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Beautiful Distress was founded on the concept that there is a great deal of mental suffering, that not enough people are aware of this and that not enough is done to stop it.

The Foundation uses art in an attempt to open up the world of psychiatry and battle the stigma attached to it.

Why art? Beautiful Distress believes that art is pre-eminently capable of articulating and depicting the human condition

RELAY COLUMN NO 3 - Celebrate the differences!

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RELAY COLUMN NO 3 - Celebrate the differences!

Stichting Beautiful Distress

You are… okay. You are safe and you are… okay’ - image by Marijn Ottenhof 2015

One of the objectives of Beautiful Distress is to fight stigma. Therefore, from now on, we will publish a regular column about stigma on our site. Read the third contribution by AnnePauline Cohen, psychiatrist in Utrecht. 

Celebrate the differences!

Which management guru doesn’t currently recommend businesses to take women on in every echelon? The thought process behind this: too many grey men in uniformed suits causing too much biased input and thus undermining the company’ s competitive position… Are we really searching for diversity? I doubt it.

If our loved ones aren’t “average” then compassion increases with the difference. At the same time, outrage increases if 'the other one’ is excluded: “that’s not fair!”

For example, this happens if you have a mentally handicapped brother. Or if a good friend with a brain injury due to a car accident can’t participate as well as she used to. Or at a busy birthday party if our autistic nephew has a temper tantrum.

And yet: how tolerant are we? Do we really make allowances for differences? We know all too well how disappointing that can be.

The movement for neurodiversity calls for appreciation of the differences that exist in the brain -and thus in behaviour- of people. A large part of these differences we find self- apparent. One is shy, the other bold. On the Mental Health Foundation website the term neurodiversity is described as: ' mental disorders are part of the variation between people. Of course disorders bring disadvantages, but they don’ t make life worthless or pointless. '

Go to the cinema and watch the Oscar nominated documentary ' Life, animated '. This is a penetrating, perhaps a little too overpowering American style, insight into what it means to live with an autistic condition. The film creeps into the bewildered heads of the parents and brother of a young boy, unreachable in his world. The only thing that a fun family experience is to watch Disney movies together. Only when the father, after some time, comes up with the bright idea to connect with his child through a Disney-soft toy, does the long and arduous journey out of his isolation begin. Walt Disney as a therapist!

The filming of this true story, chronicled by the father, ends with the adult son’s departure from home. And with his speech at the Professionals Healthcare Congress, in which he calls for his fellow sufferers and himself to be seen as fellow human beings.

The in 1980 born Amanda Baggs also lives with autism. She experiences serious problems with it. Her opinion is as follows:

' It is about who we are, not what we are missing. It is a fact that we are seen as people with whom things have been taken away, as arid, barren plains. However is it not true that we are closed off from the wealth that life has to offer. The fullness that we experience is not a romantic idea or a rehash of what others experience. The fullness of life is there for everyone. And that wealth experience is not dependant on whether we are autistic or not. '

So: celebrate the differences and recognize them, show compassion and respect everyone's own way in life.

Utrecht,
AnnePauline Cohen,
child and adolescent psychiatrist

The following column will be written by Flory Banerjee