Driving home this evening after a trip to the grocery store, I was listening to the radio — 102.9 The Buzz, a radio station out of Nashville, TN. The two radio hosts were bantering back and forth as radio hosts often do. The initial comment made by the male host was a joking remark about multiple personality disorder. From there, the exchange just got worse as he trivialized both multiple personalities and schizophrenia to announce completely unrelated upcoming concerts.
As I listened to this in disgust, I actually said out loud to myself, “What the fuck?!”
When are people in the public eye going to get it through their thick skulls that careless comments like the ones these radio hosts made tonight are damaging? They’re not only in poor taste but stigmatizing to those of us who suffer from mental illness. Misrepresentation in the media accounts for a large portion of the prejudice and discrimination that lead to negative attitudes about mental illness.
Dissociative identity disorder and schizophrenia aren’t even the same thing which proves the fact that, obviously, these two radio hosts were speaking out of complete ignorance.
Blatantly joking about something that affects so many people — not just the individual who suffers from the illness, but also their families — perpetuates stigma and does nothing to educate the public about illnesses that have devastating consequences on people’s lives. Joking about mental illness trivializes and invalidates their struggles.
Public broadcasters have a responsibility to the public NOT to spread stigma in this way. They have the responsibility to be mindful of their role in our communities to support positive change through rejection of stigmatizing stereotypes of this nature.