On December 3, 2012, TIME.com published a report on the completion of edits to the newest edition of the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The new manual, the DSM-5, is scheduled for publication in May 2013.
John Cloud’s article on the development, titled in part “Redefining Crazy,” is misleading, demeaning, and unprofessional in its presentation of information related to mental health. The title alone is highly stigmatizing, making use of a highly offensive mental health slur with no consideration of its meaning. Referring to people with mental illness as “crazy,” especially in a journalistic or academic context, is unconscionable.
Furthermore, the article makes frequent and vague reference to critics of mental health diagnoses, without balancing these opinions with the evidence that support and validate the diagnoses.
The piece also relies on dismissive and insulting descriptions of the disorders described. According to cloud, binge eating disorder is “eating an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s,” and excoriation and hoarding are “reality show disorders.” Cloud’s attempts at humor are highly inappropriate in this context, and have the potential to be extremely harmful where people struggling with their mental health are already mocked and subjected to stereotypes.
Several readers have commented on the irresponsibility of the article, and have taken their demand for an official apology to petition-building site Change.org, where it has gained 245 signatures to date.
It is my opinion that TIME should issue an apology for this article, and that John Cloud, who has a history of misleading and stigmatizing reporting on mental health, should undergo sensitivity education before being allowed reporting on mental health for the magazine and its website again.
What do you think? Are the petition writers and I being too critical in our reading of the article, or are our criticism warranted?
See the petition here: http://www.change.org/petitions/time-magazine-apologize-for-the-article-redefining-crazy