Gay Pride, Meet 'Mad Pride'

Sufferers of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder try to decrease the stigma against so-called "madness" or "mental illness," with support from the Times Sunday Styles section

Ever in touch with the latest hot fad in liberal "pride" activism, the Sunday New York Timespublished an article by Gabrielle Glaseron the top of the front page of the Sunday Styles section, headlined "'Mad Pride' Fights a Stigma: A movement about mental illness in the style of gay pride." Inside another text box declared: "Groups turn a slur into a matter of awareness."A caption reads "Seeking Tolerance." At the center of her article, Glaser explained the primary concept:

Just as gay-rights activists reclaimed the word queer as a badge of honor rather than a slur, these advocates proudly call themselves mad; they say their conditions do not preclude them from productive lives.

Mad pride events, organized by loosely connected groups in at least seven countries including Australia, South Africa and the United States, draw thousands of participants, said David W. Oaks, the director of MindFreedom International, a nonprofit group in Eugene, Ore., that tracks the events and says it has 10,000 members.

Recent mad pride activities include a Mad Pride Cabaret in Vancouver, British Columbia; a Mad Pride March in Accra, Ghana; and a Bonkersfest in London that drew 3,000 participants. (A follow-up Bonkersfest is planned next month at the site of the original Bedlam asylum.)

Members of the mad pride movement do not always agree on their aims and intentions. For some, the objective is to continue the destigmatization of mental illness. A vocal, controversial wing rejects the need to treat mental afflictions with psychotropic drugs and seeks alternatives to the shifting, often inconsistent care offered by the medical establishment. Many members of the movement say they are publicly discussing their own struggles to help those with similar conditions and to inform the general public.

Glaser even talks to "Sascha Scatter" about brilliance and madness:

The Icarus Project says its participants are "navigating the space between brilliance and madness." It began six years ago, after one of its founders, Sascha Altman DuBrul, now 33, wrote about his bipolar disorder in The San Francisco Bay Guardian, a weekly newspaper. Mr. DuBrul, who is known as Sascha Scatter, received an overwhelming response from readers who had experienced similar ordeals, but who felt they had no one to discuss them with.

"We wanted to create a new language that resonated with our actual experiences," Mr. DuBrul said in a telephone interview.

Some Icarus Project members argue that their conditions are not illnesses, but rather, "dangerous gifts" that require attention, care and vigilance to contain. "I take drugs to control my superpowers," Mr. DuBrul said.

At the very least, Glaser provided an opposing viewpoint, something the Times is probably not as willing to suggest on gay pride, perhaps because the opposition is more medical than ideological:

While psychiatrists generally support the mad pride movement's desire to speak openly, some have cautioned that a "pro choice" attitude toward medicine can have dire consequences.

Would you be pro-choice with someone who has another brain disease, Alzheimer's, who wants to walk outside in the snow without their shoes and socks?" said Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, executive director of the Stanley Medical Research Institute in Chevy Chase, Md.

Dr. Torrey, a research psychiatrist who specializes in schizophrenia and manic depression, said he understood the roots of the movement. "I suspect that not an insignificant number of people involved have had very lousy care and are still reacting to having been involuntarily treated," he said.

Some "mad pride" bloggers were angry that Torrey was included. Wrote Furious Seasons:

Always interesting to hear the views of the dark prince of forced medication. Why the author, Gabrielle Glaser, chose to sound out Torrey on this phenomenon is beyond me. The guy is as relevant to a discussion of how patients lead their lives as are testicles to a heifer.

From reading the Glaser article, a reader might miss the political tilt of this movement, but checking the blog sites that Glaser mentions quickly shows somber notations on the Iraq casualty count, declarations of support for Al Gore's fight against "global warming," and meetings of "Radical Mental Health Collectives."

A reader might wonder that if "homophobia" is on its way to being defined by the liberal media cultureas a disordered way of thinking, what about a politicized phobia about people consumed by phobias? Will it seem mentally ill to ask for treatment of the mentally ill?