Crazy – ape, barmy, bats in the belfry, batty, berserk, bonkers, cracked, crazed, cuckoo, daft, delirious, demented, deranged, dingy, dippy, erratic, flaky, flipped, flipped out, freaked out, fruity, idiotic, insane, kooky, lunatic, mad, mad as a March hare, mad as a hatter, maniacal, mental, moonstruck, nuts, nutty, nutty as fruitcake, of unsound mind, out of one’s mind, out of one’s tree, out to lunch, potty, psycho, round the bend, schizo, screw loose, screwball, screwy, silly, touched, unbalanced, unglued, unhinged, unzipped, wacky.
Dangerous words, all of these. These words reflect our cultural attitude toward people struggling with their mental health. They are words that are used to describe people with behavior that we don’t understand. They are words that provoke fear and ridicule. They are words that dehumanize and stereotype people because they are different from us. They demean our family members, our friends and our neighbors who struggle with demons created by experience or the betrayal of their physical bodies. Because we use these words, we continue to support the fear and ignorance that they reflect.
There are worse things than being called names.
The Surgeon General describes the economics of burden for a disease is by using a scale called the Disability Adjusted Life Years or DAYL. According to a report written in 2000, the DAYL for all cardio diseases was 18.6. The DAYL for all mental illness (including suicide) was 15.4 followed by cancers at 15. Most people who have heart problems or cancer go to a doctor and are treated for their disease. 2/3’s of people suffering with mental health disorders never seek treatment.
There is a peculiar silence around mental health issues. Glenn Close, actress and advocate for speaking out wrote these eloquent words:
“It is an odd paradox that a society, which can now speak openly and unabashedly about topics that were once unspeakable, still remains largely silent when it comes to mental illness. This month, for example, NFL players are rumbling onto the field in pink cleats and sweatbands to raise awareness about breast cancer. On December 1st, World AIDS Day will engage political and health care leaders from every part of the globe. Illnesses that were once discussed only in hushed tones are now part of healthy conversation and activism.
Yet when it comes to bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress, schizophrenia or depression, an uncharacteristic coyness takes over. We often say nothing. The mentally ill frighten and embarrass us. And so we marginalize the people who most need our acceptance.”
You can find the entire article here.
Next week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Take the time to read some stories. Bravely talk to someone whose life has been affected by suicide or attempted suicide. Educate yourself. Help to bring this discussion into the light so that we can help each other. Only when we talk with knowledge and caring can we change lives.