HEY! YOU! MEDIA!: Let’s Make Suicide Awareness Month and World Suicide Prevention Day Inclusive of People With Disabilities

5.  Why is suicide being presented as a solution, rather than a problem, when the people involved have disabilities?

September is Suicide Awareness Month and September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. I’m writing this because media coverage over the past year alone seems to warrant an explicit reminder that:

  • We don’t lack awareness of people with disabilities committing suicide; we do allow vulnerable people to feel shame over chronic pain and depression.
  • Our suicides deserve prevention, not encouragement and cultural misrepresentation, as in films such as Me Before You.

What’s the context beyond the medical? What are the underlying attitudes guiding how the media’s coverage of people with disabilities who have committed suicide or who are planning to do so?

HEY! YOU! MEDIA! Can We Please Make Suicide Awareness Month & World Suicide Prevention Day Inclusive Events? Here's a fresh pitch for your editors: WTF are people glomming onto a This is, as you emphasize, their choice.

But please stop asking me, or any other individual with a stereotypically scary disability (progressive! degenerative! neuromuscular!), “So, what do you think about what this particular person’s doing?”

My opinion is irrelevant. Stop setting me up to be insensitive either to a suicidal person or their surviving family members.

Instead, start covering the true scope of the story. Refusing to look beyond the purely personal dimension of suicide is irresponsible when articles about people with disabilities choosing suicide are fast becoming — in the words of your craft — trend pieces.

The role of the media is essential — your role is to differentiate between the personal story of an individual, and the investigation and analysis of that singular story within a broader social context.

Here are questions that deserve investigation, analysis, and promotion:
1. What is it about our healthcare systems that have eroded faith in their ability to alleviate physical and emotional pain?

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Depression and Suicide Do Not Come Standard With the Progressive Disability Package

A few weeks ago, Alice Wong asked me, a fellow person living with a progressive neuromuscular disease (NMD), how I would respond to someone with an NMD who was saying they wanted to commit suicide.  This was my answer.

Depression is not a standard feature of living with a neuromuscular disease (NMD) or other progressive disability.Depression & Suicide Do Not Come Standard With the Progressive Disability Package Depression is not a standard feature of living with a neuromuscular disease (NMD) or other progressive disability. Do people living with disabilities also experience depression? Yes. Anyone can have depression and you are no different in deserving treatment and relief for it. Thinking that you alone can help yourself with your depression through suicide is a tragic form of “overcoming.” If finding the right treatment for your depression proves difficult, it’s not proof that your disability makes you different from other people. It’s not proof that, for you, suicide is a rational choice. No. It’s proof that depression is difficult to treat for vast numbers of people. Like you. It's free and confidential to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline anytime. You are not a medical prognosis or a checklist of functional abilities. You're a person. Who is in terrible pain now and deserves relief. Like everybody else. If you're in crisis: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) https://www.facebook.com/800273talk/ @800273TALK © 2016 talesfromthecripblog.com

Do people living with disabilities also experience depression? Yes. Anyone can have depression and you are no different in deserving treatment and relief for it. Thinking that you alone can help yourself with your depression through suicide is a tragic form of “overcoming.

If finding the right treatment for your depression proves difficult, it’s not proof that your disability makes you different from other people.

It’s not proof that, for you, suicide is a rational choice. No. It’s proof that depression is difficult to treat for vast numbers of people. Like you.

It’s free and confidential to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline anytime. You are not a medical prognosis or a checklist of functional abilities. You’re a person. Who is in terrible pain now and deserves relief.

If you’re in crisis:

1-800-273-TALK (8255) , 1-800-799-4TTY (4889)
@800273TALK
 

#CripTheVote: You Have Hillary Clinton to Blame for This Blog Post

For the first time in my 50 years on July 28, 2016, I heard my disabled childhood described through the civil rights lens by a presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. She centered my childhood where I would have: on education and public schools.

It’s difficult to explain the magnitude of hearing my disability identity described in the language of equal rights and not special needs. As meaningful as it was to see a woman accepting the nomination, the tectonic shift I felt was in Clinton accepting me as I am: as a person who deserves respect and can serve the greater good. Not as a diagnosis who has nothing to give or a vote to cast. Certainly not as a target to mock whose vote is irrelevant. Because I have gained my right to an education, I gladly accept the responsibility that comes with answering these two questions:
What do I want to contribute to that is bigger than myself? What is it that I have to contribute?
In using the education that Hillary Clinton and other disability rights advocates fought for, I have a shot at becoming a role model who works together with others rather than being labeled an “inspiration” who is kept at a distance.
The story of childhood is the story of education. The access to and quality of education determines whether that story is one you want to retell over and over, or one that threatens to scare you into silence. The school-to-prison pipeline and the violence that students of color with disabilities experience in the name of “discipline” are the education issues that need urgent action today. I appreciate Clinton’s past work because I see potential in it for protecting the rights of more children and youth with disabilities.
B/w photo of a little boy and younger girl sitting. Both smile and the boy is giving the girl a mischievous sideways glance.

The author and her older brother. Hillary Clinton said, “Every kid with a disability has the right to go to school.” That was an idea – not the law – in 1967 when this photo was taken. Three years later, this little girl could not start first grade at the neighborhood school where her older brother went. The school had a pet rabbit named Pugsly. Inclusion: DENIED. An education: DENIED. A bunny to pet: DENIED.

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Announcing #ADA26 as The Year of #SassingBack, #CripLit-Style

 

Parody People magazine cover announcing NotPeople's Rationalest Man Alive! Peter Singer

Unlike Melania Trump, Tales From the Crip plagiarizes only its own material. In honor of the Americans with Disabilities Act’s 26th anniversary, TFtC is kicking off The Year of Sassing Back, #CripLit-Style by offering this gently-used excerpt from our first — and only! — NotPeople Magazine’s Imaginary Interviews With People Who We Wish Were Imaginary. Our own Respironics Bi-Pap S/T sat down with philosopher Dr. Peter Singer, Princeton’s Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, whose anti-crip, pro-swine agenda argues that infanticide of babies with disabilities should be legal up until the 28th day after birth, that health care for people with disabilities should be rationed, and that the consciousness of some pigs doesn’t get enough respect. Happy ADA26! We’re not dead yet!

On the Love Secrets of the Utilitarian!

RBPS/T: Isn’t “No Rules, Just Rights” pretty much the mating call of the utilitarian?

PS: “If it feels good, do it,” is a much more rational mating call.

RBPS/T: What’s a common way for a utilitarian to get friend-zoned?

PS: A utilitarian could help a hot girl move and then she gets back together with her bass-player ex. Who’s a contemporary Continental phenomenologist.

RBPS/T: That sounds…nonhypothetical. And gender-biased. But hey, you are a philosopher.

PS: JUST BECAUSE WE’RE UTILITARIANS DOESN’T MEAN WE LIKE BEING USED.

RBPS/T: Hypothetically.

PS: It was a long time ago. I am completely and 110% over it. My happiness has never been more maximized. A random person might see me on this cover and think, “Wow, he is totally living the life he said he would and here I am, possibly married to but probably long-since-dumped by an untalented string player who distracted me from what my life could have been, and if something tragic happens like I get so horribly disfigured in an accident that I need expensive but ultimately futile treatments or I have an adorable but super sick baby — which wouldn’t be so unlikely if the weak genes of a contemporary Continental phenomenologist were involved in the uterine brew — I will most definitely not want societal resources wasted on prolonging our now-useless lives that are almost entirely composed of suffering moments that don’t include one single glimpse much less the infinitely tender touch of the brilliant moral pragmatist — pragmatic moralist? — I should have appreciated and who I secretly dream of providing me with his personal care and support at no cost to the public or to his individual liberty.” SHOW ME ONE TENURED “ARTIST,” SHEILA!

RBPS/T: No projection there.

PS: What’s projection?

What #CripLit Means To Me (and How It Differs From #DisLit)

What #CripLit Means To Me (and how it differs from #DisLit) 1. In #CripLit, at least one main character has a disability and the narrator is aware of its political dimension. 2. In #CripLit, living with a disability can be described through the narrator's point of view, not just the character's, and this can provide stylistic opportunities. 3. In #CripLit, a disabled character can be deeply flawed, unlikable, or foolish, and is not obligated to be an advocate, inspiration, or role model in fictional clothing. 4. In #CripLit, an anti-hero can have a disability that is integrated into their character. 5. In #CripLit, the story does not seek to educate the reader about the mechanics of living with a disability and does seek to describe a fullness of experience, whether wholly or partially imagined. © 2016 talesfromthecripblog.comWhat’s All This About #CripLit? I’ve been writing stories since the 80s and becoming progressively more disabled since 1965. I write what I know but I don’t want to know what I’m writing before I write it. To me, “CripLit” means characters who are disabled and embrace the politics of disability, its ethical and moral dimensions. “And with a little sex!” to quote Sullivan’s Travels. © 2016 talesfromthecripblog.comWithin the broader realm of literature featuring characters with disabilities — #DisLit and memoir — #CripLit presents an understanding of disability using the lens of the social model. It eschews disability as a narrative device and shortcut for conveying sentimentality, heroism, and disaster to readers.

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#CripLit Excerpt from “The Copier God Unleashes the Flood Waters”

Was taking assistance from an aspiring sterilizer of the indigent morally acceptable? Was peeing on his shoes more embarrassing to her or him?

As the West-Hesperidan Free Clinic’s Administrative Manager, Gretchen had met their new neighbor, Randy,  at a house party on Alamo Square one of their donors had thrown the year before. She had been new to representing the clinic at these things and wandered on the edges. The house had been a nightmare for her to get into, a mountain of boxy, tiled steps out front and an over-sized brass banister that was useless. An observant guest, a middle-aged woman, saw her hesitating on the sidewalk and offered an arm. She turned out to be a charge nurse at the university hospital who knew even better than Gretchen how to get a person up some stairs. Gretchen thanked her effusively and filed away the hand-on-elbow, lean-on-forearm technique.

What’s All This About #CripLit? I’ve been writing stories since the 80s and becoming progressively more disabled since 1965. I write what I know but I don’t want to know what I’m writing before I write it. To me, “CripLit” means characters who are disabled and embrace the politics of disability, its ethical and moral dimensions. “And with a little sex!” to quote Sullivan’s Travels. © 2016 talesfromthecripblog.comGretchen had been there for a very long hour when she started to need a bathroom. She asked a man standing alone near the front door who was staring into his glass if he knew where it was. He pointed to a line of people in the hall toward the kitchen.

“Only one,” he said. “I took care of things right away, myself.”

“Great, thanks so much,” Gretchen said, moving away.

He trailed after her, still eyeballing the bottom of his glass with its quarter inch of liquor. She attached herself to the bathroom queue and crossed her arms, resolutely facing away from him.

He — “They call me ‘Randy,'” — became quite chatty now that she had her back to him. Divorced, newly retired, just bought a house nearby. Fantastic investment except for the scum that came with it.

She turned around. “Scum?”

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People With Disabilities to Protest Movie “Me Before You” As “#MeBeforeEuthanasia in Berkeley, CA, Birthplace of the Disability Civil Rights Movement

The only thing “Me Before You” normalizes is a deadly double standard when it comes to suicide prevention and people with disabilities.

People in local cross-disability communities in association with Not Dead Yet(www.notdeadyet.org) are staging a protest at the Berkeley Shattuck Cinemas on Thursday, June 2, 2016, from 6:15PM-7:15PM PT. The purpose of this peaceful demonstration is to oppose the film’s ableist message that people with disabilities are better off dead, and that we are a burden to others. Protesters are organizing across the United States using hashtags such as #MeBeforeEuthanasia, #MeBeforeAbleism, and the film’s unintentionally ironic #LiveBoldly.

“Me Before You” is the latest Hollywood film to grossly misrepresent the lived experience of the majority of disabled people. In the film, a young, white, and wealthy man becomes disabled and falls in love with his “carer,” a young woman who has been hired by his family to cure his suicidal depression with romance.

Despite her opposition, however, the hero does the “honorable” thing by killing himself in Switzerland with the assistance of the pro-euthanasia organPromo image of Me Before You movie. Text: Protest Me Before You! Meet at Berkeley, CA Shattuck Cinemas 6/2, 6:15-7:15PM. "Me Before You is little more than a disability snuff move, giving audiences the message that if you're a disabled person, you're better off dead." #LiveBoldly? We already do! #MeBeforeEuthanasia In assoc with Not Dead Yet USAization Dignitas – leaving his fortune to her so she can move on without the “burden” of a disabled partner. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, “Me Before You” is little more than a disability snuff film, giving audiences the message that if you’re a disabled person, you’re better off dead.

The narrative of “Me Before You” and the leaders of the team who brought it to the screen are perpetuating stereotypes that people with disabilities are still fighting against.

Three of the key damaging messages “Me Before You” advances are:

Disability is ugly. Thea Harrock, the film’s director, has said publicly that she made a calculated decision to not include visuals of the main character, a young, wealthy, white man who has sustained a spinal cord injury, using tools for daily living, such as lifts or hoists because they would make audiences “uncomfortable.”

 Disability = “It doesn’t get better.”Me Before You” denies the fluid nature of living with a disability, in which both levels of disability and adjustment change over time. Conflating one stage on a continuum of living – early post-trauma – with the entire lived experience is an error that a character might understandably make but it is inexcusable for the film to make the same mistake. Imagine if we told young people in the LGBT communities who are traumatized and depressed because of internalized stigma and a world full of homophobic barriers that suicide was a rational response.

Mental health services are not for people with disabilities. In a time when mental health services are undercut by radical losses in funding, “Me Before You” helps argue that they are unnecessary – and useless – interventions for people with disabilities. The conceit that a sexless romance with a pretty girl will in any way address the suicidal depression of a young man who has sustained a life-altering spinal cord injury is as ludicrous as it is harmful.

B/w photo of FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt in an open car. He is doffing a top hat. They are both grinning. Text reads "Fuck "Normal"!“Me Before You” insults audiences by presuming that they cannot handle the realities of disability. By casting an actor who does not have a visible disability, by reducing the complex emotions that come with transitioning to life as a disabled person to unimaginative clichés, and by removing all evidence of the economic and social barriers that people with disabilities battle, the film kills any potential for authentic drama. The director claims the goal of “normalizing” disability without any awareness that “normal” is a freighted concept to people with disabilities. The only thing “Me Before You’ normalizes is a deadly double standard when it comes to suicide prevention and people with disabilities.