Are famous role models helpful?

Do you ever wonder whether those references to famous people with disabilities really are helpful? Do they actually inspire people with disabilities to achieve more? As I’ve often noted on LD Blog, it’s really common in the world of learning disabilities to tell children about the high-flying people with dyslexia for example. It also happens in the world of EBD.

Well, Mark Brown, who knows a thing or two about mental health issues, published a provocative question in the BBC Website’s Ouch blog 13 May 2013: “Do famous role models help or hinder?” Here are his first paragraphs to whet your appetite:

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week – cue the annual round of lists of “inspirational” public figures. But do famous role models actually make a difference?

If you’re a person who experiences mental health difficulties, as I do, you’ll be familiar with an oft-quoted list of inspirational fellow travellers, such as Winston Churchill and his famous “black dog” or national treasure Stephen Fry and his bipolar disorder.

The media retains a fondness for presenting exceptional disabled people as inspirational.

Mr. Brown, founder of One in Four, a United Kingdom magazine that challenges stigma about about mental illness and promotes efforts for folks with disabilities to participate in gainful ways in society, draws on his experience and basic common sense to make his argument. He laments, for example, the fact that often people without disabilities are the ones who chose the role models for those with disabilities.

Read Mr. Brown’s column, “Do famous role models help or hinder?” and learn more about One in Four.

Also, for general disability interest, check on Ouch; it’s only a month old, but it could become pretty cool.

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