Does it matter what we call it: mental illness, mental-health condition, brain disorder, brain disease? I believe it does, and this is an exception under my umbrella of thinking. Usually I don’t like name changing, when it’s the result of political correctness, hoping that by giving a different label people will wake up and right the wrongs of the past. For example, changing mental “retardation” to “developmental disability” comes quickly to mind. Not only are there more syllables (okay, I’m admittedly lazy), it’s a tongue twister, to boot, and has accomplished nothing, in my opinion. Of course, I never saw “retardation” as a dirty word and still don’t. Additionally, serious mental illnesses are biologically based, involve the brain (an organ) and therefore are physical illnesses. (Why should the brain be an exception to all the diseases plaguing people since every other organ in the body is targeted?)
What made me think about this was an article in Choices in Recovery, a magazine I get for free. (I don’t like the PC word recovery, but I’ll save that for another post.)
If people began to refer to serious mental illnesses as either brain disorders or brain diseases, as I believe they are, than perhaps the stigma would lessen, which could have significant consequences in more ways than the obvious.
Compared to cancer, MI gets little money for treatment and research from the government and individuals’ pocketbooks. If more people spoke up about their battles or the battles of loved ones, and pressured their representatives, more money would come in. Big bucks go to breast cancer and The Special Olympics, for example. While they are worthy causes, you rarely see public service announcements or ads on T.V. that focus on MI, even though they are all too common.
We have heard a lot recently about how serious brain concussions are (and no one would dare laugh at that). After all, it can be your kid who died from repeated concussions as a result of playing high-school football. Well, it can also be your kid who gets schizophrenia, bipolar, etc.
While there’s no way of knowing if changing the name from MI to brain disease (and consequently putting the focus on the brain as opposed to the mind), as the causative organ, would accomplish much, but it did get me thinking … We won’t know unless we try. And BTW, I am not referring to the more minor illnesses under the MI spectrum, the so-called “worried well,” but those that are chronic and life altering.
And last, if anyone is interested in getting the magazine I mentioned, Choices in Recovery, you can subscribe at: www.choicesinrecovery.com. Yes, it is put out by a pharmaceutical company, Janssen (okay, someone has to pay for it), but it is free and still has some good info, so, as they say, you can take what you want and leave the rest.