Friday, 1 August 2014

Differing Perspectives: The Neurotypical Advantage (Privilege Checklist Included)

The baseline (what people take for granted) for most people is an advantage (also known as a privilege sociologically) in the perspective of those who aren't able to experience those same baseline advantages. It's not a level playing field and there's a greater likelihood that a neurotypical (not mentally disabled) individual has an upper hand on average compared to people like me who have mental issues. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand other people's lives and trying to do so can be a useful thought exercise (think of the saying "put yourself in someone else's shoes").

Further down, I quickly came up with a brief list of advantages that neurotypical people tend to have compared to those like me, who're mentally disabled. So nearly all of the things listed here are things that I've personally experienced during my life so far that neurotypical people typically do not have to deal with. Realize though, that there are also other groups of people out there who are also disadvantaged and that the function of advantage related to being neurotypical does not cover the dynamics experienced by other groups or even all people with mental disabilities. I phrase each statement on the list for the perspective of the neurotypical reader. If it was in my perspective it would state "I do fear being open" opposed to "I do not fear being open" which is used below.

The list could go on much longer but the point is to just demonstrate. Remember, these are generalized contemporaneous statements (pertaining to the present society). It is likely that you can find exceptions to many points on any kind of list talking about advantages. The point is to realize that in a general sense it is more likely you do not experience these as a neurotypical individual. Some of you who're neurotypical will of course have experienced some of the things listed here especially if you face other issues or are disadvantaged in some other way. In which case a different list could be made pertaining to your situation (there are many other lists out there).

  1. I do not fear being open about my mental health (which is a part of who I am) will lead to negative judgement, stigma, being looked down on, or feeling less of value as a human.
  2. I do not feel the pressure to cover up my neurological differences and conform to society which in doing so tends to only ignore the actual problems that I face.
  3. I do not fear that if I come out about my mental health but happen to be advantaged in any way that my advantage will be taken to completely negate my issues. e.g., Being wealthy, white, male, living within the "first world", etc.
  4. I do not fear that my mental health issues will be attributed to being my own fault.
  5. It is less likely that I have to fear that my disabilities will not be taken seriously due to their invisible nature.
  6. I do not fear that my mental health issues will prevent me from holding regular employment let alone from being hired.
  7. I do not fear that I may have a higher chance of losing my place of residence and face the possibility of being homeless and all of the stigma attached to homelessness because of being in a lower income bracket due to not being able to work or hold a position of work as a result of my mental health.
  8. I have a lower chance of having apply for and rely on social support systems like welfare and disability support (good that they exist thought) which themselves carry their own stigma.
  9. Since I have a lower chance of having to rely on social support systems it is likely that I have a greater degree of independence than those with mental issues. e.g., More money, the ability to travel, own and maintain your own residence, etc.
  10. I will not feel looked down upon for my lack of independence due to my mental issues. My "Challenging the Stigma of Living with Your Parents" article.
  11. I do not have to worry about not being able to do simple chores due to my mental disabilities and subsequently, the possibility of being criticized negatively for not having done so.
  12. I do not feel alone in that many of the people I've grown up with live independently while I may not be able to do so.
  13. I do not fear that people will misunderstand my actions due to my mental health issues.
  14. I do not experience social difficulties due to my mental issues.
  15. I do not fear that people will not want to be friends with me because I am not neurotypical.
  16. I do not fear that I am not capable of forming romantic relationships because of my mental health.
  17. I do not fear that people will dismiss my mental health issues by saying "everyone has problems", "straighten up", or "if I can't see them, then they don't exist". - My "Mental Disabilities Exist" video.
  18. I do not have to fear people dismissing mental health as only a trend.
  19. I do not frequently feel excluded, unwanted, like a burden, or that I should even be euthanized due to being a person with mental disabilities in society.
  20. I do not feel the compounded burden of being both a mentally disabled individual and living in a capitalistic society that can be felt as judging my worth and right to live.
  21. It is not as important for me to keep a list of positive thoughts, reasons why I matter, and that I possess the right to live despite my mental disabilities. - My "Positive Thinking" video.
  22. I do not have to fear that people will feel overwhelmed, confused, or not know what to do if I reveal to them that I have mental issues. - My "Responding to Someone's Depression" video.
  23. I do not fear that people will believe I'm not intelligent for being mentally disabled.
  24. I do not fear that my peers at school will judge me for having to take special education classes.
  25. I do not fear that I'll become so self-conscious about taking special education classes that are supposed to help me that I'll cover up my issues, pretend they don't exist, try to overachieve academically to prove to society that I'm competent, and then wonder where the heck I am in the world after I graduate from university with a degree in chemistry and biology. - My experience, "Overcoming Stigma" video.
  26. I do not experience mental health stigma at school that may lead to me dropping out.
  27. I do not have the experience of having been bullied, left out, or intimidated for not being neurotypical in school, the workplace, or elsewhere.
  28. I'm not personally targeted when it comes to the existence of organizations that are against the acknowledgement, diagnosis, treatment, and acceptance of mental health.
  29. I do not fear that people will look at the entire area of mental health as simply a capitalistic game for money and not something that involves real people and real problems. - My "Pharmaceutical Companies and Mental Disabilities" video.
  30. I do not have to fear people who believe that mental health ought to not be diagnosed at a young age. - My "Early Diagnosis is Important" video.
  31. I do not have to fear the potential loss of my position, credibility, or prestige in society if I want to be open about my mental health.
  32. I do not worry that if I happen do something that someone else doesn't agree with they won't use an argument against me that simply targets the fact that I have mental disabilities.
  33. I do not feel like I'm living in a world that wasn't designed for me due to my mental disabilities.
  34. I am comfortable that everyone else is likely much like me neurologically.
  35. I do not feel challenged if my perspective as a person with mental issues happens to differ from those who are neurotypical.
  36. I do not worry that my mental issues may impair my performance at school or at work.
  37. I do not have to worry about paying for expensive medication or treatments which is difficult especially if I am in a low income bracket.
  38. I do not feel so many pressures and fears concerning my existence as a person with mental issues that I'm compelled to write an article discussing it in detail. Not to mention produce a video series about mental health.

So hopefully this has prompted some thought about people's perspectives surrounding mental health and helped shine some more light on the topic.

Run Like Hell

Above is one of the first images in my conceptual photography series called "Run!" that narrates the unquestioning life of a person with type-A personality traits who is only in a hurry to get things done. This particular image is titled "Run Like Hell" and depicts an individual running during an early spring morning. Another series which is related is my "Corporate Series".