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Why I Never Call Anyone "Mentally Ill"

Updated on December 21, 2014
Huntgoddess profile image

I am a mom and granny, still hoping to finish my undergrad degree someday. I've been hoping to get to law school since I was eight.

Clear Spring Bubbling Up

One of my favorite spots. It reminds me of Robert Frost's poem, "Going for Water":  ---  ". . . A slender tinkling fall that made/   Now drops that floated on the pool/  Like pearls, and now a silver blade."    (I love the watercress. )
One of my favorite spots. It reminds me of Robert Frost's poem, "Going for Water": --- ". . . A slender tinkling fall that made/ Now drops that floated on the pool/ Like pearls, and now a silver blade." (I love the watercress. )

They are Entitled to Reasonable Accommodation

It's a pejorative and dehumanizing term.

We don't call blind people "visually ill".

We don't call deaf people "auditorily ill."

We don't call people in wheelchairs "kinesthetically ill."

We don't call those who are unable to speak, "vocally ill".

We call all the above people "disabled." By calling them disabled, we recognize and acknowledge that society owes them reasonable accommodation.

But, for people with psych disabilities, we want to focus on the term "illness".

Why is that? Why do we do that?

It's scapegoating them, but why do we want to scapegoat them? We used to scapegoat many other groups ---- people with darker skin, women, gay people. We don't do that anymore.

Yet, we still scapegoat those with psych disabilities.

Why the Poem by Robert Frost?

It's purely personal.

Sometimes people with psych Dx's have a clearer insight than "normal" folks, I think.

Never Believe the Statements of a Person with a Psychiatic Diagnosis?

Most people with psych diagnoses are survivors of child abuse. When I said that to a psychiatrist friend, he replied, "They are ALL survivors of child abuse."

"How can you believe what this person says? She (he) has a diagnosis of _________ (bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder et al? --- fill in the blank). Therefore, she does not know what she is saying, and might just be imagining it. Her parents didn't really abuse her when she was a kid. Ha, ha, she's just crazy."

Beware of Easy Answers

A person with a psychiatric disability (diagnosis) might or might not be accurately reporting something. Just because it's unthinkable, that doesn't mean it didn't happen. Maybe it did happen, but nobody believes it because it's unbelievable.

Not only that, but maybe it's a great cover for abusers.

Maybe that's one of the reasons the "neurobiological brain disorder" theory is so popular. Nobody is responsible for anything. It's just random.



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    • Huntgoddess profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Dear peachpurple: Yes, that is so nice of you, dear. You are quite right.

      Thanks so much for your comment.

      Thanks for stopping by, to read my Hub.

      Thanks for your insight.

    • peachpurple profile image


      4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      it is bad and ill mannered to call someone else like that. They don't want to be that way either. Sometimes, they wish to be normal people like us.

    • Huntgoddess profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Thanks for your comment, Mary615, and for stopping by to read my Hub.

      Fortunately, the term "developmentally disabled," has come to replace "retarded."

      Thanks for helping your friend deal with her diagnosis. That's the main thing --- To have friends. Sometimes it only takes a little companionship and a few kind words.

      I have a relative with this diagnosis also. Sometimes it can difficult for her to feel safe. That is the main thing that she needs.

      So, God bless, dear.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      4 years ago from Florida

      When I was growing up, I remember hearing about people who were called "mentally retarded". I never understood what was mean by that when I was a kid.

      Interesting subject. I have a friend who is bi-polar and I have had to learn how to deal with her and her ups and downs.

    • Huntgoddess profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      No problem about taking a while. We all have to deal with daily struggles.

      Thanks for your encouragement about the Hub. I'm also noticing how short it is. Hubs are supposed to be longer now.

      That is definitely on my list. I have a bunch of new resources, as well.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 

      4 years ago from Canada

      Huntgoddess ... I would definitely love to see a follow up on this hub ... this is an important topic for our society today. I can't express enough how much how I agree with you. And sorry for the late comment back ... I have been so behind, but have to catch up! Take care!

    • Huntgoddess profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Dear prairieprincess; Wow, what a great comment. Thanks, dear.

      Always glad to inspire, especially about this topic.

      You are also inspiring me --- so it's contagious!

      I think I should write more on this topic, either in a new Hub, or by expanding this one.

      Thanks so much for stopping to read my Hub, and your great comment.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 

      5 years ago from Canada

      HG, I agree with you completely! I think there is a real stigma against people that struggle with their minds.

      I had understood why I didn't like the term, "mental illness," but I never felt comfortable with that term. You helped define it for me, why I feel uncomfortable with it.

      Yes, illness sounds like a hopeless term, rather than just something that can be overcome. My theory is that people scapegoat against those with these kinds of problems because we are all a little bit mentally unstable and people don't want to admit that. So, they target those who are weaker in that area, and make it worse than it is. I have pretty strong opinions on this topic, too!

      Thank you for writing such a strong piece, and showing courage to stand up against the status quo. You have inspired me today. Take care.

    • Huntgoddess profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Thanks for your comment, fivesenses.

      I believe the "chemical imbalance" theory is propagated by drug companies. It helps them to make bigger profits.

      Psychotropic medications cause long-term brain damage. Whereas, connectedness, kindness, nurturing, affection and attention all help to heal and cure.

      Please read *Mad in America*, by Robert Whitaker, or Toxic Psychiatry, or anything else written by Peter Breggin.

      Thanks for stopping by and reading my Hub, fivesenses.

    • fivesenses profile image


      6 years ago from new delhi

      I knew someone close suffering from schizophrenia and its partly due to chemical imbalances in our I refrain from name calling...enjoyed the hub.

    • Huntgoddess profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Thanks so much for reading my Hub, and for your comment and vote, 2besure. It's quite an honor.

      "Underachiever" ? Everybody learns differently. It's just a matter of caring and spending time, I think.

      Yes, it does change the way people see themselves, especially young folks. That's one of many reasons we should not it. We should try to understand, instead.

      Thanks and God bless.

    • 2besure profile image

      Pamela Lipscomb 

      6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Thanks for sharing this! Our society is very quick to label people. It can forever change the way a person sees themselves. I guess it is the way of putting a name to things we don't understand. As a child I was labelled as an underachiever. It always made me feel I was different. Voted up!

    • Huntgoddess profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Thanks so much, MsDora. I appreciate that. Thanks for reading my Hub.

      God bless.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Your opening sentences make your point powerfully. Thanks for bringing this flaw to our attention.

    • Huntgoddess profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Thanks for the votes, Denise.

      Diabetes and cardiac problems are both readily detectable on an objective medical test, based on physiological realities. Therefore, it would not be inaccurate, misleading, unfair, pejorative or discriminatory to say that a person with diabetes or cardiac issues does have an ILLNESS.

      There is no objective test for mental or psych issues. Mental or psych diagnoses can only be made subjectively --- after all actual physiological or physical disorders, conditions or illnesses have been ruled out.

      That was a part of my point.

      Then, there's the whole issue of how psych Rx makes everything worse in the long run --- while perhaps allowing some good things to happen in the short run.

      Then, there's the other whole issue --- really the elephant in the living room --- of how MUCH of the conversation is really controlled by drug companies anyway.

      Since you use the terms mental "ILLNESS" several times in your comment --- well, what can I say? You say folks are "afflicted with" this alleged illness --- actually making my point for me rather nicely.

      Because being born with a dark skin used to be considered an "affliction". Being homosexual used to be considered an "affliction", as well. Psychiatrists had a field day with that terminology.

      There's nothing wrong with calling a real illness an illness. My point is that pseudo-medical issues have always been used as an excuse to scapegoat our fellow human beings.

      My further point is that people with psych disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodation according to the Americas with Disabilities Act. But, we don't recognize that because we're so busy talking about phantasmagoric "illness" ---- which is perhaps just the projection of our own paranoid fantasies about ourselves.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Interesting hub. I work with mentally ill people as a profession. I encourage them to not attach themselves to their diagnosis. They are not their disorder and their disorder does not define them. But, in the world of the medical field, there are degrees of mental unhealth, and what is not healthy from the standards of normal is an illness, like the word or not.

      An illness does not define a person-just as a diabetic or cardiac patient is not 'that diabetic' or 'that heart attack', etc. But, from the standards of taking a comparison of someone who is NOT diabetic or has a heart condition, these other people have an illness.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and opinions about the use of this term, and by doing so raising the awareness of how the community refers to people who have mental illness. Every little bit to increase the humanity for those suffering from mental illness helps. Through consciousness raising maybe we can stop dehumanizing those afflicted with mental disorders.

      Voted up and interesting.

    • Huntgoddess profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Thanks so much, SW. Check back when you get a chance. I have so much more to say on this topic --- either new Hubs, or expanding this one. Perhaps both.

      I just haven't had time to write as much as I'd like. I'll include more resources, as well.

      Take care.

    • southernwriter profile image


      7 years ago from is my email address

      Great hub. Insightful information that is straight to the point.

    • glassvisage profile image


      8 years ago from Northern California

      In my classes on special education classes, I was always taught not to say someone is disabled because that's a label - we were asked to say "person with a disability". Thanks for the Hub!

    • Bible Studies profile image

      Bible Studies 

      8 years ago from PA

      Learning disability sounds good. I tried homeschooling, but it didn't work out. Besides, ever since she started to go to school, I found out she listens to her teacher more than she listens to me.

      She is in elementary. For things like Art and gym, she is in 5th grade. Academically she is on a first grade level. She improves little by little. I believe when every thing is said and done, she is not going to go beyond the elementary level.

      They are concentrating on building what they call life skills. Skills she can use and will be able to use out side of the class room. They are still teaching her writing, reading, and math. She is still learning how to count money. Reading is very basic with the three letter and four letter words, but they are also concentrating on the names of the month, holidays, and things like that.

      She has to go to summer school so she doesn't forget everything she learned during the school year. It is only four days a week for one month during July. Her teachers are optimistic that she will be able to obtain a basic job after everything is said and done. I know my school district is a good one, and I believe has a good vocational school.

      Right now I believe it is good for her to be around other kids, and be able to get along with them. I was happy when I saw her not only talking with the kids in her class, but also to ones outside of her special needs class. I know that gives her confidence.

      God Bless

    • Huntgoddess profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Thanks for your comment, Bible Studies.

      I don't know if mentally disabled would be okay, though. I guess it's up to you.

      Perhaps you could say she has a developmental disability, or a learning disability? Everybody learns differently, is the problem, really, and she deserves to have the opportunity to learn at her particular pace.

      How old is she? If she's still in high or elementary, perhaps you could homeschool her. Is that available in your area? I think kids can really thrive when they're with the people who love them most all day. I realize all families can't do it, though. Sometimes it's just not possible.

      You're right. There's no illness. She's special, and has a right to live and learn with respect toward her own unique needs.

      God bless. Please keep me posted.

    • Bible Studies profile image

      Bible Studies 

      8 years ago from PA

      I agree. I have a daughter that is academically challenged I'll call it. One of the things I don't like is that on her evaluation the still put down mentally retarded. She is in the moderate range. I asked about what term I could use without calling her mentally retarded when someone asks what does she have. There you go again, as if she actually had an illness. They had a hard time coming up with an acceptable variation. Yet academically challenged isn't what she really is. Maybe mentally disabled is the better term.

    • Huntgoddess profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Hey, far out. WTS. God bless.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Up, Awesome, and Beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!


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