Every night before going to bed I think about what I will write on my blog the next morning. Once I have an idea, I begin to craft the sentences and the points I will make in my post.
Last night I thought, “I want new words for how people talk about and treat people with a mental illness. The word stigma is so overused and confusing. It just isn’t working to change the climate of negativity and stereotypes around mental illness.” So, I thought to myself, what has worked for other minority groups? The word homophobia and islamophobia work very well. People do not like to hear that they are being homophobic or islamophobic. It is perceived as negative to be acting in such a way that one’s behavior gets called out as being one of those two things. We need a word for people that say words like wacko, or lunatic, or insane, or buy a straitjacket for a costume for Halloween. We need to be able to have a negative word applied to those behaviors and words that stereotype or dehumanize those of us with a mental illness.
I was going to make a word up. I was going to suggest the word Mentophobia. But when I woke up this morning, I thought maybe a word already exists and we just aren’t using it. I typed the following into Google’s search box, “a word for people who hate the mentally ill.” Here is what that search brought back.
So, from now on I will use the word mentalism just like I use the word racism and sexism. I will stop using the word stigma as a catch all for every time someone discriminates against me or someone else with a mental illness. I believe the use of the word mentalism has the power to change things in our culture faster than any educational campaign. People don’t like to be called a racist or a sexist, now we can call certain behaviors mentalist and hopefully being classified as a mentalist will be as undesirable to people as being a racist or a sexist.
Then there is the word psychophobia in place of homophobia or islamophobia (both are also considered negative things to be labeled as). If someone is making jokes about going to an asylum or waiting for the men in white to pick them up, or thousands of other derogatory jokes, we can now say they are being psychophobic.
I hope you will begin to call people out for their mentalism and their psychophobic behaviors. We, those of us with a mental illness, deserve to be treated with respect just like every other group of people, and if we are not being treated with respect we need negative labels to use to call out the behavior of those who make fun of us, put us down, joke about our diseases or disorders, etc. So if you hear someone say, “I’m so OCD” when they really mean they are organized, then call them out. Tell them, “That comment is psychophobic.” If someone says, “I’m so bipolar today” when they really mean they went from happy to sad, and back again. Call them out. Tell them, “That comment is an example of mentalism.”
Here is to hoping you are never engaged in mentalism or psychophobic behaviors. If these words get traction in the general population we will be well on our way to changing the discriminatory way that the mentally ill are treated. It is a cultural shift that I hope to live to see. We are the one minority group that is constantly bombarded with stereotypes and myths and there are so few people who seem to care enough to call it out. I’m calling it out right here, right now. You’ve been warned.