Not only is Jameela Jamil ill-equipped to be a mental health advocate, she has shown that she doesn’t care to learn better.
By Candice Alaska
[TW: brief mention of gun violence and murder, sexual violence towards women, and police violence towards disabled BIPOC.]
Ever one to be a part of the discourse, self-described “Feminist-in-Progress” and “bad-at-twitter”-Jameela Jamil recently tweeted a list of what draws men to become “incels” on the heels of a shooting at Plymouth, where a self-proclaimed incel murdered several people.
Jamil’s list, however, included lack of mental health treatment, making the same ableist argument that weaponizes mental health issues to explain all violence in society, an argument which is extremely harmful to people with mental health conditions. Mental health issues are often used to explain and excuse racist violence and all other violence that is actually rooted in discriminatory, oppressive ideologies, and not mental illness.
I responded, citing the fact that mental illness constantly gets scapegoated for violence when other issues are at play.
She replied, blaming misogynistic violence on things like “delusional” thinking and “impaired judgement faculties”:
People with psychosis are extremely marginalised, in large part due to the belief that they’re dangerous, and Jameela casually adds to that belief in front of an audience of over one million strong.
And yet none of this is surprising. Though Jameela claims her platform, I Weigh, is about mental health and frequently lauds herself as a mental health advocate, she has no idea how to handle almost anything that isn’t depression and anxiety. She hardly acknowledges the most heavily marginalised mental health conditions, such as personality disorders, dissociative identity disorder, or even psychotic depression.
Like many other pages on social media platforms, I Weigh is a space that simply caters to palatable, superficial mental health advocacy, spouting aphorisms like, “it’s okay not to be okay” and “struggling doesn’t make you weak”. And, while there’s nothing wrong with these motivational phrases, there is something wrong with claiming to be a mental health advocate when all you ever discuss, apart from eating disorders, are depression and anxiety.
Jamil’s advocacy is largely based on an individualised view of mental health, ignoring the reality that mental health, mental illness, and disability are political and systemic issues. White supremacy, colonialism, capitalism, classism, ableism, and more are major contributors to mental health issues and how they are perceived and treated. It is about far more than stigma and people’s internal shame around their mental health.
For those with conditions, a lot of their suffering doesn’t come from their condition itself, but from systemic and social barriers that harm them and exclude them from society and reduce their quality of life—we see this frequently in the ableism of the schooling system.
But I Weigh constantly reduces the solution to mental health issues to self-care, resilience, counselling, and therapy, over-individualizing what requires collective, revolutionary change. This is unsurprising considering Jameela’s pro-capitalist sentiments, even though capitalism is inherently ableist.
Additionally, the very few times I Weigh does mention any of the more heavily stigmatized conditions, it is often through problematic posts like the one below, which I Weigh ignored all criticism of:
Or this post under which many people protested that they prefer identity-first language (such as “I am bipolar” instead of “I have bipolar”), and that disabled people are allowed to identify however they want:
But her ignorance really came out in her follow-up response:
This is ableism and sanism at their finest.
For one, psychopathy is not a real mental illness. It doesn’t exist in any of the manuals used to diagnose mental health conditions, and the checklist used to diagnose it is so problematic that even its creator regrets making it, as it has been shown as a way to disappear people into the criminal justice system. Additionally, psychopathy and sociopathy are unofficially associated with the mental health condition, Antisocial Personality Disorder, (which usually results from being abused and neglected as a child), and a mental health advocate should be careful of how they use them– but Jameela’s advocacy does not include heavily stigmatized conditions.
It is also absolutely not okay for a mental health advocate to promote such stigmatizing beliefs about psychosis (and her views on psychosis are not new; she has publicly referred to her decision to leave a job as a “psychotic, insane thing”).
Psychosis is one of the most heavily stigmatized of mental health experiences, and the belief that people with psychosis are dangerous contributes to the frequent police murders of people with psychosis, with the majority of victims being Black and brown.
Discrimination in the workplace. Medical discrimination. Psychiatric abuse. There is so much harm that’s done to people with psychosis.
Other responses to Jameela’s tweets included Twitter user, @CaptainLala_:
And Twitter user, @LikeIdTellYou1:
Jameela’s brand of mental health advocacy is her white feminism all over again. It exists for only the most privileged in society and it often contributes to the harm sustained disproportionately by people of colour. She perpetuates stigmas that are racist in origin– as many ableist beliefs were the result of wanting to oppress and police Black and brown people.
Before the Civil Rights Movement, schizophrenia was widely considered a harmless illness, afflicting mostly middle class white women. During the Civil Rights era, Black men became disproportionately diagnosed by psychiatrists with what they termed “protest psychosis”, aka their desire for freedom and equality was pathologized as delusional psychosis. This new association with Black men led to a shift in how schizophrenia and psychosis were viewed, from harmless to dangerous.
What also makes Jameela so harmful is she always weaponises some part of her identity as a shield to avoid accountability. She makes sure to cite here the fact that she herself has mental illness, so you understand that she can’t actually be ableist.
Not only is Jamil ill-equipped to be a mental health advocate, she has shown that she doesn’t care to learn better. Her conversations around mental health are either lightweight and palatable or they harm people with heavily stigmatized conditions. All the while, she continues to position herself as an authority on mental health issues because she posts graphics sometimes that remind us it’s okay not to be okay.
Candice Alaska is a neurodivergent writer, photographer and mental health advocate through her work at www.notokaytt.org, and through working to raise awareness of Borderline Personality Disorder.
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