Thursday, February 03, 2005


This AP story reports that the Vermont Teddy Bear Co. will no longer market its “Crazy For You” teddy bear because several mental-health organizations objected to the bear’s straitjacket and “commitment report.” The groups, which include the Vermont chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, found the theme insensitive and stigmatizing. As I commented before in “We Didn’t Start the Stigma, it is interesting that the "mental-health" lobby gets upset whenever someone outside its ranks accepts the stereotype started and perpetuated by the mental-health profession itself.

A statement issued by Vermont Psychiatric Survivors said, “We believe the Vermont Teddy Bear Company has come to understand the harm caused by creating an image that trivialized the pain of people with severe mental illness, and that reinforced public stereotypes regarding appropriate treatment for such individuals. Its actions to cease production are an affirmation of that understanding” (emphasis added).

But the teddy bear company did not create the image of a straitjacketed mental patient. The mental-health profession did this, first, by physically restraining and imprisoning people diagnosed with fictitious mental illnesses, then by switching to chemical restraints when they were found more effective. The profession reinforces the stereotype every time one of its members asserts that a perpetrator of a terrible crime is not responsible for his actions because he has a mental illness. Discontinuing the "Crazy For You" teddy bear will do nothing to end that stereotype.

As for trivializing pain, when has the mental-health lobby been concerned about the pain inflicted by straitjackets, civil commitment, electroshock, and psychiatric drugs? Aren't we told these are for the good of the patient?

Do those who lodged complaints against the company hope to distract us from the actual culprits? If they really wanted to end the stigma, they would know how to do it: End the "hospitalization" and drugging of people against their will. Separate psychiatry and state. Stop medicalizing what Thomas Szasz calls "problems in living."

Hat tip to Gary McGath.


At 9:25 AM, Blogger Mira de Vries said...

What is a stigma? Merriam-Webster Online calls it: “a mark of shame or discredit.”
We are rightly indignant when public figures call their opponents retarded, autistic, or senile. This is derisive to people who truly have these conditions, and discredits the views of people who don’t.
But what’s shameful about being compared to a Teddy Bear in love? The toy is in poor taste, not because it is stigmatizing, but because it mocks serious infractions of human rights.


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