Fashion designer Kenneth Cole has agreed to remove a controversial billboard posted on the Henry Hudson Parkway in New York City. The wording of the roadside message implies a link between individuals with mental health disorders and gun violence.
The American Psychiatric Assn. (APA) immediately spoke out against it, as did others, including Doris Schwartz, MA, LCSW-R, chief operating officer of the Mental Health Association of Westchester, who wrote a blog that included seven practical ways to push back against Kenneth Cole. Social media outrage ensued.
In response, on September 10, the Kenneth Cole organization sent an email, which read in part: "In hindsight, we were overly ambitious with our attempt to address two complex issues in a medium designed for brevity, and regret any confusion it has caused. The billboard on the West Side Highway will be replaced…"
Schwartz went on to challenge Kenneth Cole all the more as the association released the news that the billboard was in fact coming down.
“There is no one more courageous than those of us who openly disclose our struggles with a mental health condition and fight to overcome the prejudice and discrimination that accompany a mental health diagnosis,” she said. “I'd love to see Kenneth Cole include one of us in his fall/winter 2015 campaign."
@APAPsychiatric: We are appealing to @mr_kennethcole to remove stigmatizing billboard. Do we have your support? #GiveStigmaTheBoot
@BTdocs: This billboard unfairly links mental illness to violence. Ask @mr_kennethcole to #givestigmatheboot and take it down.
@Videogamehero: This would be great...if it was a billboard about how we need to improve our healthcare
@emilylhauser: This @mr_kennethcole billboard demonizes & dehumanizes a vulnerable community for American society's shared failings
@BluebirdBlvd: Does no good if the billboard is still up, does it? It's foul, statistically incorrect, stigmatizing. and cruel.
@amaditalks: In addition to @mr_kennethcole's billboard being ableist and pandering to stereotypes, it's entirely factually false.
@leilah: Wow. Most people who want to contribute to the fear of mentally ill folks never go so far as to actually put up a billboard.