Mental Illness Awareness Week - How You Can Help The Cause

October 10, 2012 Alistair McHarg

When I sat down to write Invisible Driving in 1990 there was no way for me to know that this simple act of literary recklessness would hurl me down a path of mental health advocacy ultimately culminating, 22 years later, in the conclusion of this sentence.

Such is life in the land of Whackadoomious. Prior to writing the universe’s first bipolar memoir, I had labored valiantly to keep my mental illness under cover, hidden from the pitchfork-wielding town folk who welcome the mentally ill with the same enthusiasm they shower on seven-year locusts. Going public as a bipolar bear gave me what I call “confession Tourette’s” – I went from “lips are sealed” to bipolar blabbermouth.

Essentially, I wanted to educate the public as much as possible and, I dared, even defied, any of them to look down on me. I had a surly honking attitude back then. In time, I actually came to a point where I condescended to square shooters because – without mental illness as a teacher – their life experience was, quite frankly, inadequate in comparison to mine.But that’s just me. For every passive-aggressive exhibitionist nursing a grudge, feeding a habit, and putting a resentment to bed, there are 100 nice, quiet Whackadoomians who would prefer to recover and strive towards mental health in quiet anonymity and fuzzy slippers. I would like to make it clear that I do not condemn this stealth, but, and this is a big but, (stop that), I will say that – if you want to change minds, spank stigma, and educate the not-so-great unwashed – and I know you do – the best way to do it is by example.

Make yourself a teacher, a model, and show them that folks like us are - candidly - just like them. To paraphrase Hemingway, “Living well is the best revenge.” To paraphrase Napoleon, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” Finally, to paraphrase Taz Mopula, “Since you’re going to be jealous anyway, you may as well be jealous of yourself.”

Action Ideas for Mental Illness Awareness

As you know, I’m a practical – problem/solution - kind of guy. So, when I first learned it was Mental Illness Awareness Week, I thought of a few action items that could kick-start the knowledge building process.

  1. Annual Mental Illness Memorial Day Telethon – Hosted by Charlie Sheen
  2. Mental Illness Trading Cards containing profiles of famous mentally ill people in history.
  3. “Halfway Home” – a board game based on Monopoly in which players take turns trying to escape from a Halfway House so they can return their dysfunctional families.
  4. America’s Got Illness! In this homage to American Idol, mentally ill contestants would answer questions and disturbed celebrity judges would try to guess their disease.

As good as these ideas are, I’m still going with suggestion number one. Make the stigma-waving public watch as you rise from the ashes and enjoy a better life than theirs. If they learn a thing or two, great. If they don’t, the main thing is – you’re doing just fine without them.

APA Reference
McHarg, A. (2012, October 10). Mental Illness Awareness Week - How You Can Help The Cause, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Alistair McHarg

February, 2 2013 at 11:26 pm

Now that I am a new fan... I want to tell you that your Action Ideas were entertaining and refreshing. I guess you were kidding, but I actually LIKE the idea of the trading cards! I sometimes engage in artistic projects with no intent of showing them to anyone, marketing them, etc.; they are just things I like to do. Would you mind if I made some? One thing I really like to do is read about and mentally "collect" figures from history who had mental illness. I make cards, magnets, and also collages and incorporate these people into my work. I have a whole series on Winston Churchill; those are my favorite. So if I made some of these cards and if I ever showed them to anyone- online, in a show, etc., would I be stealing your idea and doing something illegal? Of course I won't do it if you don't want me to. This idea really tickles me. Please let me know.
Thank you so much,

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alistair McHarg
February, 3 2013 at 3:09 am

love it! please send me some trading cards when you are done! i recommend reading Touched With Fire by Dr. K.R. Jamison - she does a lovely job of pointing out who in history - especially the arts - was bipolar.

October, 19 2012 at 4:09 am

I think the Action Ideas for Mental Illness Awareness are an absolute must! I can't stop laughing. And I'm not even manic.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alistair McHarg
October, 19 2012 at 6:40 am

Hi Jennine! So glad you found us. They say that "music is the healing force of the universe" - but humor must be second. Those of us in the trenches can use it! Hope you stop by again soon.

Michelle Lande Hughes
October, 11 2012 at 1:31 pm

I referenced your article in my blog under #6.
Mental Illness Awareness Week is October 7th thru 13th: What can you do?

Mental Illness Awareness Week is October 7th thru 13th: What can you do? « Bipolar Bandit
October, 11 2012 at 1:30 pm

[...] Mental Illness Awareness Week – How You Can Help The Cause [...]

October, 10 2012 at 6:31 pm

Hi Alistair :) I've pretty much just told my immediate family that I'm bipolar. I also told some university instructors in case I ran out of the room during a panic attack (not good form without some kind of explanation). I kind of fall into the fuzzy slippers category, but I'm getting there. Anyhow I'm going to watch the telethon right after my husband and I play Halfway Home. Are there any Get Out of Your Straight Jacket Free cards?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alistair McHarg
October, 11 2012 at 4:35 am

Hi Cindy. I think it is important to realize that there are many reasons why people reveal their condition to the world carefully - after all - one's primary responsibility is to protect one's self. - We are under no obligation to do so. - Good question! Yes, there is a Get Out Of Straightjacket Free card - highly prized! - Glad to see you again! A

The BIpolar Pianist
October, 10 2012 at 7:52 am

I understand feeling hushed. People around you can't take it or handle it, so you have to keep quiet about it. I use to let people's discomfort make me feel like there was something really wrong with me. I don't do that anymore. I am bipolar and if someone has a problem with it or can't take it that's there problem. I often say that if people don't know I'm bipolar they don't know anything about me. How can someone be my friend or a member of my family and not accept gigantic piece of who I am. Not to mention what my life has been like.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alistair McHarg
October, 10 2012 at 8:15 am

Welcome to Funny In The Head, Christina - hope you stop by again soon. I love your perspective; congratulations on reaching such a healthy attitude.

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