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Mental Health Labels

How should I refer to someone living with a psychiatric diagnosis? There are so many terms that are being used to describe someone with a mental health disorder, these terms include:
  • "Consumer"
  • "Mentally ill"
  • "Patient"
  • "Client"
  • "Crazy"
  • "Schizophrenic"
For example, the word "consumer" identifies a person with a mental health concern, and only that group of people. Even though the term does not bother me I could understand how it can frustrate other people. It seems like even the medical field has separated people living with a diagnosis from the bunch.

In my opinion, some of these terms are stigmatizing. Some of the terms seem to single people out and to make having an illness a negative thing. For instance, the words "mentally ill" sounds dreadful to me. To me, it seems like the individual will never get well or that recovery is not an option.

On the other hand, "patient" and "client" seem more acceptable because the terms put mental health in the same boat as other medical conditions. Mental illnesses are another medical condition and should not be subject to the stigma that takes place now.

To me, labeling a person as "crazy" or "schizophrenic" are totally offensive. Crazy has nothing but negative connotations to me. It describes the maniac, the psychopath, and everything that deviates from the standard put forth in society. It also describes someone who lacks understanding of reality.

However, once upon a time a while ago I may have been considered crazy because I was so out of it. While I was in jail for an incident I did that was caused by my untreated psychosis I did not acknowledge the fact that I was in jail. My mind was so distorted that I thought someone was playing a really bad prank on me. I consider that state of mind as crazy because I was unaware of what was reality and what was actually happening to me. Now I do not look at myself as crazy, and I do not like it when people use the term.

The word "schizophrenic" brings back thoughts of misuse of the term from movies. It is a reminder of the common misconceptions. And the term does not view the individual separate from the illness. I am not schizophrenia, I have the disorder.

I am very interested to learn what you think about these labels. So what should I call someone living with a mental illness? How do you refer to yourself or someone with mental health?

To learn more about schizophrenia visit Embracing My Mind, Inc., the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).

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