Just Isn't SoIt's unfortunate that The Sun's coverage of...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

November 15, 1993

Just Isn't So

It's unfortunate that The Sun's coverage of the recent community psychiatry conference in Baltimore was limited to E. Fuller Torrey's Oct. 13 diatribe on "controlling" individuals with mental illness.

As reported by Michael Ollove, Dr. Torrey's remarks only reinforce the stereotype that people with mental illness are typically violent, when study after study and the daily experience of those working in the field say this just isn't so.

If there is a defining characteristic of even the most severe and persistent mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, it is disability and not violence.

These illnesses cause withdrawal, apathy, vulnerability to stress and difficulty in performing routine tasks of living.

Their disabling effects are often magnified by poverty, social isolation and outright public discrimination.

The capacity of people with psychiatric disabilities to overcome such obstacles is an even more significant characteristic.

Today in Maryland thousands of men and women who not long ago would be confined to locked institutions are living in the community with the support of a variety of treatment and rehabilitation programs.

Many are working in paid employment and becoming taxpayers. All are striving toward independence and productivity.

The real story here is not only one of vastly improved mental health services but of hope, courage and the ability of the human spirit to persevere.

It's a story The Sun and certain mental health professionals too often ignore.

Herbert S. Cromwell Jr.

Catonsville

The writer is executive director, Maryland Association of Psychiatric Support Services.

What To Read at College Park

A note about Mike Littwin's Nov. 3 column, "Diamondback flap is about race, not First Amendment": One would assume he knew that there are two black bi-weeklies, the Black Explosion and the Eclipse; a monthly publication for Jewish students called Mitpeh and the Asian Voice.

Students who have not been pleased with coverage of their concerns did what they are able to do as Americans, start their own publications.

It is also interesting to note that one of your own reporters, Ivan Penn, who was an editor with the Diamondback in 1990-91, and who is black, said that he didn't join the paper until he was a sophomore because it was suppose to have been racist. ''When I went up there, I found a lot more opportunity than I expected.''

Perhaps in a future column, Mr. Littwin can explore how well these ''alternative'' publications address the needs and concerns of white students. He might find then that the problem is not a First Amendment concern nor a racist threat. It was simply an irresponsible response to a perceived problem.

Danny DevIne

Crofton

____________

Mike Littwin may be right to say the Diamondback flap is not really about freedom of the press. But it is about what that freedom serves: honest communication.

The ability of exchanges to express the nuances of the hostilities between whites and blacks is thwarted today by whites' hypocritical ''political correctness'' and by blacks' going ballistic at the drop of a hat.

Talking about our hostilities toward each other in modulated tones is the only safe way to ease tensions -- tensions which unfortunately end up hurting blacks' welfare more than whites'. Arguably, the items which contribute to the supposedly ''racist'' overtones in campus newspapers in fact may represent a chance for true dialogue.

If such a dialogue is thwarted, or if in it we do not signal precisely what our interlocutors need to understand about our attitudes, whether because we are concealing or because we are over-dramatizing, then communication fails, counterproductive tensions build up and racial progress is stunted.

Ghetto blacks already find themselves trapped beneath a glass bubble originally constructed, to be sure, by white Americans, but now held up in part by blacks' own animadversion to white ways.

In today's world, it has become all too hard for African-Americans -- especially children -- to separate the chance of ''getting ahead'' from the contemptibility of ''acting white.'' It is all too easy for anyone to demonize those whom they are not talking to.

This situation is not likely to improve until real communication begins again, communication such as the races once experienced when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was alive. For blacks to zap the student press at College Park is, even as a protest, stupidly blunt and anti-communicative. Like all inappropriate shouting, it hurts rather than helps.

Eric P. Stewart

Catonsville

____________

The individuals who stole 10,000 issues of The Diamondback said they were doing so because of the racist nature of the newspaper and suggested that instead of reading the papers, the students read a book.

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