Stigma

There was a great article in the Washington Post (link) on why men should stop calling women crazy. I really couldn’t agree more with the article which pointed out how calling women crazy denies them their right to their feelings. Reading the article inflamed me as was the article’s purpose. It also made me think about that nasty word: crazy.

It’s amazing to me how utterly comfortable we are with language concerning mental illness. Crazy, moron, lunatic, insane, mad all get thrown around. We’re starting to lose our comfort with retard but that’s only after a concerted effort by the community to get that one abolished. I still hear it a lot more than I should. Sadly, even autistic has been used as a slur by people who should know better.

And what do these terms generally connote? Nothing good. They’re used to mock behavior. A person who is acting crazy is acting against society and we want to bring them into line. To be called crazy is to be disdained. A crazy person must be corrected and told how to act right. Often calling a person crazy is also used as a way to feel superior to another person. If they’re “crazy” then you’re better than them because you don’t act that way.

It’s frustrating to bear the stigma that mental illness carries. I’ve faced it quite a bit in my own life, as I’ve shown here. Sadly it’s not limited to childhood either. I’m going to get to this in my entry on 2007-2008 but I’ve had nurses fail to understand what it’s like to be in my shoes. To admit that your mind is abnormal is to be seen as an other. This is, on its face, silly and is fading due to increase in diagnosis. But it’s there.

And in point of fact, I don’t truly believe in the cute, funny crazy. I believe in people who need help. Pointing out mental disability for any reason other than to cite a need for help is a terrible thing. What we need is understanding, not mockery. The stigma has to go.

So how do we fight it? I think the best answer is a simple one: by refusing to hide from it and giving it a human face. Look up at the top of this blog and you’ll see my real face and my real name. I don’t use an alias. If you put the pieces together, you can get a pretty clear picture of my current life. I’m not hiding from who I am.

And isn’t that how all stigmas die? It’s harder to be against something when you have a human face to it. A lot of people I’ve known have changed their opinion on homosexuality when they came to know one. Prejudice makes no sense when confronted with our basic humanity.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if we’re discussing autism or bipolar disorder, it’s time to stop making light of mental illness. It’s not ok to use it as an insult. Mental issues are too serious to mock.

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