People with Mental Illnesses are People, Not Walking Diagnoses

Much of the stigma around mental illness has to do with people not seeing us as individuals:

“Don’t get involved with people with psychiatric illnesses because you will be abused.”

Not all abusers are mentally ill, and not everyone with a mental illness is abusive. They sometimes coexist, but not often enough to become a rule. Abuse is not a result of psychiatric illness, but a desire for power and control. You don’t need to be sick to get off on manipulation. Domestic abuse specialist, Lundy Bancroft found the root of abuse to be control, not mental illness. Abuse is a thought process, not a problem of mood and emotion.

I knew someone who had a mental illness, and they were criminal/unemployable/et cetera.

I knew a dog who used to perch on the edge of the wall with both feet. Do all dogs behave that way?

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“But Narcissists are evil.”

Narcissistic personality disorder and psychopathy are disorders of personality. They’re incurable and come with nasty traits like lack of empathy. Most of the diagnostic manual is made up of more treatable conditions. Not a whole hell of a lot of psychiatric conditions come with sadistic streaks, so please stop judging all mental illness as a sign of cruelty.

“If you’re mentally ill, you can’t consent to sex.”

Lord help all the horny depression patients who aren’t allowed to reproduce. </sarcasm> Each country (and state) has its own definition of legal capacity to consent, but, “mental illness doesn’t equate to incapacity.” If you have a psychiatric condition, you only lose your ability to consent if you’ve also lost your grasp of reality and can’t think rationally. People with mental illnesses have the right to free sexual expression.

“Getting involved with someone who has a psychiatric disorder enables their crappy behaviour.”

I think tough love is important for some disorders like alcoholism. I’m all for a similar approach if someone refuses treatment, but most mental health patients do seek treatment. There are obviously people who refuse care, but don’t paint all mental illness with that brush of yours. Psychiatric illnesses cause suffering. Wouldn’t you do your best to ease your suffering?

“But I don’t want to be manipulated or involved with a drama queen.”

Less than a handful of diagnoses are manipulative, and even fewer come with histrionics. You will prolly find more drama queens in the healthy section of Fetlife than you will in a psychiatrist’s consultation room.

And about that word “crazy”

“Crazy” means having a mental illness severe enough to remove all rationality if you go by Merriam Webster’s definition. That accounts for a tiny minority of psych patients, and it’s a crappy word anyway, so can we throw it away?

“But I shouldn’t have to get involved with someone who’s mentally ill.”

Nobody is asking you to. It would just be nice if you wouldn’t equate “psychiatric illness” with “asshole” or “drama queen.” View us as individuals because that is exactly what we are.


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