The Five-Letter Word by Aaron McKrell
I was at work the other day when I heard two people having a conversation about someone suspected to have a mental illness. The one person uttered, “Is he crazy?”
Crazy. I hate that word. Not because I’m too sensitive or because I can’t handle being called a name, but because that word boils down mental illnesses, which are complex, painful, and varied afflictions, into a singular, five-letter utterance.
Then again, our society does the same thing.
I would know. I’m a 25-year-old afflicted by severe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and recurrent depression. Many times, when I’ve told people of my illnesses, they’ve either a) downplayed them b) looked at me like I was an alien, or c) spewed a series of sympathetic and admiring phrases my way like I’m some kind of war veteran. Rarely is it ever a pleasant experience.
Most of these reactions stem from our culture. Mental illness is taboo. We afflicted are laughed at and looked at as weak, even though battling your own mind every day takes a strength most people wouldn’t dream of having. Yet, when someone battles a physical illness, they’re called heroes. So what’s the difference? You can’t see mental illness. But trust us, it’s all too real.
For the record, I don’t want to be called a hero. I just want my respect. A big part of getting that comes from people being aware. We have an uphill battle when people see TV shows like Hoarders stereotyping and sensationalizing mental illness and shows like Monk turning it into a joke. Yet, there’s a way to combat the misconceptions people have about mental illness: the internet.
Right at our fingertips, we have access to knowledge about any topic imaginable. With just a Google search and a click, I was able to find out useful facts which can help the average Joe IDK begin to understand mental illness. According to mentalhealth.gov, in 2014 one in five American adults experienced a mental health issue, one in 10 young people experienced a period of major depression, and one in 25 Americans lived with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression.
That right there should tell you that people with mental illnesses aren’t in dark rooms running their nails up and down the walls. Mental illness is a common affliction that many people go through but few are comfortable enough to talk about, because of the taboo and labels like “crazy.”
Let’s change that. Let’s stop using “crazy” as a five-letter word. Let’s stop judging people who suffer from mental illness, because it’s no more their fault than it is someone who has cancer. Let’s be the progressive people we like to think we are and start treating the mentally ill with the respect they deserve.
Because doing anything else is just a five-letter word.