“Natasha Tracy is not, in fact, my real name,” wrote the woman we know as, well, Natasha Tracy.
With that sentence, the consumer blogger sparked a firestorm.
Many readers of Tracy’s popular “Breaking Bipolar” blog on HealthyPlace wrote supportive comments about her disclosure that she writes the blog under a pen name to avoid being the target of hate groups and workplace discrimination and to protect the privacy of people (like her parents) whose identities would be inadvertently revealed by identifying herself.
Others condemned her for using a nom de plume.
HealthyPlace – which describes itself as “the largest consumer mental health information website in the US” – ended up issuing a press release in an effort to quell the controversy that erupted after Tracy wrote her revelatory blog, “Losing credibility because of your mental illness” (March 15).
“(T)he controversy continues,” according to the release (“Bipolar disorder blogger for HealthyPlace.com embroiled in controversy,” March 21.) “Moderators must keep some of the comments from public view due to inappropriate language and overreaching anger expressed by comment authors.”
Our sympathies are with the blogger.
For one thing, we routinely publish blogs by outside contributors who request anonymity. These often are authored by consumers. Some write under pen names to avoid discrimination, but others do it because they fear blowback from fellow consumers for supporting court-ordered treatment and the Treatment Advocacy Center.
For another, we know that much stigma is rooted in events and experiences that result when individuals with untreated severe mental illness behave in ways that frighten or hurt others. Effective treatment that reduces the consequences of non-treatment is what will reduce stigma, not the abandonment of pen names.
All of us wish we lived in a society where someone like Tracy could speak out with confidence that her candor wouldn’t come back to haunt her or her loved ones. Until we do, fostering a better understanding of mental illness issues like Tracy does is a public service, regardless of what name she goes by.
Natasha Tracy tweets @natasha_tracy and writes two blogs: “Bipolar Burble,” where she writes “mostly about issues of bipolar disorder, depression, mental health treatments and life with a mental illness” and the “Breaking Bipolar Blog” for HealthyPlace.