That word was acceptable when we called people with epilepsy possessed or people with leprosy cursed. Sadly, in the 21st century people with mental illnesses are still called Mad and Mental.
I have never heard anyone be abused as a diabetic and we will not wish cancer on our worst enemy…but we still say “are you mad?”
This is no one’s fault…it is what we have always said…it is entertaining when we see people running around naked or talking to themselves…hey I am as guilty as the next person- and I am bipolar. And in all honesty the things I did when I was in my mania were “mad”:
- I was stripping in the middle of traffic to prove I was not cold
- I thought my urine because of the uric acid and urea had cleaning properties so I used it to wash my cloths
- I didn’t know how to swim at all but that didn’t stop me from nose diving into the deep end (thankfully swimming is a mental problem — human beings float — so in a mania no fear and no inhibitions)
- I stopped eating, stopped sleeping, stopped interacting with anyone, stopped answering my phone and on and on and on
These are just a few of my war stories and the way I tell it would have you choking because you get to people with humour. But words have meanings.
When you say someone is mad, crazy, a lunatic etc. you are degrading a sick person. You are insulting someone through no fault of their own is in a state that is different from the normal. Even depression which everyone sees as a weakness (I get so ticked off when someone says just look yourself in the mirror and talk to yourself or your being lazy or suck it up) is actually a proven illness. SPECT brain scans can show the difference in level of activity in the brain between healthy (don’t even like when they say normal because I am normal I am just sick) and unhealthy brains.
I think it would be better if we could remove the word mental and just say illness. Because that is really what it is; an illness. But because it is a mental issue I can understand the medical distinction…I just wish you understood that yes my head is not correct but hey it could have been my heart, kidneys or lungs.
Contributing Writer Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative