By Lynsey Pattie
Language is powerful. This election campaign has rightly pointed out sexist language used against female candidates is unacceptable and that racist language will never be tolerated. However, ableist language, especially in regards to mental health, has been used frequently and I wonder why this isn’t taken as seriously.
You only have to look online to find words such as ”mental” and “crazy” being used to describe someone who has a different idea from someone else. Having different opinions doesn’t make you crazy, it just means you don’t agree. I find it upsetting that people resort to this language.
As someone who has Schizoaffective Disorder ( a mixture of Schizophrenia and a Mood Disorder) I have found one phrase more upsetting than most. The use of “tin foil hats” has become a popular phrase to describe a person who has an idea that might seem a bit strange or wrong. One use of the phrase is to describe a person who believes in conspiracy theories. This use can be innocent to those who havn’t thought any further about the phrase.
However some of those who have Schizophrenia have extremely paranoid thoughts including feeling that someone or something is reading their minds. Tin foil hats and tin foil on the windows is a way in which some people with Schizophrenia, when in the grips of psychosis, believe that their minds cannot be read. There are also many people with Schizophrenia who become obsessed with conspiracy theories due to their psychosis. When I am unwell I firmly believe in the Illuminati despite not even being interested or believing in them when I am well. I also become hyper religious despite being an athiest when well. I understand that people might not know this which is why I want to educate people about my illness.
Schizophrenia is already a highly misunderstood and stigmatised illness that needs more people to understand it, not use language that makes the stigma worse. It is also harder for those who have serious mental health problems to feel involved in politics and campaigning due to a number of reasons such as isolation, not feeling that they are reliable due to illness and accessibility issues. What better way to make them feel welcome than by not only watching our language, but speaking up when we see ableist language used online and in conversation.