Petiton to Google Inc. for stronger effort to connect users to mental health resources

Sign the following petition HERE.

Active Minds at Ithaca College is petitioning Google Inc. for a greater and more prominent inclusion of mental health resources upon searching potentially harmful terms.  There are three main components to our appeal, all of which we believe are essential in protecting the mental health of Google’s vast body of users.

1. On, a microblogging platform and social networking website, when users search for potentially harmful terms such as “suicide,” and “pro-ana,” the screen fades, still displaying search results behind it, and a dialog box emerges offering various mental health resources available for those who may be interested or in need.  The window reads, “If you or someone you know is dealing with an eating disorder, self harm issues, or suicidal thoughts, please visit our Counseling & Prevention Resources page for a list of services that may be able to help.”  It then requires the user to select “dismiss” before continuing to their results.  This system offers people potentially in need resources that could be beneficial to them or even save their life, while still maintaining a level of transparency over search results for lack of censorship.   While we understand the Google already provides a hotline for the “suicide” search, we believe the alternate system described would be most beneficial.  We would like Google Inc. to implement this, or a system resembling it, to their search results for the benefit of its users.

2. The search result window, along with “dismiss,” includes a “Tell me more” option.

If you choose the latter, you are brought to a page of Counseling and Prevention Resources.  This is a relatively expansive list of free and confidential resources organized by country.  This is a page we would like to see Google incorporate, and have available to anyone who might be struggling with various mental health issues.

3. Google Inc. will need a list of potentially triggering search terms to implement the prior two suggestions.  The following is a list of these search terms, and we encourage readers to include their own in the comment section (click “more” to view list; general trigger warning):

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Open Letter to Sinéad O’Connor

Dear Sinéad O’Connor,
I am writing, of course, in response to your highly-publicized communication with Miley Cyrus. I assume that your intention in contacting Cyrus was not to spark a celebrity feud to be weighed in on by tabloids and bloggers, there’s really no putting the toothpaste back in that tube, so I hope you don’t mind if I join the conversation.

You’re coming from the right place, Ms. O’Connor. You’re coming from an informed, well-meaning, enlightened place. You reached out to a young artist who was in a position you recognized as dangerous and offered your experience as a means of reaching her with advice that you saw as important. I sincerely believe that Miley Cyrus’ choice to use nudity and sexualized imagery in her work is her own, and is her genuine self-expression, but I applaud you for respectfully bringing your concerns to her.

When your letter was met with rudeness and mockery, you did something else for which I applaud you: you boldly called Cyrus out on ridiculing celebrities who have lived with mental health struggles, and demanded an apology. You spoke up for yourself and others whose mental health difficulties have been exacerbated by taking place in the public eye. You called her irresponsible, and you very plainly informed her that “Mockery causes death.” Your strong stance against mental health stigma is appreciated.

However, I take some issue with the way you expressed yourself to Cyrus. The following passages from your second and third letters, respectively, were profoundly hypocritical, and detract heavily from your argument:

“You will yourself one day suffer such illness, that is without doubt. The course you have set yourself upon can only end in that, trust me.”
“When you end up in the psych ward or rehab I’ll be happy to visit you.. and would not lower myself to mock you.”

How does it serve you to chidingly predict that Cyrus will become ill and be hospitalized? These comments, to me, read as just as offensive as Cyrus’ comments to you. Your letter simultaneously castigates Miley Cyrus for not taking mental health seriously while attacking her own, despite your having no knowledge of her actual health situation. To threateningly use an ill-informed guess at a person’s future mental health (something you have no authority, or right, to do) as you did is a sign that you’ve let your emotions get in the way of forming a composed, level-headed response to Cyrus.

Furthermore, I feel that to repeatedly call Cyrus “anti-female” is a harsh characterization, and demonstrates a limiting and closed-minded perception of what it means to be female. Amanda Palmer has already written to you on this topic much more eloquently than I am equipped to, but I feel it necessary to express that I wholeheartedly stand with her on a woman’s right to be in control of her own sexuality.

That said, I thank you for being a true and genuine advocate for mental health. Thank you for using your voice and your respected (albeit controversial) place in the culture to speak out for people who are often made to feel afraid to speak for themselves. As a fellow advocate, however, I ask that you please take more care in the future to speak with fairness so that your valuable perspectives about mental health stigma can make the impact they deserve to.

Best wishes,
Jared Wolf

Open Letter to Wayne LaPierre

Mr. Wayne LaPierre:

I am writing to express my astonishment and disgust toward your words in today’s NRA press conference. While I, like hundreds of millions of others, share your sense of grief and confusion in these days following the tragedy in Newtown, I am especially concerned and hurt by the insensitive, dehumanizing, and altogether toxic language you used in your commentary today.

In the year since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I’ve become very active as an advocate for mental health issues. Many of my friends have mental health diagnoses, and I’ve seen firsthand the variety of ways that mental illness affects people’s lives. As difficult as these health struggles have been for so many of us, the greatest challenge that many of us face is stigma.

Stigma is social disapproval that results in fear, shame, silence, and prejudice. People with mental illness face stigma every day. We are thought of, and treated as, violent, inferior, and fodder for mockery. Perceptions like this come from miseducation, generations of socialization, and simple assumption.

In your statement today, you lamented that the federal government has yet to a comprehensive database of people with mental illness. This is necessary, you implied, so that we can know who the “killers” are.

The problem with your suggestion, Mr. LaPierre, is that we live in a society where people with mental illness are often already marginalized and made to feel ‘different.’ The vast majority of people with mental illness are fully capable of living full and successful lives, but that fact is lost on people like yourself who truly see us as Different. Loss of self-esteem and social isolation, both of which are already a part of life with mental illness, result directly from the stigma. More dangerously, stigma leads to reluctance to seek treatment.

Furthermore, mental illness, like any other illness or health condition, is not a character flaw. It is not a personal failure. It is not something that one brings upon oneself. To place someone on a database of potential “killers,” likely holding that person back from acquiring a job, adopting a child, or living a comfortable life, because a health condition beyond that person’s control is unconscionable. What you are suggesting would threaten to needlessly ruin the lives of tens of thousands.

Not once in your statement did you mention the need for treatment and support for people with mental illness. Rather, you called us “killers,” when we’re more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators. You used words like “monsters,” “deranged,” and “evil,” words that dehumanize and demean, words with unfortunate and long-reaching cultural associations with mental illness. These are words that oppress, and they hold back progress.

I’m not asking you for an apology, or even a response. I only hope that you consider this letter the next time you publicly discuss issues of mental health.

Jared Wolf

(To readers: the full transcript of LaPierre’s statement is currently on