Stop Using Mental Illnesses as Insults
Using mental illnesses as insults is invalidating and harmful. These days, it’s hard to go far without coming across the topic of mental health and mental illness. Considering it’s still such a taboo subject that people shy away from, this seems like something we should be rejoicing over as advocates and activists — and I would, but for the fact that it’s still being spoken of in negative, stigmatizing words. Although people are mentioning mental illness seemingly more and more, all it’s doing it adding to the already existing stigma since mental illness is being used to insult people.
Using Mental Illnesses as Insults Is Manipulative
Slinging around mental illness like a weapon or an insult is not trying to explain why someone is behaving or thinking the way he is, or to trying to help, it’s trying to shut him down and shut him up. It's trying to invalidate what's being said, to verbally abuse someone into submission.
In conversations lately, especially over politics, mental illness is being used as an insult and a synonym for dangerous, reckless, and wrong, and that’s not okay. Just because you disagree with someone, it doesn’t mean he’s any of those things anyway, and if you think he is any of those things, just say so.
This is particularly true for the President of the United States right now — many are balking at his decisions, seeing them as irrational and threatening, so they’re trying to figure out what mental illness could be causing it (Stop Speculating on President Donald Trump's Mental Health). The problem is we don’t know if he does actually have a mental illness, so to continue to speculate about it only serves to further the stigma that mental illnesses and those who have them are dangerous. Perhaps he just has dangerous ideas, and until we know one way or the other, we should just be addressing that instead. Even if it does turn out he has a mental illness, it still shouldn’t be used as a weapon or insult.
Likewise, supporters of the President are flinging mental illness accusations in that invalidating way right back at those speaking out against him. This needs to stop.
Proper Conversations About Mental Illness Are Important
As I’ve written before, mental illness sometimes does play a part in some pretty heinous things (How Does Mental Illness Affect Criminal Behaviour?). As I also mentioned in that same blog post, we need to properly predicate those kinds of discussions with as much information as we can to avoid the stigma that is created from passing comments.
I think to fairly talk about it, we need to be able to accurately pinpoint the cause and effect relationship between the mental illness and a person’s actions because when we don’t, we’re left with blanket statements, such as mental illness equals being dangerously unstable. People seem to forget that with mental illness, people take statements directed at one person and apply them to all.
How to Stop People from Using Mental Illness as an Insult
I have two simple recommendations to counter the problem of mental illnesses being used as insults.
- Point blank, don’t use mental illness as an insult. If you think someone is dangerous or disagree with him or his ideas, say that.
- If you see someone hurling around mental illness as an insult, call him out on it. It’s not easy, but in order to stamp out the stigma of mental illness, we need to challenge mental health stigma and we can do that through proper conversation.
Stigma is continuing to rear its ugly head, perhaps more than it has in a while, but we’re not helpless against it.
- Why It's Time to Stop Casually Calling People 'Schizophrenic' and 'Bipolar' from Health.com
- Stop Equating Mental Illness And Bad Behavior from NAMI
- Insulting Mental Illness, We Need To Fix Our Vocabularies! from The Huffington Post
Barton, L. (2018, January 15). Stop Using Mental Illnesses as Insults, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2018/01/mental-illnesses-are-not-insults