I want to tell you that for a long time now every time “The Climb” has come on the radio in my car and my daughter is with me we sing the song together at the top of our lungs, but we will no longer be doing this. This is not because you wiggle waggled your tush on stage. While I have opinions about that, I really don’t care what you do when it comes to your career. I understand many young girls look up to you as a role model, my own daughter included, but I am also her role model and we can use all of that as teaching moments to have long discussions on self-respect and body image. Your fame will come and go. I will be her role model well beyond the time when your light has faded.
This is not about my daughter, though. This is about my son’s life. While watching the news, recently, because I was interested in knowing more about what is going on with the government shutdown than anything you were doing, I did see a most disturbing clip. The news program made brief mention of your Twitter back and forth with Sinead O’Connor and while the government shutdown is way more important than anything you do with your career, nothing is more important than my son’s life. My son has had struggles with mental illness, so I was really saddened to see your Tweet mocking Sinead O’Connor and Amanda Bynes’s struggles with mental illness flash on the screen. I know the actual argument is between you and them, but with all the people you are connected with and with all those young fans who follow you, I find it irresponsible and cruel that you perpetuate this idea that mental illness is something that can be made fun of.
I am here to tell you it is not something to be made fun of. As the mother of a child who has suffered through mental illness and come out the other side, I have to speak out and take a stand. Mental illness is heartbreaking. It is the most devastating thing in the world to see someone you love spiral so deeply into such a void and know there is nothing you can do to help him. What’s even more devastating is that people don’t accept the illness as an illness, and people feel the need to either mock that person or leave him or her out in the cold. Your comments carelessly perpetuate those heinous notions. Instead of judging Amanda Bynes or Sinead O’Connor, with your voice you could be changing the way people think about mental illness for the good. You could be extending a hand to either of these women, showing them compassion rather than spitting at them. After all, I read Sinead’s letter, and she actually complemented your talent and was merely sending you a warning, because she knows the music business and sees it for what it is. Still, that’s neither here no there in this letter.
What has come of this for me is that I will not buy your records. I will not encourage anyone I know to buy them, not because of your creative choices, but because of your irresponsible remarks. You have no obligation to anyone. I understand that. I am just one little old person, a nobody who is probably not much of anything to you. I understand that, but I can’t have this forum, however meager it is, and not make a stand. I can’t, knowing first hand how heartbreaking it is to see people judge someone you love for having an illness he did not “decide” to get, sit by and listen to someone be so crass and so insensitive. So, when I hear “The Climb” on the radio in the car the next time (a song I ironically found to be a very inspiring message for my daughter), or any of your other songs, I will turn the station. I know that won’t make a mark on your record sales or even be anything for you to bat an eye at, but art is about making people think. Art is about inspiring people and moving people. I supposed you moved a lot of people in some way. Now, you have a huge forum. What is that saying? “With great power comes great responsibility.” I may be small, but I have great power. It is my responsibility for both my children to banish you from my listening devices. Consider yourself banished.
NOTE: My son gave me permission long ago to speak openly about mental illness, especially if it is to crusade against the ignorant attitudes that continue to diminish the very real struggles that define mental illness.