this billboard.

#AreYouPuttingUsOn Although that is his question, I'm so deeply offended, it has now become mine.

After that question, I'm shaking my head in disgust and shouting at the top of my lungs, #ARE_YOU_KIDDING?????????????????

Words matter. Intertwining words, indeed, emphasizing the words MENTAL ILLNESS using the largest of all fonts to make a bold statement and then including #GunReform is despicable. I understand his outrage at the stupidity that exists from state to state regarding background checks but shouldn't we be more outraged by this.

SOME can access CARE.....

Because the fact is, MOST can NOT access CARE. Even with a limitless supply of money and other resources including connections to those in the upper echelons, quality care for sustained treatment of mental illness is close to non-existent.

Despite laws guaranteeing parity for payment of treatment by health insurers, loopholes are found. And, even if our health insurers are adhering to the mandate, indeed in some cases, going above and beyond as was my experience when attempting to help a friend, quite simply, help is no where to be found.

There are shortages of beds, shortages of doctors, shortages of groups offering specialized care like dialectical behavioral therapy which is an evidence based practice and among one of the very few treatments shown to be effective in the treatment of borderline personality disorder.

Discharge planning from psychiatric hospitals, which, in this state, the very same state where this billboard is hanging is devoid of any real planning. Does "Follow up with your psychiatrist and you are waitlisted for a DBT group" constitute a good plan? I think not.

I live within miles of of the largest city in this country. The population of NYC dwarfs that of LA by more than double and yet, no room at the inn. So there's that.

And then, Mr. Cole makes the case of the need for #GunReform in the same sentence with Mental Illness.

Why isn't there a billboard telling the other side of the story? Where is the billboard decrying the number of people with mental illness who have died in policy custody? Tasered, left to swelter and die in a cell in solitary confinement, taken down and dragged with clearly broken legs, shot dead with hands held high.

Is there an issue with the ease with which guns may be accessed. Yes. That's a problem and it should be addressed. No one should have assault weapons or clips that can fire off hundreds of rounds in seconds. I'm not a gun expert. I just know that if people want rifles or handguns, that is their right unless the constitution is changed. Hollow point bullets and machine guns, not so much. Thorough background checks? Seems that's just logical. The hashtag #GunReform .... go for it. On.Its.Own.Billboard.

Is there also an issue with the way we treat those living with mental illness in this country? Yes. And the fact that the largest mental illness facility in this country is a jail..... that's not okay, either. What are many of the crimes that these people are being jailed for? So called crimes of survival: shoplifting food to eat, seeking shelter by breaking and entering.

As long as Mr. Cole wants to link mental illness to crime with his provocative billboard, I might suggest he tell the rest of the story. I think the number of people with mental illness accessing guns is dwarfed exponentially by the number residing in jails, because treatment is NON existent.

Where is that billboard? Where is the real outrage. I'm tired of the hashtags. It's time for action. It's time for meaningful change. It's time for an open dialogue. It's time to sit at the table with Congressman Tim Murphy and Senator Chris Murphy, both of whom have bills written, a House version and a version for the Senate. It's time to make these bills work. They may not be perfect. They may not suit all. If the possibility exists to change the lives of 25% of the population, directly, and the untold percentage of the population whose lives are affected because their loved one is included in that 25%, it's time.

The billboard has to go. It's feeding stigma, shame and untruths. It's setting back the movement initiated by many fine organizations who are trying to make it okay to talk, to bring change to mind, to be bold like Brandon Marshall and so many others who are speaking out.

I know there are many groups who have written about this and people will polarize. Agree to disagree. Open up a dialogue but make it honest. And keep things where they belong. There are two very distinct problems and they each require their own path to a solution.

Lumping them together as one, in a billboard that diminishes the vast majority of those 40 Million is wrong.

I only have one hashtag about this whole mess.


(Please note: comments are not moderated. Respectful discussion will be tolerated. Mentions of political parties or finger pointing will be removed. Play nicely. Please. ~AnneMarie)

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  1. It's not just about mentally ill people committing crimes, or our prisons being the "solution" to mental illness. I saw a picture of this billboard within hours of learning that my cousin had died from a self-inflicted gun shot. Untreated depression and anger issues. Kenneth Cole's billboard was more than a slap in the face; it was a stab in the heart. How could someone be so callous and hurtful to those of us who live with the reality of that billboard?

    1. Oh Heather,
      I am so sorry about your cousin. "Untreated" and that's my point. For me, that's where the outrage belongs. Callous indeed. Apparently, there was a tweet sent after it was noted that this was not a great message. Mr Cole tweeted:

      "That ad is not meant to further stigmatize those suffering from mental illness, a community in need and already under-served."

      HOLLOW words, IMO. If he truly meant them? There would be a billboard to push for change.

      HUGS my friend, many hugs,

  2. AnneMarie, this billboard perpetuates the stereotype that people with mental illness are violent, when in reality, as you pointed out, they are often victims of horrible acts of violence. I used to work with the mentally ill and found the vast majority to be nice people who were often the victims rather than perpetrators of crimes.

  3. Nice post, AnneMarie
    Is there an issue with the ease with which guns may be accessed. Yes. That's a problem and it should be addressed. No one should have assault weapons or clips that can fire off hundreds of rounds in seconds. I'm not a gun expert.


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