Zealotry and Rules for Discussing Mental Illness

February 24, 2011 Natasha Tracy

I am lucky enough to have many people out there who love my writing, love my perspective and yes, possibly even love me. Sometimes these people contact me privately, sometimes publically, but either way, I certainly appreciate all the positivity.

On the other hand, there is a small, yet amazingly vocal, number of people who hate what I have to say, and yes, possibly hate me. These people tend to denounce me, and what I have to say, publically.

And honestly, I don’t mind the differing opinions. Disagree with a point I’ve made? No problem, that’s what the comments are for. But zealous, hateful stances on mental illness, treatments and psychiatry tend to hurt those with mental illness far more than it helps.

Mental Illness Zealotry

There aren’t a whole lot of mental illness topics I feel zealous about. Sure, I have plenty of opinions, but zealous? No, not really. (The possible exception is I feel pretty strongly people with a mental illness work with a doctor on a treatment plan. Outside of that, I don’t feel too terribly zealous.)

On the other hand, there are people and groups dedicated to one thing. Some groups want all of psychiatry and psychology to disappear (although I have no idea how). Some claim that mental illness doesn’t exist. Some are ardently anti-medication. And there are still others who actively pursue more specific mental illness causes.

The Reason I’m not a Zealot

The reason you don’t see me pushing one way or the other or recommending specific groups is actually pretty simple: we learn more about the human brain, mental illness and treatments every day, and I’m unprepared to “pick a side” when it makes much more sense to be in the middle. I also think that decisions on mental illness are individual and it's actually rather ludicrous to generalize.

(I’m also pretty hesitant to be part of a group. Groups do odd things and once you’re a member, people assume you agree with everything the group does. I prefer to choose my own stances.)


OK, You Hate What I’m Saying, and Want to Tell Me So

As I mentioned, the comments are for just that. Feel free to pose a counter-argument, cite a study or just generally say that you don’t agree. I have no problem with that.

What I do have a problem with, is people adding comments that are blatantly hateful or abusive to other commenters, groups of people, or yes, even me. Calling anyone “evil,” or “freaks” or cloaking hatred in sarcasm does nothing for you, me, mental illness or anything else. And it takes whatever discourse was going on, down to a level where everyone gets muddy.

Rules for Discussing Mental Illness

If you wish to discuss your point of view, whatever that may be, I recommend adhering to the following:

  1. Don’t bother being abusive. It’ll get your comment deleted; it’s HealthyPlace policy.
  2. Kill the sarcasm. If you have something to say, just say it.
  3. Don’t bother with hate speech. Yes, I get it; you hate a group of people. Try to discuss it like an adult. Here, I’ll help you, “I firmly disagree with XGroup because…”
  4. Simply saying something is wrong because “psychiatry is evil,” or similar, isn’t actually an argument. See #3 on how to reformulate your thoughts into something reasonable.
  5. Cite some credible sources. This one is optional but it will lend credibility to your argument.

Really what it comes down to is respect. Please respect the people and points of view expressed. That’s really all I’m asking for, and as we’re all adults, I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2011, February 24). Zealotry and Rules for Discussing Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 16 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

April, 11 2011 at 4:43 pm

I found you today. I'm not sure what to say. Today was a good day? Took the meds, and a shower, went OUT of the house, I may even cook dinner :) Thanks doll

Dr Musli Ferati
March, 4 2011 at 10:00 am

In reality mental illness are conduct deviation that harm any global functioning. The last neuroscience knowledges uncovered many enigma on their truthfulness. But it remains still a lot vague ground in this sensible matter. Therefore, attitudes and opinions in public about mental disability are often ambigous or debatable. The crucial role in this direction have socio-cultural features of environment where the mentally ill person live and work. The same should consider overcarefuly, when we ought to deal with psychiatric patients. Five rule that You Ms. Tracy have mentioned in above writing should receive with hospitality. While the hindmost recommendations on indispensable respect to these awkward people is highlight mesage on humane treating, as inherent need of everyone.

Natasha Tracy
March, 1 2011 at 4:43 pm

Hi Heather,
It can be hard to get out from under a label, I'm sure many people can identify with that, mentally ill or not.
Remember though, you are you no matter what other people think. And there will be people who care about the real you.
- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
March, 1 2011 at 4:42 pm

Hi Richard,
"You make sense."
Ah yes, on my good days...
- Natasha

Richard J
March, 1 2011 at 2:01 pm

Hey Natasha...I agree with being in the middle when it comes to some groups or opinions, especialy when in the past I am always going every where in my head any way...(Racing thoughts) Could not even make simple decsions let alone be apart of a group.......You make sense.

February, 26 2011 at 4:08 pm

I agree with so much of what you said. I am soooo tired of being treated as a manipulative, pain in the butt by police, EMTs, ER doctors and psych nurses. I have been diagnosed with BPD and the things I do are not meant to hurt others at all. The self-harm behaviour and the frequent trips by ambulance to the hospital are not done intentionally to make life difficult for others. The stigma attached to BPD is so abhorent that I just want to stay completely alone in my home and connect with no one. This is what I do as much as I possibly can. I have no friends and no one to share these awful feelings with.

Natasha Tracy
February, 25 2011 at 1:22 pm

Hi Natalie,
It's strange how many bipolars say I mind-meld with them. I'm the ultra-mind-melder.
"I am anti-long-term-medication, but yeah, bottom line, treatment is so freaking personal"
Yes, thank-you for saying that. I won't argue necessity of long-term meds, but I really like that you can respect the personal nature of someone's decision. None of us know what it's like to live another person's life, after all.
"hurl abuse in your direction"
Honestly, I can take it. Or delete it. Or whatever. But what upsets me is how it impacts other people. I feel the need to stand up to propaganda and thus take on every fight and not let nasty, hateful things go unanswered. My concern is for all the people who see it and then don't get help for their illness. That's what I worry about.
"And the fact that you keep writing so honestly regardless speaks to your immense inner strength!
And even though we may be in different camps on treatment, I really value being able to read a fellow bipolar voice. We don’t have to agree on every detail to make each other feel less alone. So, thanks. "
Now that is incredibly kind, gracious and generous of you.
Honestly, I saw your name come up on my comment list and I was preparing for something contentious and I was thinking that I didn't have the strength for that right now. (I guess it goes to show what I've come to expect from the internet.)
But I was completely wrong, of course. I would like to thank you for having a differing opinion and being so entirely reasonable about it. I think you make a fine contribution to our group of commenters here.
Thanks for being part of the discussion.
- Natasha

February, 25 2011 at 1:00 pm

Ah, I love this! And sometimes I think bipolar folks have some kind of mind-meld going on...I put up a post along the lines of "we all have a different take on being bipolar, why can't we just get along?" yesterday (based on recent experiences with people who disagree with my views). I've made it pretty clear that I am anti-long-term-medication, but yeah, bottom line, treatment is so freaking personal. My hope is that people take time to educate themselves, do the research, ask the hard questions of themselves and their providers, and then make truly informed decisions (a tall order indeed, considering many p-docs don't even have the full story, or refuse to share it). And beyond that, my hope is that we can be compassionate with each other.
I'm so sorry some people feel the need to hurl abuse in your direction. The fact that they do so means you're pushing some buttons, which is a necessary component of change. And the fact that you keep writing so honestly regardless speaks to your immense inner strength!
And even though we may be in different camps on treatment, I really value being able to read a fellow bipolar voice. We don't have to agree on every detail to make each other feel less alone. So, thanks. :)

Natasha Tracy
February, 25 2011 at 11:01 am

Hi Meredith,
Thanks for chiming in. I hope it brings some levelheadedness.
- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
February, 25 2011 at 11:00 am

Hi Annie,
That's a good quote alright. A lot of pain is fear, it's true.
- Natasha

February, 25 2011 at 6:43 am

"we learn more about the human brain, mental illness and treatments every day, and I’m unprepared to “pick a side” when it makes much more sense to be in the middle."
As my wife says, the brain is the final human frontier. Very rarely do we get to use the object under observation to study the object under observation. Talk about bias! So it takes a while for the results and ideas to coalesce into something useful. Thanks for discussing this, Natasha!

February, 25 2011 at 4:10 am

Just wanted to say I agree with all you say in this article. People usually respond with outright hatred and abuse when they're scared. Scared because they think either that you're right, which means that they might have to change (the way they think, behave etc), or that they are therefore wrong in some, or all, of their beliefs, and might have to change ( the way they think, behave etc).
"The pain is in the effort it takes to hold on to the thought that you're not going to be able to survive the feeling. . . " I saw this the other day and it struck a powerful chord. Fear IS the mind killer.

Shah Wharton
February, 25 2011 at 2:00 am

Hey - Found you today and glad I did. Great article and argumanet. Do you rreally get idiots like that remarking here? How rediculous some people can be? Do they actually think intelligent people listen to them?
Anyway - I have some news to share with you - hope you want to get involved and can spread the word.
I have decided to do a linky - its called Monday Madness and its for those of us who blog and have some connection to mental illness. ;D I'd love a community of us to find out about one another and support each others blogs. These things notoriously take time to get going but I'm starting it now. Of course please come and link up too if you participate in such things.
Shah .X

Leave a reply