Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 3rd 2015 Contents A32
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, June 3, 2015
I am not a nutcase. I m not mental.
Neither am I psycho, schizoid, cray-
cray, retard, or any of the other things
by which I m labelled when you talk
about me or; when you so ignorantly
treat me like I m a walking illness
rather than a person who has a full
functioning body and who lives with
an illness of one part of that body.
Where do we people learn such
and negative terms about mental illness?
The primary sources appear to be from
the media, and from family and peers.
Derogatory references about people
with mental illness appear commonly
in the print, broadcast and cinemato-
"Stigma," the site says, can be con-
sidered as an amalgamation of three
related problems: a lack of knowledge
(ignorance), negative attitudes (preju-
dice), and excluding or avoiding behav-
Almost everyone I know has a diag-
nosis or has been ill at some point in
time. I do not hear people around call-
ing others sugar or sweetness because
they re managing diabetes. I ve never
heard anyone try to embarrass another
because they re hypertensive. When
last did you hear someone insult anoth-
er by saying, "You re asthmatic!"
I understand that I m beating up
about an issue that s a challenge glob-
ally. I appreciate that I m trying to
undo centuries of abuse. I acknowledge
that I m trying to undo fear and igno-
rance. But it does not lessen my hurt.
When you say of me to others in
hushed embarrassment, "She has men-
tal health problems" or yet, "She men-
tal" you perpetuate the stigma against
I m not the psychiatric label you
place on me. You do that because it
possibly helps you to feel better about
yourself, or better than I am. You do
that probably because you are too lazy
to make an attempt to find out about
that which you choose to speak so
unkindly. You do that because you
really do not care about me. You do
not yet care about me as a person
because you need to hide what s wrong
with you or with those around you.
I have not met a family that can
wholly claim they do not have someone
in their history or the present that has
an issue classified as a challenge in
I m cognisant of the fact that we
hide these things. We think it s bad
manners to speak of whatever betides
if we do not know or understand it.
So we hide it in the backroom---"it" is
sometimes a relative hidden in the
backroom of our homes.
Whatever your reason, I wish you d
find your humour elsewhere. Your
belittling is not funny. Your choice of
words to describe me, and those expe-
riencing similar challenges as I, is poor
When you say/write psycho and
bipolar to describe people you do not
like, understand or agree with, you too
are perpetuating the shame. You cannot
use a term like bipolar derogatively to
describe the action of a politician with-
out hindering my existence.
Have you not heard of words like
vacillation? Double-minded? Conflict-
ed? Are you that unaware or incon-
siderate? Should I call you "stupid" to
get your attention?
If you are really honest, I may be
considered no less or no more paranoid,
spastic, childish, troubled, insecure,
nor weird than you. But you believe
that because I live with a properly treat-
ed illness for which I ve decided there s
no reason to feel ashamed and to speak
openly, that somehow you have the
right to judgment.
And while in managing my health
a particular symptom may for a while
make me seem unpredictable, unap-
proachable, unstable, unhappy, or
unfair, can you afford sufficient brain
cells to understanding that isn t who
I am but only what I m experiencing
for a moment?
And when, because of your simple-
mindedness, lack of compassion, kind-
ness, and forgiveness you cannot see
past the length of your little finger that
you re as much a "head case" as you
consider me, should I label you too?
How about if those of us who live
full lives managing a mental health
issue decided to stigmatise you? What
things/names shall we call you?
Unlearned? Uneducated? Simpleton?
Should we mock you because you
belong to a group with no distinguish-
ing features---good or bad?
Thankfully, those of us living with
varying disabilities have all learned
something about compassion. While
we may be the ones behind the "fault
line" of your perfect world, it is us
who become your teachers helping you
to connect with you own humanity.
So you stigmatise me. I cannot stop
you, only you can do that. But I live
in the continuous hope that you see
and understand you are doing us no
good---not me, not you, not the world
we share. All you do is perpetuate the
unnecessary shame of what I experi-
ence and already find so much resist-
ance in others to accept as genuine ill-
ness that can be treated and cured.
• Caroline C Ravello is a strategic
communications professional and
media practitioner with over 30 years
of proficiency. She has been
living/thriving with mental health
issues for over 35 years.
Sticks, stones, words
all break bones, all hurt me
CAROLINE C RAVELLO
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