TTC Posters pt. II

16 Aug

Tonight I spoke on the phone with Joe Burton, the president of Mystery Room Ltd., and I was honestly blown away by our conversation. He apologized right away for the posters on the TTC, and said that while he hadn’t thought about the reaction that people living with mental illness might have to the idea of a “psych ward” escape room, he now totally understood how hurtful it could be.

I feel like it’s so rare for people to genuinely examine why something they’ve done or said is problematic and then offer an apology for it. Like, so damn rare. So I just want to take a minute to recognize how rad Joe Burton is. He is a real, honest-to-goodness solid human being. Thank you, Joe.

Here is the email he sent to the reporter from The Toronto Star, which I found really touching:

Thanks [redacted] for bringing this story to my attention.

I just want to let everyone know, particularly the lady in question, that it was not our intention to offend anybody with the theme name “Psychiatric Ward”.
We were looking for themes/names for our rooms based on pop culture and Hollywood movies (e.g. “Psycho Ward”, 2007).
However, after reading her blog, we can truly understand how someone with mental illness can be really hurt by such a portrayal.
We have renamed the room to “Haunted Hospital” and we will take the following additional actions…
1.We will contact the lady who wrote the blog to explain and apologize.
2.We will contact the TTC and ask them to change the posters.
Joe Burton (President)
Mystery Room Ltd.

Ahhhhhh, I think my little heart might burst. It’s so lovely to have these occasional reminders of how amazing people can be.

Happy weekend, y’all.


24 Responses to “TTC Posters pt. II”

  1. azatty August 16, 2014 at 1:53 am #

    Amazing! And wonderful that you took action and reached out in the first place.

  2. welliswan August 16, 2014 at 1:56 am #

    Yay! It *is* rare, and I’m so impressed.

  3. neighsayer August 16, 2014 at 2:03 am #


    • Andrew Hughes August 16, 2014 at 3:02 am #

      That was really nice of him. Thank-you for posting.

  4. Tempest Rose August 16, 2014 at 3:24 am #

    I am super super happy about this, but for some reason can’t help but squirm at his use of the word “lady.” Wouldn’t “woman” or “person” have sounded more mature and sincere?

  5. Mario Savioni August 16, 2014 at 9:52 am #

    I am not impressed with the political correction of language. I learned this lesson when I reviewed an art show that seemed to present sexualized sculpture. This is not to take away from the beautiful apology. We have to be able not to take things personally, especially if it means we have to stop using certain terms altogether. We are just limiting ourselves as writers. I don’t write to injure. I write to tell the truth. The muse and characters are saying things in my head.

    • Ciara Raven Blaze August 17, 2014 at 1:12 am #

      tell me, do you have a mental illness? and if you do, have you ever had to spend time in a psychiatric ward to deal with it? I’m a writer also, but there’s a difference–a VAST one–between writing a story in which a character uses those terms and this.

      this isn’t being overly politically correct. this is a human being who suffers from mental illness asking people to work together to fight the stigma of mental illness, which can be (and usually IS) extremely damaging to those of us who suffer from it, and it’s got to be stopped.

      end of story.

      • Mario Savioni August 17, 2014 at 9:41 am #

        As far as I am concerned, you are not mentally ill, and I say that from a purely communicative/linguistic capacity. Your mind is lucid and wonderful.

        I don’t know what you are suffering. Family members have suffered from bi-polar, alzheimer’s, for example. There is no “stigma,” only tolerance and hanging in there. It takes work to remember that this person in front of you is looking at the world in a different way. Underlying their incoherence is also fear and they are driving through an insurmountable defensiveness that further exacerbates the problem. My mother, for example, called me to say that she was in the police station and that the nurses (in her nursing home) where the police. I was working. I wasn’t supposed to be on the phone.

        There’s no stigma with “Psycho Ward” but a reputation that isn’t quite correct unless you’ve been there, but there is some kind of baggage associated with it and this is both valid and provocative to those willing to investigate.

        I understand what you are saying. I have finished reading The History of Madness by Michel Foucault and I am working on a poem derived from it and as an attempt to accurately portray his ideas.

        What I take offense to is banning words, like books, because they are too “obscene.” Let’s not go there:

        “Our distance from the truth is a form of madness that allows for the truth to be extinguished and to live in a world like that is pure insanity.” (Taken from: “MY BODY, THIS PAPER, THIS FIRE P. 550”)

    • Ciara Raven Blaze August 18, 2014 at 10:14 pm #

      depression is mental illness. anxiety is mental illness. don’t you DARE tell me I don’t have a mental illness just because I’m not in a catatonic, schizophrenic state.

      • rabbitwithfangs August 19, 2014 at 2:47 am #

        Wow, Ciara, you’re cured. Mario says so./end sarcasm. Mario, you are completely and utterly uninformed. This has nothing to do with being ‘authoritarian’. It’s about showing respect to people who have been stigmatized and given less human rights throughout history. Or do you think words like ‘N**ger’ or ‘f**g’ are totally acceptable?

      • Mario Savioni August 19, 2014 at 7:38 am #

        I understand the historical ebbing and flowing of treatment by society toward the mad.

        “As a history, the thesis of this book is that whether madness is described as a religious or philosophical phenomenon (an experience of inspiration, a loss of mind, etc.), or as an objective medical essence (as in all the classifications of types of madness that have been developed by psychiatry), these conceptions are not discoveries by historical constructions of meaning. When comparing the conceptions of madness prevailing in different civilizations, Foucault realized that there could be a history of madness itself, in other words that it was a ‘phenomenon of civilization, as variable, as floating as any other phenomenon of culture’ and, as a consequence, that ‘curing the mad is not the only possible reaction to the phenomenon of madness’. There is a moment in history when madness started to be perceived as a disease, as an object of scientific inquiry and if this transformation is interesting from the point of view of the history of psychiatry and of medicine in general, it is perhaps more important in what it tells us about what must have changed in a society as a whole for such a transformation to occur. In other words, Foucault does not look at madness from the point of the classical historian of a scientific discipline, here psychiatry, who would trace the development of science from inchoate early notions towards its modern, rational state. He is interested in decisions, limits and exclusions which took place at particular points in time and indicate shifts in the way certain phenomena were experienced,” – Taken from: Jean Khalfa’s introduction of Foucault’s The History of Madness.

        Sure, I agree that you may have a mental illness but are not presenting catatonic or schizophrenic symptoms.

        All I am taking about is limiting the use of language, akin to banning books where:

        “Banning books is an infringement upon freedom of speech and expression. Banning a book for what it says is quashing someone’s right to express their opinions, creativity and ideals. Someone wanting to ban the book is basically stating that ‘because I don’t agree, I don’t want anyone else to read it'”. – Taken from:

        Have given me permission to use the terms catatonic, schizophrenic?

      • Mario Savioni August 19, 2014 at 8:02 pm #

        Dear Ms. Blaze,

        I have come upon something that I think explains our misunderstanding. Like the optical illusion inherent in the image at: I think we are looking at my best intentions and yours from different perspectives. I doubt that I would want to attack your catatonia or schizophrenia. I think I would be taken aback by them. I’ve never experienced them in real life that I know, what I was only harping on is the restriction of language, and where rabbitwithfangs alluded about the “n” words, I doubt he would suggest its extraction from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, its use in African-American literature, or even in the Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained, where you can read Tarantino’s explanation, which speaks to rabbitwithfang’s criticism. The point is that as it was mentioned in The New Yorker, “The film is in two parts: the first half is a mock Western; the second is a mock-revenge melodrama about slavery, set in the deep South and ending in fountains of redemptive spurting blood.” (See: Anyway, as Henry Louis Gates, Jr. said in the former article, “Well, guess what? You succeed at that. One of the things that will disturb people much more than the use of the n-word, or much more even than the horrors of slavery, was Samuel L. Jackson’s amazing depiction of Stephen [the head house slave of plantation owner Calvin Candie, played by Leonardo DiCaprio].”

  6. Mario Savioni August 16, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    Oh, and you needed to use the terms to illustrate your story.

    • Ciara Raven Blaze August 17, 2014 at 1:16 am #

      if you’re really a writer, then surely you understand how powerful (and damaging) words can be, right? surely you understand that stigmatizing psych wards as something to be feared does more harm than good, right?

      • Mario Savioni August 17, 2014 at 9:51 am #

        “Stigmatizing psych wards,” I don’t find psych wards stigmatized. Abnormality is the stigma.

        “Social stigma is the extreme disapproval of (or discontent with) a person or group on socially characteristic grounds that are perceived, and serve to distinguish them, from other members of a society.”

        This disapproval or fatigue in thinking about engaging in contact with a mentally ill person is very real. Whether on a physical or emotional level, that mental illness can be exhausting. No one knows what a psych ward is unless they’ve been there. But, even not having been there does not disqualify a person from making whatever statement they wish. There is an authoritarianism inherent in your demands. Your perception is a projection of experiential affect and defensiveness. No, you shouldn’t be prejudiced against because of your experience.

  7. weebluebirdie August 16, 2014 at 10:19 am #

    So good that taking a stance has worked out. Great that you’ve been able to get the director to see things differently. I guess Haunted Hospital has good alliteration…..!

  8. chantale August 16, 2014 at 11:41 am #

    Its always worth trying to do something about things that disturbs us… most people don’t even try… arguing that no body will read the message… well, the message was read… and good things got out of all this…. great stuff!! thanks!!

  9. Emotional:(:Thinker August 16, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    Well done and well deserved! Baby steps!

  10. prideinmadness August 16, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    Wow congratulations on the work you have done!

    I look forward to seeing the change on my subway rides!

  11. lizzie August 16, 2014 at 2:37 pm #

    “How amazing people can be”, yes, absolutely. But also: I think you could be proud of yourself for having an impact. Writing about these things.. it’s not ‘fun’ but by doing so you might not only have had an impact on this one person, but so many more are probably ‘touched’ in ways we can’t possibly imagine. Maybe there were people with mental illness/difficulties who saw those posters and for whom this could have ment a final ‘drop in the bucket’. So even though we don’t know what bigger impact you have had with this article, this reaching out,.. be sure there is one. There’s a beautiful saying in dutch that I’ll do my best to translate: ‘You moved a stone in a river on earth, the water flows there differently than it did before’.

  12. bookmole August 16, 2014 at 11:37 pm #

    Such good news. Well done, you. And well done, Joe, too.

  13. Natalie August 16, 2014 at 11:51 pm #

    I was talking to my friends about this on Facebook the other night and while I said they were playing off of Hollywood stereotypes which enforced the stigma, I mentioned all they had to do was change the name, because what kind of advertising would straight up stick ‘Psychiatric Ward’ as a playable name without making people feel weird.

    Thus, I love how they kept the same idea but changed the name; it immediately changes the impression of the game.

    So happy!

  14. tendernessontheblock August 17, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

    The power of your actions. Well done.

  15. izzy82 August 17, 2014 at 7:13 pm #

    That is really great to see and hear! A rarity – but the more we advocate and then share success perhaps the less rare it will become!

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