Shawn Maxam gives a little advice on how to discuss individuals living with mental illness with positive and affirming language.
For too long we have swept the problems of mental illness under the carpet… and hoped that they would go away.
-Richard J. Codey
Uh so there’s an interesting article from the NY Times magazine that shed some light on what it is like as a family member to see a loved one succumb to the worst aspects of having a mental illness. It is honest, raw and heartfelt. The title of the article is also highly offensive. Now I assume that the copy editor purposely titled the article in a provocative manner so people would actually read the damn thing. Oh yeah the name of the article is “When My Crazy Father Actually Lost His Mind”.
So to be brief when you are discussing individuals who have a mental illness who aren’t related to you the best ways to refer to members of the community is the following:
- Individuals living with a mental illness
- People who have a mental illness
- Individuals/people who have brain-based disorders
- Individuals/people who have a psychiatric disorder
- Individuals/people living with a mental health diagnosis
Words like crazy, insane, psycho, lunatic and so on are inappropriate. Phrases like “the mentally ill” are not very affirming either. It is also not cool to call a person a schizophrenic or a bipolar person. People have the disease but they aren’t the disease. Now of course there are individuals who do not mind the aforementioned labels which is fine. I am just discussing the best way to engage the mental health community as a whole. Just as you would say a person living with a diagnosis of HIV or AIDS and not a AIDS person – the same care should be taken with people, such as myself, who have a mental illness diagnosis.
Thank you for listening.
Please share this with friends, enemies and temporary allies alike.
Thanks for reading, sharing and commenting!
Flickr image via Vilseskogen