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I would like to express my respect for Allison Kent '99 and commend her courage for her letter "Mentally Ill Students Marginalized and Trivialized" (Oct. 12). Hopefully, any disrespect Ms. Kent has encountered at Harvard is the result of ignorance rather than bigotry. Education is the key, and letters such as hers can overcome ignorance.
Now take a look at that editorial page again. David W. Brown refers to Christopher Columbus as a "genocidal madman" (Dartboard, Oct. 12). Columbus massacred Arawaks because of his societal and personal beliefs, not because of mental illness. The term "mad" (not a medical term, but a common expression for "mentally ill") is arbitrarily applied to a variety of criminals, from terrorists to tyrants. This stigmatizes mental illness and inhibits our understanding of the individual's motivation. Many people would rather not believe that sane people can and do commit heinous acts. The majority of the mentally ill, as with most populations, are not dangerous to others.
In 80 percent of cases, mental disorders can be successfully treated. Often, the condition is not obvious and is known only to a few close relatives or friends, especially if a person is in recovery. It's entirely possible that a roommate or friend takes Zoloft or Prozac to control depression. My girlfriend does. It's also possible somebody you know takes Ventalin or Aerobid for asthma. When's the last time you heard a Ventalin joke? Mental illness is a disease, not a disgrace. Remember that. Tab>--Pete O'Connor '98
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