Autism and changing attitudes about mental health
I really liked how you brought up how autism has been gaining some positive publicity in recent decades. You are so right about that. The APA changing the diagnosis in the DSM 5 that is about to be published reflects the increased amount of awareness regarding exactly what the disorder is, how more prevalent in society it is than previously measured, and how better to diagnose the spectrum. I also think that you are correct about awareness. Most people directly know or know of someone who has been diagnosed as depressed or been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, so they know that it is nothing to fear. Celebrities are ok admitting to having one of these disorders or admitting that they have a child affected. Down’s syndrome has had a similar journey. We now see actors on TV on a regular basis with the syndrome. One might also add homosexuality to this list as well. The number of politicians who have recently changed their stance regarding same-sex marriage and attributing that fact to their personal knowledge of a gay or lesbian friend or family member is a clear indication of this. Awareness has increased acceptability. I am a huge believer that the more contact that individuals have with something, the less they fear it and the more acceptable it becomes.
How can we apply this to schizophrenia? That’s a tough one. Well thought and sensitive depictions in the media might be a good start. I am reminded of Detective Goren on Law & Order: Criminal Intent and the depiction of his schizophrenic mother played by Rita Moreno. Famous individuals starting public campaigns have helped some of the more accepted disorders. Floutie Flakes is a cereal created by Doug Floutie, a popular football player. A large portion of the proceeds goes toward his foundation for autism, founded in honor of his son born with the disorder.
Norman, M., Leight, W. (Writers), Girotti, K. (Director). (2007) Brother’s Keeper [Television Episode]. In Barba, N. (Executive Producer) Law & Order: Criminal Intent. New York, NY: Universal Television