Define Functioning is a forum for the “high-functioning” mentally ill. Here we discuss what is often neglected within mental health communities. We discuss and share regardless of diagnosis. We also respect the rights of others to self-define what it means to “function.” Our current discussions have revolved around this past week’s media speculation and (mis)representation of mental illness spurred by various interpretations of Charlie Sheen’s recent behavior. (Recent posts can be found here and here.) Much of this current round of discourse within the public sphere is destructive for the mental illness community by spreading misinformation, increasing stigma, and once again excluding the mentally ill from the discussion.

Several times in this forum we’ve discussed the need for a seat at the table. I urge you to speak up where you can, to the extent that you feel comfortable. With many of you I’ve disclosed the necessity of my pseudonym. It offers a certain level of protection while affording me the ability to speak honestly and from the heart. As such, if for whatever reason you cannot speak up, I offer the following.

At the bottom of this post is an open comment from me to those who have participated in the damage. I ask that, if you agree with its contents, you feel free to copy and paste the italicized statement, along with a link to this post, into the “comments” section of any online article that has contributed to the frustrations we’ve discussed. If you find an appropriate place for it, please add a comment here with its link.  I will be distributing it through other means as well.

Damaging, Irresponsible, Myopic: The news and popular media’s relentless coverage of the Charlie Sheen Omnimedia Extravaganza has been all these things. The question is not what is going on with Sheen’s behavior. The question is what effect is produced by the constant coverage. I am a bipolar patient who moderates a forum for the high-functioning mentally ill under a pseudonym due to the persistent stigma surrounding my disorder. The combined mockery and speculation regarding Sheen is doing neither me nor my cohort any favors. The media is furthering the misunderstanding of mental illness and the resulting stigma. Personally, this misrepresentation is causing me to flashback to a time of my own grandiosity, when I was both omnipresent and omnipotent, when the universe happened because I gave permission. With it comes narcissism, self-indulgence, and destruction — it once destroyed my life and the lives of many others. I urge you to look beyond entertainment, ratings, and profit, and see the damage you are doing.

Thank you in advance,