Thursday, September 13, 2012

"That's Crazy"

Do we unconsciously use words that are hurtful to the mentally ill? No way! That’s psycho. You’d have to be crazy to believe that.

I don’t propose that we try to eliminate usage of certain words – that would be insane. I oppose straitjacketing language in that way.

All kidding aside, our use of language reflects a general disregard for mental illness as a real disease – one that ruins lives, relationships, and causes death.

I recently saw an episode of iCarly with my kids. I usually enjoy it, but this particular show was set in a “mental institution.”  A character (Sam) had voluntarily checked in because she believed she was crazy for having a crush on another character (Freddie) whom she had thought she hated.

For twenty minutes, there was nothing but stereotypes. Patients wandered around clueless and drooling – vacantly staring and doing stupid things. Nurses and orderlies were talking to them like they were children. There were burly guards, and one grumpy head nurse acting like a warden. A patient engaged the kids, telling them he was from outer space, and that his pants were indestructible.

Now, my kids know I am mentally ill and have been in hospital. I could see the wheels turning.

So, I patiently pointed out to them the problems with the show, and how it did not reflect reality.

“But they’re just making jokes about it…isn’t that okay?”

Is just making fun okay? I don’t know. But I replied with this:

“What if they had done the same show, but it took place in a cancer ward?”

The kids looked at me sideways. “No,” they said, “that wouldn’t be funny. It would be in bad taste.”

And that’s the point – a majority of people still do not consider mental illness to be a real disease.

The other day I passed a woman I know out with her preteen daughter. I said hello, and something funny, and the girl said “D’Arcy, you’re crazy!”

Her mother went sort of pale. She knows about my illness. I said to the young lady, “Don’t worry, I’m taking medication for that.” With a smile and a wave, I walked away.

I think she thought I was being facetious.

I hope her mom sorted it out with her.

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