A Response to Charrisse Jackson-Jordan's Schizophrenia Joke


I am a wife, a mother, a former teacher, a writer and, like a lot of people on this planet, I occasionally watch reality television shows. I’ve cut back in the past year on all of the “Real Housewives” shows because I’ve realized they disgust me.

We’re putting narcissistic, self-centered bullies on our television sets for all the world to see. These are women our teenage daughters may be looking up to as
role models, and they rarely set good examples.

I was flipping through channels the other night and saw the re-run of “The Real Housewives of Potomac” reunion, so I stopped and watched for about 10 minutes. When the women were questioning Charrisse Jackson-Jordan about her life and what was going on with her husband she became uncomfortable and stumbled over her words, jumping from one thought to another. She suddenly said, “I am schizophrenic,” and everyone laughed.

Everyone laughed because she said “I am schizophrenic.”

Why is schizophrenia funny?

Why use the word “schizophrenic” as an adjective to describe your muddled thinking?

Schizophrenia is an illness people live with, but it does not define who they are.

Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. — 43.8 million, or 18.5 percent—experiences mental illness in a given year.

One in five. How many women are on “The Real Housewives of Potomac”?

Andy Cohen, as the moderator or mediator or just the presenter of this show, I believe it is your duty to speak up when an ignorant woman says something offensive. You should be setting an example for the vast amount of
people who watch your show.

Stigma is one of the main reasons people with a mental illness do not get the help they need.

What is stigma? Stereotyping, labels, bullying, discrimination.

What happens when people with a mental illness don’t get medical
treatment?

  • Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the
    U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.
  • Adults in the U.S. living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others, largely due to treatable medical conditions.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., the third leading cause of death for people aged 10–24 and the second leading cause of death for
    people aged 15–24.
  • More than 90 percent of children who die by suicide have a mental
    health condition.

Mental health conditions are often treatable medical conditions. When people don’t get the medical attention they need, they suffer, their families suffer and the trickle-down effect of this suffering can reach into communities.

How do we eliminate stigma? We stand up and speak out for those who can’t. We are strong and take action to reduce stigma.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness we should:

  • Talk about mental health with friends and family
  • Share linksto resources on social media
  • Not bully, stereotype or label others
  • Call people out if they use stigmatizing language

If we stop discriminating against those who live with a mental health condition, those who need medical attention may ask for it.

If we stop bullying those who live with a mental health condition, they can feel safe and want to seek help.

If we stop stereotyping those who live with a mental health condition, maybe they won’t feel alone and ashamed.

A mental health condition is an illness. It is time to start treating it like any other illness.

According to Dr. Martin Luther King, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Now is the time of challenge and controversy. Now is the time to stand up and speak out. Only when we speak openly and honestly about mental illness will those in need receive the hope, help, and medical care they deserve.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a scene or line from a movie that’s stuck with you through your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


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