Once a year my son gets a letter referring to him as a “mental defective.” He has schizo-affective disorder and has been court ordered to follow treatment. He once asked me, “How do you think I feel when I get this letter?”
Horrible, I am sure since his IQ is intact.
Because of this letter, however, he is entitled to government benefits, such as monthly disability checks and federal housing. On the other hand, it deprives him of certain rights, such as free access to travel and deciding where to live.
You may have heard the term “mental defective” in the news lately. It has been brought up repeatedly due to the brouhaha over gun ownership. I understand the reasoning behind criminals and people who have been committed not owning lethal weapons. (And I personally don’t see why anyone would want to own a weapon made for the military either.) My main concern is the term “mental defective.” While I’m not a huge fan of political correctness, in his case I think the government could come up with a better phrase when referring to folks with mental illnesses. Picky person that I am, I looked up the definition of the offending word.
Defective: Having a defect or flaw; faulty; imperfect; characterized by subnormal intelligence or behavior.
Okay, my son’s behavior is sometimes odd so I guess “mental defective” is accurate enough, but the connotation is far from nice. When I think of defective, I think of something I have bought at a store, a toaster, for instance. Let’s say I bring that said toaster home and discover that it doesn’t work properly. It is broken. After cursing for ten minutes straight, I get back into my car and return it to the store for another. I can’t return my son. I’d like to cure the illness, but until that day I’ll settle for better, more humane, treatment.
Another problem I have with the term is that it is used as a noun, not an adjective. If you have cancer you are not a “cancer” but a person who has the illness. If you have heart disease you are not a “heart disease.” People with mental illnesses are not the sum total of their illness. They are just people dealing with a condition that life has thrown their way.