I remember riding a bus to an orchestra competition when I used the word [retarded] to refer to my stand partner as stupid. The bus driver, while driving, whipped around in her seat and yelled at me about using the word. Apparently she had a mentally disabled son and did not approve of the use in a negative way. That always stuck with me.
And when I really began thinking about it, I realized why she was so upset. The people born with these disabilities did not ask to be this way; they are not stupid. And I was being incredibly disrespectful.
Now, there’s a similar story regarding “gay.”
I had a guy friend who happened to be gay. I used to say everything was gay; it was ridiculous! And one day during Spanish class I said that something was gay and he looked me in the eye—nearly in tears—and told me that it made him hate himself every time I said it. . .
So what do people with mental health issues think about the word crazy? I’m sure it’s the same as retarded or gay. It’s making light of something that may be uncomfortable, but needs to be dealt with carefully and respectfully.
I think there needs to be a lot more discussion—as there has been recently—about mental health. I think talking about things is where the uncomfortable becomes comfortable, or at least better understood.
Talking about depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, OCD, suicide, and other issues in this category will help people speak out or at least get the help they need. When something is a stigma or the punch line of a joke, we tend to sweep it under the rug or turn a blind eye because it’s easier not to deal with it. We tend not to be cautious in the right sense, like knowing what sets people off, being willing to ask the hard questions, being supportive without allowing the person to do whatever he or she wants or not take medication. . .
I don’t have a clue how to fix this broken system in which we live. I have no idea how to deal with the more severe mental health patients. I just don’t know. But I do know that if we continue having these conversations, we have more books and movies about mental health, and we let go of our fears little by little, maybe we can see the silver lining and put this stigma to rest.
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