Mental Illness As A Pejorative

We’ve probably all done it to some extent. Labeling someone as mentally ill without all the facts. Or, in pop culture, mental illness is used as a dismissive or way to discredit someone.

One of my favorite shows does this. The West Wing has an episode, one of the big block of cheese bits, where Sam is trying to exonerate someone. He claims that the things said by a person are likely lies because they were said by a manic-depressive, or someone with bipolar disorder. This is not an uncommon thing.

Law and Order does it all the time.

Most procedural shows use the illness dismissively. And it hurts. It really does. I have a particularly severe form of the illness and I think that I’m very credible. I would never lie under oath or to get back at someone. When manic I might be known to exaggerate a tall tale to get a better story, but under oath is a serious thing. It hurts. It hurts to have one of your favorite shows look down on you and say that you’re not worth a damn in testimony.

People do it other ways as well. They self diagnose or diagnose others. The self diagnosis thing is what really gets me. When I hear people say that they’re bipolar I just want to smack them. My girlfriend sees the extent to which it happens every day around her now that she’s been exposed to my world. People use and abuse mental illness as ways to cop out of being responsible or to see important or seem more creative as the illness usually lends a hand to being artistic. And it hurts.

It’s like someone saying they have cancer to gain sympathy.

Really, the creative bipolar, bipolar 1, is just about a deadly as most cancers.

People also flippantly diagnose other people with the disease in order to diminish them. A coworker might say that someone is bipolar in a way to say that they are crazy and unstable. It’s a way of knocking someone down a peg by armchair diagnosis. If you’re reading this, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve diagnosed someone else with autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or something along those lines.

And ask yourself: why do you need to diagnose someone?

Why can’t people just be who they are and let the professionals privately do their job?

That’s ultimately what this all comes down to. Why can’t the mentally ill be treated equally and be left alone without all the armchair diagnoses and random crap that gets thrown at them?

Let doctors sort it out. Let people be just who they are. Let the benefit of the doubt be the same for the ill and the normal.


One response to “Mental Illness As A Pejorative

  1. Pingback: Compassion and Mental Illness OR Friends Who Accept All of You | Masochist Musing·

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