Radio Call-In Alert -Give me your schizophrenics

Thomas Cagle (nh-adapt@juno.com)
Sat, 23 Oct 1999 20:30:01 -0400


MENTAL ILLNESS & VOTER REGISTRATION
RADIO CALL-IN ON MONDAY, OCTOBER 25TH
--------------------------------------

On Monday, October 25th, National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation"
will
broadcast a discussion about voter registration and efforts to mobilize
people
with mental illnesses for the 2000 elections.  Melinda Penkava will host
Ken
Steele of the Mental Health Voter Empowerment Project and another guest.
The show will air live from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. EDT around the country and
will
take listener call-in comments and questions starting at about 2:20 p.m.
The
toll-free telephone number is 1-800-989-8255.

NPR's Website at www.npr.org/programs/totn provides a list of stations
which
carry the show and at what times. In some communities, only the taped
show is
available.

It is urgent that advocates for people with mental illness participate in
the
live call-in portion of the program. After the New York Times published a
front-page story on voter registration efforts in the mental health
community on
October 13, syndicated radio "shock jocks" such as Rush Limbaugh and Don
Imus
have ridiculed them, based on stark ignorance and prejudice. Limbaugh
read a
letter from one fan who declared: "Why shouldn't mental patients vote?
Hell, so
many of them are running for president. They can use absent-minded
ballots
instead of absentee ballots." Newspaper columnist Don Feder with Creators
Syndicate cruelly wrote this past week:

         "Give me your schizophrenics, your paranoids, your manic
         depressives, yearning-for what?  Well, politicians who
         understand "mental health issues" and support "better
         services" (more government spending)=85Just what the republic
         needs, another minority to which politicians can pander
         This is the reductio ad absurdum of democracy-everyone's vote   
         counts [including] the person who not only believes the CIA
         covered up the so-called Roswell landing, but that they were
         on hand to greet the aliens-all stand on an equal footing At
         last, politicians have the support of the peers."

Currently, only eight states have no constitutional restrictions on
people with
mental impairments. Some bar a person from voting if a person is
"mentally
incapacitated" or "incompetent"; others prohibit voting by "idiots,"
"lunatics"
or "the insane" without any specification as to how such conditions are
to be
determined, let alone defined. What  presidential candidates may wish to
note is
that New Hampshire, site of the nation's first primary, is one of the
states
without restrictions.

The right to vote is an essential part of citizenship and an affirmation
of
individual dignity. Mental illness is not synonymous with total or
perpetual
incapacity. Ignorance and prejudice of the kind exhibited by Messrs.
Limbaugh,
Imus and Feder are all the more reason why people with mental illnesses
and
their families need to get involved in the political process and to vote.

Tune in to "Talk of the Nation" on Monday. Call-in between 2:00 and 3:00
p.m.
EDT if you are listening to the live broadcast.  Please also protest the
blatant
prejudice and stigmatization by Don Feder in his column this week and
educate
Creators Syndicate about the realities of mental illness-including the
fact that
it can be successfully treated. Would such a column ever have been
tolerated
about racial or ethnic minorities or people with physical disabilities? 
Write
to Richard S. Newcombe, President, Creators Syndicate, Suite 700, 5777
West
Century Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90045; phone 310-337-7003; fax
310-337-7625. Send a copy to Mr. Feder at the same address.

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