Governor Jesse Ventura    
Speaks Out

Jesse Ventura, once a household name as a wrestler in the venue of WWW (the World Wide Wrestling Federation) and currently the Governor of the state of Minnesota is, in my opinion, an opinionated, bigoted, outspoken, uneducated and nonsupportive boor.  In short, the man is a jerk

Oh, don't get me wrong…he is certainly not alone.  There are many who share his opinions and some who are as outspoken as he is, but a recent major public gaffe on his part on a topic of great concern to me has made him the target of my disgust and disdain.
I have a difficult time believing that in this enlightened age there are cave-age beliefs such as the ones he espoused about suicide (mental illness) still existing.

In an interview with Playboy magazine which will be published in the November, 1999 issue Mr. Ventura said that he does not read books by Ernest Hemingway because the writer killed himself.  "I have seen too many people fight for their lives.  I have no respect for anyone who would kill himself.  If you're a feeble, weak-minded person to begin with, I don't have time for you" he said.  

At a town meeting a day earlier Ventura said "Suicide's tragic, there's no doubt about it, but to me it is something that doesn't have to happen if people take a positive attitude like what I do.  I don't say I understand it because I've never once contemplated it.

No Sir, Mr. Ventura, it is very obvious to me and to all the thousands of individuals in North America…individuals suffering with major mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder and major depression that you DON'T understand.  It is obvious to those who work in the Mental Health area from psychiatrists to pharmacists.  It is particularly obvious that you are uneducated in this area.  You should get down on your knees now and thank God (whoever you perceive Him to be) for sparing you the agony of mental illness, and stop perpetuating the shame and stigma that the mentally ill have lived with forever and are working hard to eradicate

I nearly died from a suicide attempt four years ago.  Several of my mentally ill friends have died by their own hand.  I assure you NONE of them were weak or feeble-minded people…they fought long and hard to live…their disease overcame them.  Do you think them cowards?  I assure you that is the farthest thing from the truth.

There were many reactions to Governor Ventura's statements.  One of the most emotional I think came from Senator Bob Lessard.  Sen Lessard's daughter Wendy Burns-Carlson died Sept 26 after taking an overdose of painkillers…her funeral was Friday, October 1.  Governor Ventura offered condolences "Losing a child is the hardest possible thing for a family to endure.  Terry and I offer our deepest sympathies."  Senator Lessard was undoubtedly stunned by the words that followed less than a week later.

From Don Mockenhaupt, director of Ramsey County Mental Health came this remark "Many people who commit suicide have a mental illness.  It has nothing to do with weakness.  Nothing whatsoever."  He expressed disappointment at Ventura's comments.

"I too have seen many people fight for their lives" commented Tom Witheridge, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Minnesota, Minneapolis.  "People who are struggling with depression are some of the bravest people I know.  The governor is just plain wrong about suicide.  It is not a sign of personal weakness.  It is almost always the tragic consequence of a medical illness: depression.

Dianne Kemp from Chanhassen hit the nail on the head with this comment.  "How many of Jesse Ventura's fellow veterans fought for their lives during wars, only to return to the states and lose a battle with mental illness?  This is not the result of a feeble mind, but of a disease.  There is enough shame and guilt surrounding mental illness without our state leader compounding it."

This was not the only issue discussed in the interview that churned up howls of outrage by the public.  Jesse Ventura has vowed to never reveal his personal opinion on any matter in the future.  He commented "I've learned that you will have a very difficult time if you speak your mind and speak the truth." 

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