This is a good question. It’s a good question because, by and large, people don’t want to be considered “mentally ill” so they want to know if they meet the definition.
Who is Mentally Ill?
I’m sorry to say, boys and girls, that if you have a mental illness (diagnosed or not) you are, de facto, mentally ill (although Google here seems to think that you have to suffer from a “severe” mental illness, whatever that means). This is also considered to be, “of unsound mind,” which I disagree with, but that’s me.
So it’s fairly simple to figure out if you’re mentally ill – you just have to figure out if you have a mental illness. Luckily there’s a book for that. More luckily, there are doctors for that.
But I Don’t Want to Be Mentally Ill!
There’s Nothing Wrong with Being Mentally Ill
But here’s the thing: There’s nothing wrong with being mentally ill. All that means is that you’re a person with a mental illness and all that means is that you’re a person with a disease of the brain (or mind, if you prefer, which I don’t). All that means is that you’re a person with a medical illness of a certain type. It’s like being diabetic – one with diabetes, or like being epileptic – one with seizures, and so on. “Mentally ill” is just a way of describing a group of people with similar attributes. No more, and no less.
The reason people don’t want to be mentally ill is because of what people read into the words, not because of the words themselves. The words aren’t that scary so stop reading fear into them.
People with Mental Illnesses
Yes, people will decry the term “mentally ill” and say that these are “people with mental illnesses.” Okay, fine, if that wordplay makes you feel better about yourself, that’s your business, but as long as the English language is as it stands today, I’m going to say there’s nothing wrong with being mentally ill.
Because being anything isn’t who you are it’s only a tiny part of you. Even if you are “mentally ill” that only describes a little part of you. Much of the rest of you is yours to choose as you see fit.