I blocked you last night on LinkedIn, because I found your comments, your choice of language, and your refusal to engage in dialogue regarding issues of ableism, hatred, discrimination, and blatant bias towards individuals with mental illness to be triggering, especially in light of my family’s history.
In my work, I have encountered more than a dozen individuals with a past history of depression or other mood disorders.
One of these individuals was my former system administrator. He had a job as a VP at a very large financial organization (Wells Fargo, if you really want to know) but was not fulfilled by the work. That is why he worked part-time for the company I founded, Yesexactly.com. Later, he worked as a security consultant for my nonprofit initiative, Givingmap.org, while employed as a security engineer by another large, well-known, and prestigious international finance organization. On several occasions he spoke openly to me about the difference that medication had made in his life. This person was also a nonconformist in some ways, and extremely paranoid about the government.
He once made a remark to me during a video conference that was extremely inappropriate. Later he claimed that he had been drinking and that was the explanation. Regardless it was not something that I as his boss could easily forget. It put a strain on our working relationship from that point forward.
I could have chosen to let him go then, but it was only one infraction and we had worked together for almost eight years.
More to the point, I did not see his behavior as a symptom. Sometimes people make poor choices. You cannot chalk up every stupid or antisocial behavior as the result of a diagnosis, even when you know that a person has a diagnosis. In our exit interview a few months later, he apologized for his actions.
I saw my system administrator as a whole person — somebody who was extremely talented and competent, but who struggled with mental health issues and perhaps also family issues. I believe this individual would have benefited from an environment where he could share his disability more openly, without fear of losing opportunities in the workplace. The problem is that a word like “stigma” erases the experience of individuals like my former sysadmin who are able to work and live a full life.
“Ableism” is a better word to use than stigma (although in many instances, these words are used interchangeably) because it makes clear that bias and discrimination against people with mental illness is not acceptable.
This in no way diminishes your brother’s experience. Nor do I mean to cast aspersions on your compassionate actions toward him.
But it is the experience of only one segment of individuals with mood disorders and other psychiatric conditions. Talking about mental illness without talking about ableism or the need to combat bias is, in my opinion, tantamount to hate speech. I learned the importance of this distinction through conversations on an online Facebook Group (Reimagining Recovery) that was later removed by its founder, Molly Indrelie. It truly resonated with me. I wish I had more of a platform to share what I have learned.
You are of course welcome to agree or disagree. The important thing is that we have dialogue around these issues.