The Case of Blue October
Many readers wrote us letters and commented online about "Little Boy Blue," by John Lomax, June 3, 2010:
Interesting: Well-researched, well-written article. I would in general rather stab my own eyes out than listen to Blue October, but if it were my cup of tea, I'd be thinking twice about spending any money on anything they're selling.
Disheartening: I am writing regarding your recent article "Little Boy Blue" about Justin Furstenfeld of Blue October. As a mother of two children who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (their father has the disorder as well), I am disheartened to see an article perpetuating myths and stereotypes regarding mental illness.
Lomax asked to see proof of Furstenfeld's mental illness in the form of a pill bottle. Ah, if only it were that simple. The signs, symptoms and ailments of bipolar disorder are mind-boggling in their numbers and variance. It often takes years for a correct diagnosis. The medications do not read "Bipolar pill: take two and feel normal in the morning," nor do all patients with bipolar disorder take the same medications. It is, unfortunately, rather common for uninformed people to dismiss the symptoms of this disorder as drama. I am sure I made the same mistake prior to educating myself.
It is especially upsetting to see this article imply many times that Justin Furstenfeld could not have bipolar disorder because he was a "very popular, happy-go-lucky, somewhat athletic ladies' man" in junior high. My children with bipolar disorder are very popular, well liked, talented and intelligent. Their father was extremely popular in junior high and high school. My son is a very talented musician and actor. My daughter is a top student, great athlete and all-around overachiever. Must they all be lying in a ditch somewhere, drooling and speaking nonsense, in order to have a mental illness?
Lomax seems to say the erratic and inconsistent behavior which is a symptom of bipolar disorder could only be explained by one of two things: a terrible childhood or a conniving attempt at deceit for personal gain. It is quite damaging to insinuate that people "develop" mental illness because they had "bad parents." Bipolar disorder is a biological illness. Situations can trigger symptoms, yes. The illness itself is a chemical imbalance in the brain.
I was further appalled to see "evidence" in the form of a quote from a letter stating that musician Elliott Smith had "actually killed himself," but Justin had not. Wow. This ludicrous statement is astoundingly detrimental to all of those who have been so deep in despair as to contemplate taking their own lives. This is precisely what the Pick Up the Phone Tour and Justin Furstenfeld are trying to raise awareness about.
Articles and individuals such as this only make it more difficult to help, treat and understand those suffering from bipolar disorder, depression and other mental illnesses. If I told you I had survived breast cancer, would you ask me to lift my shirt?
Question answered: This Furstenfeld guy sure sounds like a fraud to me. If all it would take to shut up some reporter and really make him look like an idiot was some documentation, you can bet I would produce it in about three seconds flat. The fact that this guy and the band's management continue to dodge that very simple request and try to vilify the reporter tells you pretty much everything you need to know about whether he is a phony or not.
Wrong story: Regardless of Furstenfeld's actual mental state, I think your reporter spent too much time detailing his spat with the singer and not enough describing the harms of fabricating mental illness. Affecting a mental illness for personal gain is wrong because it belittles and exploits people who struggle with the daily limitations of mental illness and must deal with the repercussions of suicide attempts, psychotic breaks and other crises. The story here is not the clash of egos, but real people who are really hurting.
Shocked and appalled: I have been an avid reader of this paper for a great many years, and although I have disagreed with some of the articles in the past, none have offended me to this degree.
Does taking pills make it okay to say you are mentally ill? Because I know of people who are mentally ill and cannot afford or cannot receive care for their illness. Does that make them less ill? And for the ones who find comfort in something life has to offer, like Justin, and can function as a mentally ill patient, does that discount the fact that they are still ill?
If I were you, I would reconsider Lomax having anything to do with your editorial output. Maybe give him a job in the mail room.
Awesome article: If you're in the public spotlight and make claims about yourself, regardless of what they are, you better be able to back them up in a factual way. If you don't, you're opening yourself up to justified scrutiny and criticism. John Lomax, 1. Justin Furstenfeld, 0.
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Staffer Chris Vogel honored in two national contests for juveniles in jail investigation
Houston Press staff writer Chris Vogel is one of two reporters receiving honorable mention runner-up awards in the third annual MOLLY National Journalism Prize contest named in honor of the late Texas journalism legend Molly Ivins.
Presented by the Texas Observer, the award went to Vogel for his story "For Their Own Good," which detailed how juvenile offenders certified as adults in Harris County spend weeks and months in solitary confinement waiting for trial.
Vogel was also named a finalist in the Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism national competition for the same story. The Casey Medals honor "exemplary reporting on children and families."