Mental Health Politically Correct Language Is Not Superior, Just Different

Mental Health Politically Correct Language Is Not Superior, Just Different

I do not consider mental health-related politically correct language to be superior in any way. People who know me know I’m not a big fan of political correctness in the mental health arena. I don’t give a hoot about “person-first language.” I don’t care if you absentmindedly call the weather “bipolar.” And I will always call a spade a spade and say I represent the mentally ill and not those with “behavioral health conditions.” And I talk about violence and mental illness and other things that we’re not supposed to mention because it scares the villagers. And I certainly don’t think insisting on changing the aforementioned things (and oh-so-much-more) helps those of us with mental illness in the slightest. I realize, this puts me in the minority (and she laughs), but my opinion is, politically correct language in mental health is not superior, just different.

The Superiority Complex of the Politically Correct

I strongly suspect the politically correct crowd feels they are better than everyone else. “Oh, yes, I use person-first language so obviously I’m helping people with schizophrenia more than people who call them ‘schizophrenics.’”

Oh really?

Using that person-first language you are so fond of, I might say you’re a person with a superiority complex. You think you’re better than I am because of the words you choose to express a point, and typically a weak point at that? You think you’re superior because you pussyfoot around the mentally ill instead of just treating us like everyone else (you know, actual equality)? You think you’re superior because you only talk about “recovery” and what people want to hear instead of talking about unpopular, negative issues like about all the people who are chronically sick and cause problems?

Yeah, I’m going with superiority complex.

You’ve convinced yourself via the PC police you are educating us poor plebians and how you choose to express yourself is better.

Nope. It’s just different.

Being Seen As an Enemy When Your Language Is Not Politically Correct in Mental Health

Recently, on Project Runway, one of my favorite shows, a judge called an outfit, well actually two outfits, “schizophrenic.” She was using it in the sense that the outfit had “multiple personalities” as in (according to

of or relating to conflicting or inconsistent elements; characterized by unusual disparity

This is obviously an outdated way of looking at the illness of schizophrenia and yet, still a recognized definition of the word “schizophrenic.” And while I’m not a friend of the judge, my guess is she wasn’t calling an outfit a mental illness, she was simply using an English-language word.

In other words, the judge did nothing wrong. She expressed her opinion in the way she knew how.

Now, I would prefer she not use the word “schizophrenic” in a negative fashion (and, actually, tweeted so to the show) but I don’t think she’s inferior simply because she’s not PC in this regard. I’m not offended and I’m not ashamed. I would prefer she not do it. That’s it. She’s not “the enemy.”

I recognize we all express ourselves differently, we all know different words and definitions and I’m not better than her simply because I likely wouldn’t call an outfit “schizophrenic.” And understand when I tell you, that word might even come to mind with the above definition, but I might not say it so as to not offend the PC police.

And I know for my part, people have constantly chastised me for not being politically correct enough. I have no doubt that certain large mental health organizations have passed on my speaking for them because I have my own mind. I am suddenly an enemy. Me – the bipolar. Me – who tries to help the mentally ill every day. Me – who offers everyone the same respect and dignity regardless as to a diagnosis.

Yes, me — I’m the enemy because I won’t change, or apologize for, my language in all situations.

I’m the enemy and those who always ensure person-first language are superior. That’s how we’re supposed to see it.

Mental Health Politically Correct Language Is Not Superior

Those of the United States shave this habit of saying, “America is the best country in the world.”

Well, that’s wrong, for two reasons.

  1. Millions of non-US citizens also call “America” their home (see South America and Central America for just a few folks). United States citizens really don’t have a trademark on the word “America.”
  2. The United States is a fine country – but so are many others. Many others are better than the United States at many things. Many have lower poverty rates. Many have much more successful education systems. Many (including Canada) have better healthcare systems. And, according to international research, those in other countries are happier than those in the United States. Sorry, but it’s true.

Nevertheless, while every time someone from the United States insists that “America is the best country in the world” it kind of irks me, I don’t insist he or she make the language accurate and/or and politically correct. Yes, we’ve all come to accept that those who come from the United States call themselves “Americans” and the rest of us aren’t supposed to. It’s really a politically incorrect thing, but it’s just a thing in language. I’m not about to get in a huff about it. (And, of course, as it is those from the United States who are the political correctness police in most instances, they have no interest in policing something so fundamental about themselves. Oddly, no one else seems to be insisting on it. And PS, calling yourself “an American” isn’t person-first. Just saying.)

So when I say, “Us bipolars are a moody bunch,” for example, it’s just different, not inferior to, “those with bipolar disorder experience moods.” If you feel better about the PC version, that’s your business, but you’re not better than me simply because you choose the latter option.

Stop Sucking the Blood from My Language

As a writer, I actually find political correctness offensive as I find it needlessly shackling. I should have the right to express myself as I want without worrying a whole whack of people who assume they are “do-gooders” will jump down my throat – as they currently do. Every time I’m out of step with the politically correct you can bet your booty someone’s going to wave his or her superiority flag and tell me so.

And this just sucks the blood from the language. There are multiple ways to express the same thing for a reason (us writers pretty much insist on it for one) – different points, different contexts, different moments require different words. And that’s okay. I don’t say things like you. I’m not better than you. I’m just different.

Intention is key to language. (I’ve written about this before.) I don’t mean to degrade people with bipolar disorder when I say “us bipolars” even if some people will insist on taking it as if it is some insult. If you want, be offended, that’s your business. But make no mistake about it, just because you would say, “those of us who have bipolar disorder” does not make you better than me. It makes your different. Which is fine with me. Why isn’t it fine with you?

(PS: When someone uses a slur such as “fag” in a non-hurtful context [such as among friends] it makes me uncomfortable. However, I’m not so egotistical as to tell other people they shouldn’t use a word just because it makes me uncomfortable when no harm is intended or, indeed, done.)

Banner image by Flickr user wstera2.

Image by Vegetationlife (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.


About Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.

Natasha’s New Book

Find more of Natasha’s work in her new book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. Media inquiries can be emailed here.



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