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Mental Illness — what I mean when I use the term

October 30, 2010

Some people don’t like the term mental illness. I don’t blame them for not accepting the medical model. But I find it’s language of diagnosis’s helpful at times. Communication is essential, and we cannot do that without words. I sometimes choose to use the medical ones.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you see me using the phrase.

  1. It feels like a sickness. It keeps you home from work or school like a sickness,  it makes you ache all over. You feel ill. It is an illness.
  2. It is centralized in the thoughts, senses, and emotions of a person. Thus we denote it ‘mental’.
  3. I reject the notion that medication is needed for every person’s recovery. Sometimes it’s helpful, sometimes it’s not.
  4. I reject that it is always a life-long condition, though it is often around for a long time. I reject the mass-produced prognosises. People are not statistics.
  5. I maintain that it is possible to have many of the symptoms of mental illness and still remain well. In other words some things are normal and ok. Visions have been a common human experience for a long time. If you know how far to read into them (or how far not to) you can keep them from disrupting your life and making you ill.
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