By MADDIE McCLOUSKEY
Think about the last time you called someone crazy (to their face or behind their back).
What message were you trying to send? I’m sure it wasn’t a positive one.
Was the “crazy” person a woman? I wouldn’t be shocked.
It would be hypocritical of me to shame you for it because we’ve all done it. That’s why it’s important that we discuss it.
The Connotations of ‘Crazy’
There’s a disconnect between the usage of the word “crazy” and its actual meaning. When calling someone “crazy” in conversation, it usually serves one of three purposes
1. To “Other” them.
When you call someone crazy, the implication is that they are separate and somehow entirely different from you.
They’re a deviation from the norm — they’re other.
Othering a group of people is the first step to inequality. And separate isn’t equal.
2. To Dismiss
I find that “crazy” has become a go-to word to describe less-than-perfect family members and ex-partners. When someone in our personal lives is deemed “crazy,” it’s code for “I don’t like them. Don’t take them seriously.”
We use “crazy” to write people off.
3. To Shame
In everyday life, we brand people with a scarlet letter “C” when we do not approve of their behavior.
This implies that so-called crazy people have complete control of their actions and should feel ashamed for stepping outside of the norm.
But here’s the thing: I actually am crazy.
I am one of millions of people living with real mental illness, undergoing real medical treatment, and experiencing the real societal stigma of being “crazy.”
Calling people crazy others them, dismisses them, and shames them.
It also others, dismisses, and shames people like me.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “a mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functioning.” This definition is broad for a reason: It encompasses a wide range of diverse and serious conditions.
Because there are so many different types of mental illness, I am positive you know someone living with one. One out of every four adults and one out of every five teenagers will experience mental illness in a given year.
You can’t tell someone lives with mental illness just by looking at them. Even mental health professionals have difficulty making precise diagnoses since mental illnesses are invisible and manifest themselves with varying symptoms.
Not to mention, people living with mental illness may not want to talk about their struggles.
Because mental illness is not outwardly physical, many people living with mental illness have their experience questioned, dismissed, or mocked by others. For me, disclosing my mental illness can feel more nerve-wracking than coming out as a lesbian.
You may not see mental illness, but it definitely exists. You may not hear about mental illness, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it.