Sunday, May 19, 2013

Is It Stigma or Discrimination? Words Matter


Health Care Land has its own language, generally filled with acronyms. In the land's Mental Illness Valley,  there's a thing called "stigma" that "consumers" (a silly term used to describe people with a mental illness diagnosis) deal with it. I call it discrimination. Plain and simple.

Stigma, the Mayo Clinic says, has four components:
  1. Labeling someone with a condition
  2. Namecalling
  3. Stereotyping people with the condition
  4. Dividing people into a superior "us" group and an inferior "them" group 
My Lord, it's high school all over again. All of this has worsened in the aftermath of the recent mass shootings. People continue to blur the distinction between those who have psychopathic behavior and those who have a mental illness and are more likely to be the victim of a crime.

Words matter. Even the phrase "mental illness" is very 19th or at best 20th century.  I know first hand that a person with brain cancer is treated quite differently from a person with schizophrenia, even if they are behaving the exact same way.  I have been fortunate to understand immediately that a "mental illness" is a brain disease, and that it is ridiculous and uncivilized to behave as if it were someone's fault.  It really is time for the Martin Luther King of those with brain diseases to show up, and use his or her eloquence to speak the truth.  How I long for that day.






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