Recently I retweeted something on Twitter – questioning whether or not it was true, but also slightly taken aback by the content of the tweet. One user published a tweet stating:
Its Absolutely disgusting that
@USASummerCamp wont accept anyone who has #mentalhealth problems.This is not the way forward #EndTheStigma
Now, I must admit I had a feeling that it was a little out of context, and of course there were parts of the story missing (after all there is a letter limit on tweets!) However, at the same time I felt it right to Retweet as I think this is an example of how social media can both positively and negatively contribute to stigma, and acts of discrimination. I wanted to find out whether this matter was in fact true, because discrimination is horrid, and Twitter offers a fantastic public sphere – aka: a place to do something about it.
I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a professional I am simply someone who has experience of mental illness and wanted this matter justified. I have a past packed with adventurous stuff, like going on camps, doing outdoor activities like climbing, canoeing, archery and all that type of stuff. So, I was a little upset by the possibility that an organisation would deem me unfit to do activities which I have pretty much been doing my whole life. I decided not to jump to any conclusions (as other Twitter users may have), and I questioned whether it was simply to do with travel insurance, or was there more to it. Either way, the issue of stigma was already applicable, retweeting a tweet that condemned the camp for discriminating behaviour, brought the issue into the sphere of other twitter users.
USA Summer Camp were very polite about the matter and in fact contacted me to clear things up. I thought I’d share their reply as I think it’s important to note how quickly things can be taken out of context through social media, also with a topic such as mental health it can quickly become damaging for participants and the organisations involved.
“We hope we can clear any confusion regarding this matter. USA Summer Camp does not discriminate against anyone with mental health issues. We follow a policy that due to the intense environment of camp, we do not wish to put anyone under strain who is still attending counseling and/or on medication. We send many participants each year that have been through mental heath issues and will always continue to do so, evaluating on a case by case basis. We hope this has helped you understand this matter.”
I fully agree with USA Summer Camp‘s approach and policy here.
They are – in the long run – doing the right thing, although yes it may be upsetting to be told that you cannot attend, or participate you have to think, if you had a broken leg in this case you certainly wouldn’t be able to attend the camp. In this particular occasion mental illness is not being discriminated – the camp organisers are simply safeguarding those who may already be struggling, and it’s also worth mentioning that they are not denying the participant the chance to apply again in the future.
As clearly mentioned above, the camp evaluates each individual on a case by case basis. It may be the case that some individuals are unable to attend this year, but they are not being prevented further engagement.
This is simply a matter of confusion and demonstrates the power of a twitter hashtag! I stumbled across this searching #mentalhealth and I’m so thankful that USA Summer Camp cleared things up – and I thought I’d write a little something about it, as I’m sure there are other Twitter users who were confused, and a little angry like me.
I’m sorry if this seems like I’m making a mountain out of a molehill but we must be careful with what we deem to be discrimination, or stigmatising behaviour – especially on the internet as the internet is a very big place – where a lot of things can be taken out of context and retweeted, shared and so forth pretty instantaneously.
This isn’t the fault of USA Summer Camp – and they look amazing might I add!
I had a friend at school who went and worked for one of the American camp companies back in the 90’s as a counsellor for a few summers after we had finished school. He had a few mental health issues but they were fantastic about managing that vs his role as a “soccer” coach.
I think it’s great you cleared this up as I was very surprised to see the more negative tweet given what I knew.
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Thanks for your comment! 🙂 I decided not to jump to any conclusions, but other Twitter users did unfortunately. The camp were so lovely to get in contact with me – so I thought I’d publicly try and clear things up! But it goes to show just how powerful twitter can be – which is quite intimidating!!
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