Mental health as entertainment?

In general, I am not a fan of political correctness. I think a lot of it goes too far and there comes a point when people need to learn to laugh at themselves. I’m not about to allow paranoia to overrun how I speak and act. However, there is a difference between over the top PC behavior and just plain common decency and respect. I think this is a violation of the latter.

A NAMI post on Facebook referenced this article from nbcsports.com. A high school dance team is on their way to a state competition with a routine that mocks and demoralizes people with mental illness. Their uniforms look like straight jackets with the words “Psych Ward” on them. The author the article asks you to be the judge, but it is very clear that he believes that the students were not out of line.

My first impulse upon reading this was to think about all of the movies that make fun of mental hospitals and the like. I’ve never had much of a problem with them. My next thought was that they also have movies that utilize racial humor or raunchy adult cartoons that make fun of everything from cancer to pedophilia. Can you say Family Guy? I’ve never had a problem with these either, BUT I would have a problem with seeing the same jokes used in a high school dance routine. That was my gut feeling and it took me a few minutes to figure out why.

We choose what movies to go see, what T.V. shows to watch, and what music to listen to. We can monitor our children’s exposure to these things. But if I walk into a high school dance show, with my kids, I have had no warning and no choice. Just as I wouldn’t let my six-year-old watch Family Guy, I wouldn’t want her to watch a dance show where they were making fun of the mentally ill.

It disturbs me that the adults involved in this don’t understand what’s wrong with this. I can attribute the initial act as pure ignorance.  After the complaints the dance teacher said, “I don’t understand where they are coming from,” and “Our intent had nothing to do with mental illness.” How are the words “Psych Ward” not intended to be about mental illness? This is beyond stupidity. This is complete disregard for people who have gone through the real thing. I doubt they would get up there, do a routine about cancer patients and then not understand the backlash.

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