From the Comments: Social Responsibility and the Public Sphere

Giorgio de Chirico. Gare Montparnasse (1914)

My favorite things about this site are when I get to post “From the Comments” (bringing things said in the comments of another post to the front of the discussion) and “Community Contributions” (discussion topics sent to me by readers).

In response to my last discussion topic on the media’s representation and speculation regarding Charlie Sheen, commenter Jen had this (among other things) to say:

The intense media focus fails to include any adequate and educational information about mental illnesses such as Bipolar Disorder, which is the least you could hope for if they’re going to put on celebrity “doctors” telling us the guy is obviously manic. If he is manic, why the hell don’t they take this opportunity to talk about how hellish it is to experience mania and the following depression, how many people with mental illnesses die by suicide every year, how little federal or state or local funding there is for mental health treatment in these great United States, how little funding there is for research into mental illnesses and adequate treatments that don’t include severe obesity as a side effect that affects the majority of the people taking the drug so they get to experience Diabetes and heart disease in addition to mental illness???

There isn’t much more to add to her thorough question. All I can do is start this off with my thoughts: Like it or not, our popular media is the moderator, mediator, and forum for public discussion. The television, the Internet, and even radio (well, satellite radio mostly) constitute our public sphere. While I could rant for literally hours on the responsibility implied in assuming that role and the incredible shirking of said responsibility (not actually) excused by the importance of profit generation, I’m going to limit myself here to mental health awareness matters. In light of the Charlie Sheen Omnimedia Extravaganza, I’m appalled at the squandered opportunity for public education. I’m shocked daily by the highly educated and generally tolerant and sensitive people I know posting unbelievable mockery on their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. I know that this is the case because public discourse does not include education. I know this is the case because our public sphere is a collection of disjointed masses of choirs listening to their chosen preachers. I know this is the case because “public discourse” has become anachronistic. [OK. The last two sentences are cultural criticism for another time and place.] I know this is the case because we (the MI community) are not part of the public…yet.

Thank you Jen.

  1. Natalie said:

    “I know this is the case because we (the MI community) are not part of the public…yet.”
    Exactly. Which is why your choice to share your voice here and give us a place to rally our thoughts and collective voice is so incredibly important. You are brave. You are strong. You are amazing. No matter what, that will always be true.

    • said:

      There is nothing to say but Thank You.

    • Meggy said:

      I agree with Natalie whole-heartedly on this one.

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