To the editors,

I am writing about your recent article entitled “A Digital Mental Health Revolution –  But for Whom?” Specifically I am writing about this quote:

“’What isn’t happening is somebody saying how do we find people with schizophrenia and keep them from going to jail, or how do we keep those with bipolar out of crisis,’ says Tom Insel, former director of the National Institute for Mental Health and an entrepreneur and advisor in mental health start-ups.”

I would be grateful for a few clarifications:

1. Is the statement referring to homeless people living with schizophrenia? Most people with schizophrenia are not “lost,” nor are they homeless. Of what relevance is this statement to an article focused on mental health apps?

2.   Why was a connection made between schizophrenia and jail? Most people living with schizophrenia are neither in jail nor at risk of going there. Again, what is the relevance to mental health apps? This is not an article on the criminal justice involvement of people with schizophrenia. 

I’ve been living with severe bipolar I disorder with psychosis for over 20 years. I have tremendous empathy for my peers living with schizophrenia who face hurtful and harmful stigma each and every day. Connecting people with mental illness to criminal behavior is stigmatizing. This sort of “unintended” stigma causes people with schizophrenia to deny their illness, stop treatment or not seek treatment. That may result in incarceration for some, but not the majority of people with schizophrenia. 

I largely agree with the contents of your article. I have not read many articles on MindSite News, but I really liked the ones I read previously. I hope you review this quote and consider whether it is stigmatizing and that you’ll consider my feedback constructive, shared in the interest of supporting my serious mental illness community. Our community needs meaningful reporting, and I really did have high hopes for your publication. But we need meaningful reporting that shows zero tolerance for stigmatizing content.

Stigma is stigma – the actual and potential, the intentional and unintentional, the unqualified and qualified. Only when it is viewed as such will we come closer to eradicating it. We must be exceedingly cautious of comments that connect serious mental illness with criminal behavior. 

Stigma is an entrenched enemy which must be confronted aggressively. I was held hostage by stigma for many years – I denied my condition, refused treatment, was non-adherent, was involuntarily hospitalized more than once, was arrested, struggled with suicidal ideation. If not for stigma, I might have reached recovery much sooner. Even in recovery I still struggle with stigma. It’s exhausting. I’m always on the lookout; that’s what stigma and self-stigma does. It is often difficult to imagine stigma being pushed back from among us, but I still have hope. A dear friend recently told me, “hope springs eternal.” I hope my hope will hold on long enough to see that day. 

Katherine Ponte

Proudly living in recovery from severe bipolar I disorder with psychosis