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Dr. Phil’s Interview with Kelli Stapleton

As many in the autism community know, Dr. Phil aired part 1 of his interview with Kelli Stapleton yesterday. Part 2 will air today.

It was hard to watch for many reasons. What we’re witnessing, in all the splendor of the mid-day talk show circuit, is the complete destruction of a family. People’s lives have been left in shreds…small pieces they must gather up and try desperately to reassemble into some sort of grotesque mosaic of life that barely resembles their old lives. Three children who once had two loving parents, now only have the presence of one loving parent.

Kelli’s actions changed their lives forever. She knows that. The reasoning behind her actions clearly shows someone who was not in a mentally competent place. It’s obvious that living with the challenges of autism for many years was a contributing factor to her lack of mental stability.

But I wish Dr. Phil’s show had been edited differently. Was it necessary to see the same clip of Issy attacking Kelli, and Kelli’s piercing screams, four times? Granted, maybe they had limited access to video footage, but still…was it necessary, and was it even right to use it? How would Issy feel, having that played on national television?

As Kelli stated, Issy is a little girl who doesn’t want to hurt her family members, she just can’t seem to control herself. She’s a little girl with a disability who was exploited. She didn’t have a choice about what was shown on the show, and that’s not right. If they wanted to demonstrate the severity of aggression, they could have simply interviewed people who have worked with Issy.

In addition, I don’t feel like it was made clear to viewers that Issy is not representative of everyone’s autism. One study has suggested that as many as 58% of children on the spectrum exhibit aggression, whether that is due to autism deficits or a comorbid condition, is unclear. Despite this, it’s irresponsible to let viewers assume that Issy presents as the average autistic person. This portrayal only serves to enforce a negative stereotype about autism that is already prevalent in our culture. It should have been reinforced that the Stapletons were living under extreme conditions that don’t reflect everyone’s experience with autism.

Despite these glaring errors, there was merit in this interview if, for no other reason, than for Kelli Stapleton to let the world know that she is remorseful for what she did. I speak for no one but myself when I say that I needed to hear that from her. I needed to know that she was sorry, that she had an emotional response to what she’d attempted to do to her child.

I believe it’s an absolute truth that every single person has a breaking point. Each person’s breaking point will vary, depending upon the life experiences and personality of that person. So whatever combination of life events and personality came together, it found Kelli at a point where she no longer was able to make logical or competent decisions.

My hope is that someday there will be a set of protocols in place to address families living with chronic aggression and violence. It is simply not possible to live with chronic aggression and not be negatively affected by it. I have no idea what that would look like, whether it was mandatory, ongoing involvement of CPS with families living under these conditions, or something else in its place, but I fear that we will not see an end to tragedies unless we do something to help these families.

Kelli has been a friend to many in the community, and has helped many struggling families. I wish she could have helped herself. I wish she would have let someone else help her. I wish her family wasn’t broken and that her daughter wouldn’t always have the memory of her mother trying to end both their lives.

I wish…

I wish there were answers.

I wish there was peace for these families.

I wish there was more compassion in the world.

And I really wish there wasn’t a part 2 to this interview today.

 

But most of all, I wish for Issy to have some peace in her life. To be able to find her way, with support, and to cease being fodder for journalists and media outlets.

As for my friend Kelli, in her own words, she should “be in jail for a very long time.”

Misogyny is an Inconvenient Scapegoat for the Isla Vista Murders

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You make me sick. You, Washington Post. And you, The Guardian. There are too many media sites to name that are working overtime to sensationalize the tragedy in Santa Barbara as a “misogynistic” rampage.

 

Elliot Rodger was mentally ill; it’s as simple as that. Anything or anyone he hated was secondary to, and a consequence of, the primary issue of mental illness. All the relentless chatter and moral outrage at what took place is an insult and an affront to both women and people with mental illness.

 

You want to draw attention to misogyny in our society? You want to start a movement to end the discriminatory way that women are viewed and treated? Good for you. But to use this horrible event as the catalyst for that is insulting. If you want to change the way women are treated in our society, then why not address the fact that women still earn less than men in comparable professional positions? Or how about taking a good, long look at how women’s reproductive rights continue to serve as a political pawn by male (and some female) politicians? Or hey, how about the way women are portrayed in advertising? No? Is that too REAL for you? Too…pedestrian?

 

But NOW you want to talk about women’s rights and dignity? Now? A mentally ill man has to go on a shooting spree for some of the media outposts to decide that misogyny was newsworthy?

 

Here’s a newsflash for YOU: misogyny has been going on for a long, long time. Fuck you for taking this horrendous nightmare and turning it into a self-serving, opportunistic media circle jerk. Thanks for trivializing the real challenges that women face and hanging the issue neatly on the door of this man whose issues were much, much bigger than just hating women.

 

Why not talk about the shortage of quality, intensive mental health services in this country? Wait, you’re not going to insult people further by spouting off the uninformed drivel about there being plenty of mental health services out there, are you? I have many, many friends that could enlighten you about that myth. They are people trying desperately to raise children with mental illness, and they have been left to fend for themselves time and time again.

 

No, you guys went for the easy approach, the low-hanging fruit. Murder! Death! A tragedy against women! A trail of blood and a manifesto, the son of wealthy parents, privileged!

 

Real journalism would look somewhat different. It might reflect on society’s misplaced values in the way we treat (or don’t) our population of mentally ill, disabled, and elderly people. Real journalism might explore the great American secret, that we simply do not value the lives of the mentally ill, disabled, and elderly as much as we do the lives of others. If we truly did, there would be as many comprehensive mental health facilities as there are botox clinics.

 

We simply do not value human life as equal among all people. If you are flawed, you have less value.

 

Thanks, but I don’t want your salacious headlines about misogyny simply because it’s a convenient time to bring it up and catch a ride on the media circus train. You want to impress me with your heartfelt embrace of women as equals? Then show me the money and keep your laws off my ovaries.

In the meantime, at least Time got it right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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