I recently read a blog post where the author was adamant that mental health disorders define the person who is diagnosed.
They prefaced their ‘rant post’ with a few sentences on their relevant education:
“I’m a psych major. Mental illnesses are a fascination of mine…”
Whilst I applaud the interest, I believe it is for the wrong reasons. In no fashion whatsoever do I present this as an attack, merely a gesture at the indisputable fact that despite their no-doubt extensive university studies, they are not a qualified mental health professional and their design in telling others that “Of course you’re defined by it.” is detrimental to others.
The blog post centres on how they believe that mental heath disorders define the person, citing several experiences such as, ‘my friend’s mom’ (who a few sentences on, turns in to just ‘my friend’), their ‘hunny’, a well-known musician, several friends and themselves (as a rape-victim). The author has made it clear that despite these other people not actually being the author, that the view depicted stands true for each and every single one. They believe not only that people are defined by their mental health condition, but that they should be.
This mentality, and the spreading of this fallacy can be extremely damaging to those who are diagnosed with a mental health condition. It also becomes apparent, through their use of language, that they are under the heavy influence of a lack of awareness despite their current education.
They frequently refer to people as the disorder itself and not a person diagnosed with a mental health disorder.
” A schizophrenic, even medicated, is defined by their disorder. ”
Schizophrenic is an adjective, not a noun. A person is diagnosed with schizophrenia, they are not schizophrenic.
“Not to mention that [name], like a lot of bipolars, has been institutionalized for suicide.”
A person is not ‘bipolar’. They are certainly not ‘a bipolar’. The clue is in its full scientific name – Bipolar Disorder – they are essentially saying ‘[name], like a lot of bipolar disorders,” Someone is diagnosed with bipolar disorder; they are not bipolar.
Secondly, you cannot be institutionalised for suicide. You would be dead. They would have been entered in to a mental health facility for attempted suicide, or suicidal ideation. It is extremely hard to believe that the author has any real grasp on the subject they are so intently studying, but this may just be a lack of understanding on their part on how damaging these views can be if shared with vulnerable people.
Whilst the author’s outdated language and terminology simply pushes them further and further from credibility; such as using the term ‘mental wards’, instead of the correct ‘psychiatric ward’ or facility, it still remains that they are spreading misinformation and using their degree as ‘proof of their superior knowledge’.
Many people with mental health conditions are already suffering under the illusion that they are not ‘normal’ or not themselves because of their disorder. It is extremely difficult to shake this mentality that you are nothing more than a collection of diagnosable symptoms. I know, I have been there myself. I have felt the sense of worthlessness, the emptiness, the pain of living with this sick thought nailed into my head.
Michael Hedrick, author of ‘Living with Schizophrenia: One Man’s Journey’, says,
“Separating yourself from your illness is hard but once you see things for what they are, you can be free to be yourself without the cloud of paranoia and delusion hanging over your head.
Further, because of this, you can see that your illness doesn’t define you, it doesn’t condemn you to a life trapped by the things your brain tells you and it frees you up to have a normal happy existence.”
This is the stigma hundreds of thousands of people might wrestle with on a daily basis: the false belief that they are defined by their disorder. Ultimately you are not your disorder.
A mental health condition may change how you feel, or react, or behave, or think, or any number of things, but it does not define you. Your mental health condition is not an excuse, it is simply a reason. You are not your diagnosis.
Whilst the author personally may have felt that being a victim of rape defines them as a person, it does not ring true for everybody, and nor should they expect that their opinion is both a fact and non-debatable.
The misuse of mental health terminology perpetuates stigma against mental health, not to mention lumping everyone’s individual experiences into one huge mess as well as the inconsistencies in the text.
So please, you may be currently taking a psychology degree, or have recently graduated, but your education does not allow you to spread false and damaging information.