I am proud of all the brave individuals who help stamp out stigma by going public with the details of their mental health challenges. However, lately I’ve been tormented by the strangest hypothetical scenario. What would happen to the most popular mental illnesses if everyone simply shed their embarrassment and shame, opting out of quiet suffering in favor of actively seeking out qualified help at the first sign of trouble?
The potential impact on emotional damage resulting from mental illness would be incalculable, leaving behind a small army of unemployed bartenders, phlebotomists, drug dealers, psychiatrists, bookies, self-help gurus, pharmacists, escorts, acupuncturists, and life coaches. One man’s meat, as the old saying quite possibly goes, is another man’s foul; and in the land of unintended consequences no good deed to a model home goes unpunished.
In the interests of clarity, I digress. It may surprise me to tell you that the military was not always voluntary, indeed, young men were arbitrarily entered into a draft and called upon to serve whatever global mischief the government was indulging in at the time. Those who refused were given three options, jail, Canadian citizenship, or conversion to Quakerism – (sometimes known by the more formal handle – Society Of Friends). Faced with such horrific alternatives, even the most weak-kneed raw recruit begged for immediate transfer to Paris Island.
Back then the military did not need to advertise the way it does now. With the arrival of an all-volunteer army came a brand new form of advertising. In a mad scramble for America’s youth, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and the really creepy military branch we’re not supposed to know about – whoops – outdid each other with ludicrous and disingenuous promises of advanced degrees, travel to exotic vacation spots, all night poker games, and retirement packages so lavish they would bring a blush to the cheeks of even the most avaricious and bloodthirsty Fortune 500 CEO.
And so, he said, arriving at last at his point, I wondered what it would be like if mental illnesses became so unpopular they had to advertise. Then I imagined ad campaigns with headlines like these:
Bipolar Disorder: See How The Other Half – Of You – Lives
Odds Are You’ll Fall In Love With Compulsive Gambling
People Can’t Stop Talking About Tourette’s Syndrome
Discover Narcissism – You’ll Find It’s Everything I Thought It Would Be!
Depression! Expect The Worst And You’re Never Disappointed
Come to think of it, might be nice to see these hideous monsters go begging for a change.