Stand tall, stand together. You have a chronic disease. That's what the meme is for those with mental illness. For years, influential Patrick Kennedy has been in the front lines of positioning this condition, which long carried a stigma, as a disease just like diabetes. He even won the battle that insurance companies reimburse the cost of treatment on parity with other diseases.
Then Jesse Jackson, Jr. comes along. He could undo so much of the progress that has happened in the field of mental disease. At first we were sympathetic that this son of a powerful symbol of civil rights had a breakdown. Now we wonder if he leveraged mental illness to lower the heat of the federal investigation about how he used his campaign funds. Most recently we learn that he might return to the Mayo Clinic to escape the hounding of the media. Is he using a treatment facility as a kind of hideout from life? And should that treatment center allow him to do that?
This is unfortunate. The mentally ill were just beginning to feel that they were one among many, not apart from. Next week a director of a documentary on one type of psychiatric disorder is coming to New Haven, Connecticut to interview me and shoot some B roll of my apartment. I agreed to participate, with my identity masked, in order to further bring this garden-variety disease out of the closet. While I'm consulting with the director, perhaps both of us will have a bad taste in our mouth about Jesse Jackson, Jr.