Monday, August 2, 2010

Sonoma County Mental Health Controversy: Lunatic Binge, anyone?

On Saturday I was strolling through downtown Sebastopol with a friend for high school. We were reliving our days at Analy High School and marveling at how much the town has changed since we graduated. As I was walking past the entrance of the Sebastopol Cookie Company, the following poster caught my eye....

I particularly was fascinated by the idea that bathrobes, pajamas, and straight jackets were encouraged. As much as I have always wanted an excuse to wear a straight jacket in public, I think it may be a little difficult to enjoy a diet coke with my arms strapped to my sides.

All sarcasm aside, this event caused quite a stir. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) released a statement that the event reinforced "stereotypes about people suffering serious ailments and should be cancelled." In the end, NAMI and the band Baby Seal Club were able to reach an agreement on the event. The evening of the show a one-person picket line marched out in front of Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol.

On the Baby Seal Club website, the band composed an open letter to NAMI. Here is an excerpt:

"To clarify, what we are presenting is akin to a cartoon using recognizable reference points elevated to illustrate the ludicrousness and absurdities of the stigmas attached to mental illnesses and their treatments. We seek to spoof the stigmas themselves, not to perpetuate them, and certainly not to insult those who suffer from a serious mental illness. We will let the attendees decide for themselves if we have succeeded."

In all honesty, I am a little confused at how an evening of straight jackets, bite-guards, and restraints (according to the band's website), along with calling the event the "Lunatic Binge," does not perpetuate the stigma of mental illness. I am happy that NAMI and the show organizers were able to make peace, but I wonder what, if any, harm was done by allowing this event to take place.

What do you think?


  1. I fail to see how they're going to be mocking anything. They are indeed just perpetuating stereotypes whether that's their purpose or not, and frankly, feigned ignorance is no excuse.

  2. From what I have heard this is going to be an ongoing discussion with NAMI and the band. I will definitely keep you updated on what I find out!