Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What's What Wednesday: Public Pathology

Photo from
I generally ignore celebrity gossip and can hardly believe that the name of a celebrity is going to appear on my blog, but here we go.

Charlie Sheen.


And no, I'm not talking about his recent antics, although they could easily be termed 'ridiculous', I'm talking about the media circus surrounding him and the perceived entertainment value of exploiting what is pretty clearly a mental health crisis.

I'm not going to join the flurry of psych-related bloggers attempting to diagnose him based on television interviews and calls into radio shows. I'm not qualified to make mental health diagnoses beyond those related to substance use problems, and even if I were, I certainly wouldn't be comfortable making them based on a few snippets of video or audio. Maybe he's bipolar, maybe he's not, but the level of grandiosity and narcissism he's displaying are clearly indicative of some level of pathology.

And that's...funny?

No, I don't think so.

I've never been a fan of Charlie Sheen. He reminds me all too much of someone who I won't go into detail about here, and I haven't much cared for the misogynist characters he tends to play. Still, it makes my blood boil to witness people pointing and laughing at someone having a public mental meltdown. It infuriates me that various 'entertainment' media outlets are profiting by exploiting someone in the midst of a mental health crisis, whether or not that person realizes it at the moment.

There is already so much stigma associated with mental health issues, and the media frenzy surrounding this situation does not help. Mental health issues are not a joke, nor a punchline, nor entertainment. They are serious matters requiring professional attention. If someone I loved were behaving in the manner Charlie Sheen has as of late, I wouldn't be pointing and laughing, I'd be doing everything in my power to encourage that person to seek the help he or she so desperately needed.

Mental Illness is no laughing matter, and it knows no boundaries of race, class, gender, or celebrity status.

What does this have to with my wee little mommy blog? I suppose it serves as a reminder of the importance of modeling compassion toward all human beings. Even human beings who are acting strangely. Even human beings who I don't particularly care for. Even celebrities with entitlement complexes. No one deserves to be mocked or exploited in the midst of a mental breakdown. No one.

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  1. Here, here. Or is it hear, hear. I hear this and agree whole-heartedly. Awesome that you put it out there. The stigma associated with mental illness is so insidious and pervasive. It prevents treatment in many cases.

  2. Great blog - love your posts! I found you on Blogfarm and am following your site.
    Regards, Mari

  3. Wow, I really agree with you. I can't believe how much attention he's getting. I never have time to watch anything but even I've seen enough to feel very concerned.
    I'm afraid he's just too rich to hit bottom in the way that seems to save some people.
    I think it was nearly criminal or at least not humane to let him work in the condition he's been in. I do watch the show on after his and saw just a moment... it was like watching someone dying in front of my eyes while everyone pretended not to notice.
    This is a tragedy all the way around.
    Gee, I had no idea I had anything to say about this.
    Thanks for letting me get it out of my head!

  4. I find it difficult to muster up sympathy for someone who has profited not only from the limelight, but has made domestic abuse and misogyny part of his public persona and has managed to make it acceptable.

  5. I agree with you too, although I would like to lend some perspective. My dad is a long time recovering alcoholic/addict (39 years now, I think?), and within his community there is a lot of talk and making fun of Charlie Sheen (they all believe he's a horrible addict and needs treatment). I used to feel really appalled by their humor when I was young. They would laugh at all these horrible situations with really sick people, and I just thought they were cold. But the fact is, they lose their friends all the time. More people lose from the disease than win. And they watch it, and go to funerals all the time, and they come together in this community and laugh... and it hit me. They laugh because it's a baffling thing, this disease, and it's everywhere and horrible and painful, and you have to laugh. If you don't laugh, you can't help. At least, that's how I've come to understand it.

    We spend a lot of time feeling really hopeless and discouraged about the state of the world, but we also inevitably end up laughing with our friends about very real and tragic things because we just... need to.

    I'm not trying to make light of his situation. He needs help. People shouldn't be laughing how they are and turning it into this big spectacle, and the media is ruthless and cruel. So really, I'm with you. But laughing isn't necessarily proof that people aren't compassionate.

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