Time for me to have a short rant, I apologise early for it.
The world in which we live is full of labels, some of them have an unnecessary stigma attached to them. Here is one that, if we changed the term, it may sound less serious and possibly lose the stigma that comes with it.
Mental Illness - When someone says that they have a mental illness, it is often the case that we are reluctant to get to know that person. Not all of us do this, and maybe we will eventually get to know them, but our first reaction is to hold back.
Why does this happen? For me, it was when I did not know enough about the brain and the many ways on which it operates (and often fails), that this particular label conjures up feelings of fear of the unknown which can lead to alienation for the person affected and effected.
Then I had a mental illness, I had a mild case of depression. (I convince myself it was mild, as it only lasted for a year and I didn’t need prescription medication to recover). The technical term for my mental illness - Accumulated Stress Disorder - the simple term is burnout. Note that I didn't say that I 'suffered' from it, I was 'had' it. Suffering is another negative word that we attach to the term mental illness.
Sometimes my illness returns in small doses and manifests itself through negative thoughts. I don't see this as a mental illness, I prefer to call it 'brain sickness'. Because that is all it was, my brain got sick and now it's better. (Some may say that I am still mad, but in a nice way.)
For years little was known about the brain, now we know a lot more. The more that I learn about it the more that I am fascinated by how simple it works yet how complex it is.
So why is there a long-lasting stigma attached to brain sickness? I think because we still don't know enough about it and we don’t talk enough about it. Possibly also because we previously locked people away when their brain got sick. A little might be that we can't see it and we fear what we can’t see.
Having a brain sickness can be no different to any other illness. Sometimes we can fix it, other times we need medication short term or longer term. And sometimes we may never be completely healed.
But isn’t it the same thing as getting malaria, having migraines, diabetes, and high cholesterol to name but a few. Sometimes we get over it, sometimes we need medication for a few weeks/months or maybe for the rest of our life.
A broken bone will heal itself but there will always be a weakness and residual pain from the break. When we break our brain, the same thing happens. If the arm is broken badly enough, we will never be able to use it properly again. The same goes for the brain. Which one would you be more empathetic towards – the person with the broken arm or the broken brain?