#AdvocacyMatters: Pleas for change

April 15, 2022 / #AdvocacyMatters

In the midst of crisis – regardless of situation – empathy and understanding are absolutely required for safe, desirable outcomes. Unfortunately, we as a society have been programed by decades of ableism to view physical injury crises and mental health crises in very different ways. Someone amid a mental health crisis far too often falls victim to dangerous, ablest stigmas… in many cases not just delaying the necessary help, but impeding it. At a time when an understanding, open hand of assistance is all somebody may need, they often find a closed fist of injustice.

Late last month statewide media outlets began sharing the story of Angela Bryant, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the Ohio State University. While the factors and nuance surrounding Angela’s situation are complex, her colleagues and community have quickly come to her side in hopes of righting a wrong.

In November of 2020 – and in the grasp of a mental health crisis she hadn’t yet identified – Angela sent a brief, frustrated email to her supervisor that included the words “I resign.” Having recently been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, that email was sent while she was in a manic episode… and went on to upend her life.

Shortly after that episode, Angela was hospitalized. In that time, Angela’s family and friends stayed in contact with the university regarding the situation. When Angela emerged, she learned that the university refused to reinstate her to her former, 10-year tenured position.

"The notion that I would send that kind of email to my employers… When I was with a rational mind, [I was] completely embarrassed and had so much shame, actually, that it was hard therapeutically to get through the shame of that," Angela told Cleveland’s WEWS-TV.

Despite all these factors – and the pleas of Angela’s colleagues – the university has thus far refused to reinstate her to her position. Nobody knows if that position will change, but building awareness and advocacy around situations like Angela’s are the only way to foster a culture and community of understanding about mental health. Because we believe our only path towards a free and equitable society is through this mutual understanding, #AdvocacyMatters in shining a light on these stories along the way.

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