Michael’s Blog, August 7 – Day 5
“I took the ferry from downtown Seattle to Bremerton and then cycled out into rural Washington.
“No SAM intellectuals here, this is the American hinterland, in the middle of August heat and during a mean and nasty recession none the less. All of these people are fine folk, I am sure, it’s just that, well, I don’t belong here.
“‘No Trespassing’ and ‘Private Property’ signs everywhere. I am waiting for the ‘Violators Will Be Shot’ sign. I know it has got be around here somewhere. Then again, maybe the gun laws are too tight in Washington. Heck, I bet I’d find one no prob in rural South. I wonder if this is the utopian Canada that the Fraser Institute dreams off when they say that every bit of land, river, and lake should be privatized. No one welcome.”
A few friends in the blogosphere believe bicycles are mainly for spins in the park on sunny Sundays. Vancouver school teacher Michael Schratter is cycling for a more serious purpose.
He’s leaving August 1 on a world journey, intending to pedal 40,000 km across six continents to focus attention on the stigma surrounding mental illness. He rides for the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA BC) and proceeds will benefit CMHA BC and their youth and adolescent educational initiatives.
I invite you to visit Michael’s website ridedonthide.com.
Physical ailments carry little stigma but our views about mental illness might be shaped by insensitive or uninformed cinematic and literary depictions. Think about Joseph Conrad’s Kurtz, Mrs. Rochester in Jane Eyre or the sweet eccentrics of Arsenic and Old Lace. The reality is that most people with mental illness function well from day to day, holding down jobs, raising families and behaving like you and me. Yet, even high functioning people fear discrimination if their mental disorders or emotional conditions are disclosed completely. Unreasonable shame or guilt leaves some under-treated, even untreated, because they fear the consequences of needing help.
An aging population creates ever increasing demands for healthcare but budgets are focused mostly on physical ailments. Government responds first to needs and demands that are undeniable. They do not dedicate resources based on speculated needs so, in a field where sufferers are reluctant to come forward, the mental health sector is perpetually under-serviced. Patient reticence and inadequate treatment facilities go hand in hand. When Michael Schratter talks about erasing the stigma of mental illness, his goal is as vital as those pursued by advanced neuroscientists.
If we talk about the absurdity of mental illness stigma it will begin to disappear. If we can share the common story of how mental illness affects our lives, we will see it for what it is — a variation of the human condition. To harbour mental illness stigma is to harbour a stigma against humanity.
Photo by eric tuason