Content/trigger warning: abuse mention, cursing, slurs (censored)
Happy Star Wars Day!
Honestly, one of my favorite parts of Star Wars Day is that it’s in May, meaning that fucking April is over. (I should just call it Fucking April from now on. It’s no longer April. It’s Fucking April. Or Autism Hell Month.) Unfortunately, when I escaped domestic abuse back in January, I forgot to bring my glitter eye shadow with me. So I’m wearing a glittery shawl, glittery nail polish, glittery earrings, and eye shadow that has at least some glitter in it. And a shirt with Carrie Fisher’s signature on it.
Anyway, May. May is also Mental Health Awareness Month, which…yeah, I’m not big on that name. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before–specifically in regards to autism–“awareness” is not the best concept to use in pro-ND activism. So I’m going to use this entry to talk a little about the terminology surrounding Mental Health Awareness Month and similar concepts related to pro-ND activism.
In my acceptance vs. awareness entry, I said the following:
Needless to say, I don’t like awareness campaigns. This makes me nervous when I see awareness campaigns for mental illnesses. “Awareness”, to me, will always have the connotation of “be aware, these people are Other”. It matters quite a bit, though, who runs the campaigns. Autism $peaks’ flavor of “bewareness” is motivated by allistics who hold an inherently bigoted view of Autistic people. Many mental illness awareness campaigns are actually run by people with the illness. That makes a huge difference. I would still prefer to see acceptance campaigns because I don’t like the connotation of “awareness”, but that might be me.
Yeah, I don’t think it’s just me. “Awareness” isn’t enough. Mentally healthy people are aware of psychotic disorders and they still use “psychotic” to describe violent assholes. Mentally healthy people are aware of cluster B disorders and still use “n*rc*ss*st”, “p****path”, and “s****path” to describe abusers. Mentally healthy people are aware of PTSD and they still use “triggered” to mean “offended”. Mentally healthy people are aware of depression and they still don’t know not to call the police for “wellness checks” when a loved one is suicidal.
We have awareness. What we need now is acceptance. This is necessary in part because acceptance requires understanding. I’ve seen the pattern so many times of mentally healthy people claiming they support their mentally ill loved ones but freaking out and being unsupportive and straight up saneist as soon as their loved ones start showing symptoms. Acceptance means knowing that being mentally ill means having certain traits and symptoms and not being a dickweed when a person shows those traits or symptoms.
Of course, this means that mentally healthy people need to be educated about how mental illness actually works. That, to me, is what “awareness” campaigns should actually be; not just saying “whatever percent of people have X diagnosis” but saying “X diagnosis means [symptoms A, B, and C]” and “X diagnosis does not mean [saneist stereotypes D, E, and F]”. I’m not so naive that I think that all mentally healthy people are going to learn from acceptance campaigns and stop being saneist as soon as they learn the truth about mental illness, but I do think that acceptance campaigns would be a good place to start.
As long as I’m yammering about terms, I don’t like the term “mental health advocate”. A lot of people call Carrie that, but it doesn’t make sense to me. Most “mental health advocates” are actually mentally ill people who talk about the absence of mental health. Being Autistic, I like the term “self-advocate”, which we in the Autie community often use–hell, there’s an entire big Autistic justice organization called the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network–and I think “self-advocate” would make more sense than simply “advocate”. “Mental health advocates” don’t advocate for mental health so much as they self-advocate for a particular kind of disability justice: psychiatric disability/mental illness justice. So “mental illness self-advocate” or “psychiatric disability self-advocate” make more sense to me, because those terms seem to actually mean “mentally ill person who self-advocates for justice for mentally ill people”. If “mental illness advocates” can’t self-advocate because aren’t actually mentally ill, then…well, they probably need to shut up and pass the mic. I also like the idea of “[psychiatric] disability activist” as a term if “self-advocate” seems too, well, self-centered and not focused enough on fighting for justice for the mentally ill community.
Continuing to yammer about terms, I also said this in my last acceptance vs. awareness entry:
Side note: “stigma” is really a manifestation of neurotypicalism. It’s a system of oppression, not just an unfortunate opinion. That’s important to keep in mind.
Still true. Because of this, I don’t like it when people talk about “destigmatizing mental illness” or “mental illness stigma” without mentioning the larger context. Just saying “stigma” isn’t enough because it doesn’t get at the root of the problem. I’d prefer that people say “mental illness stigma as a result of saneism”. Talking about stigma is fine–it totally exists and is a real problem–but the reason why stigma exists is that society is set up to oppress mentally ill people and privilege mentally healthy people. The big picture is always important in social justice. And this includes acknowledging intersecting axes of oppression as well; there are some denizens of Disabled Twitter who I really admire, especially @autistichoya, who often talk about how white supremacy supports ableism and that there is no dismantling ableism without dismantling white supremacy. I really hope to feature a guest blogger on that topic one day. Speaking of passing the mic.
That’s all I have for today. May the Fourth be with you. Wear #glitterforCarrie and fight for justice for mentally ill people in her honor.
Thanks to my only Patreon supporter, Karina! To become as cool as Karina, please consider supporting my work on Patreon: My Patreon.
Mentally ill activist and angry Disabled loudmouth. Neuroqueer as hell.