Facebook Pixel

Labels Like 'Basket Case' and 'Crazy' Stigmatize the Mentally Ill

By HERWriter
Rate This
Labels Like 'Crazy' and 'Basket Case' Stigmatize the Mentally Ill Via Pexels

“Basket case” is kind of a catchy phrase — fun to say, rolls off the tongue nicely. The movie “Breakfast Club” referred to the quirky, shy girl as the basket case, a character I’ve identified with since high school for her rumpled style and introversion.

While I’m a progressive who’s not especially fond of political correctness and clickbait articles titled “10 Things to Never Say to Another Human Being,” I am an advocate for the precision of language. We should be aware of the nuances and implicit bias in the words we use.

One of our current presidential candidates referred to his rival Ted Cruz as “having a mental health crisis.” He identified Bernie Sanders as “crazy” and called radio host Glenn Beck “a mental basket case.”(2)

Here we have an example of a potential world leader stigmatizing mental illness, using accusations to dismiss a person’s stability or capability. Stigmatizing mental illness is not only ill-informed, it’s dangerous.

“People who feel ashamed of their condition, or who believe that it implies a personal failing on their part, are much less likely to seek treatment or social or familial support,” wrote journalist Jesse Singal in her nymag.com blog Science of Us.(3)

Think about that the next time you use the words “lunatic” or “crazy” to describe someone. Stigmatizing mental illness prevents people, sometimes suicidal people, from seeking help.

In 2001, it was estimated that 30 percent of Americans had a mental illness, and an early U.S. survey revealed that less than one-third of those with mental illness sought help.(4)

Stigma is deadly. To imply that mental illness is a barrier to a successful career in one’s field is misguided bigotry.

Mental Illness and Employability

Famous people with mental illness belie the assumption that mental illness is a handicap:

- John Nash, Nobel Prize winner in mathematics

- Leo Tolstoy, author

- Ben Stiller, comedian and actor

- J.K. Rowling, author(6)

Oh, and perhaps you’ve heard of this fellow:

- Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States(5)

1) Succeeding at Work. nami.org. Retrieved October 3, 2016. https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Living-with-a-Mental-Health-Condition/Succeeding-at-Work

2) How Donald Trump Gets It Wrong On Mental Illness Every Time. HuffingtonPost.com. Retrieved October 3, 2016.

3) Attacking Heidi Cruz for Her Depression Is a Disgraceful Move. Retrieved October 3, 2016. ScienceofUs.

4) Thornicroft, Graham et al. Discrimination against people with mental illness: what can psychiatrists do? RCPsych.org. Retrieved October 3, 2016.

5) Abraham Lincoln Research Site. RogerJNorton.com. Retrieved October 3, 2016.

6) 9 Famous Women Who Have Spoken Out About Therapy. HuffingtonPost.com. Retrieved October 3, 2016.

7) Trump Attacks America’s Veterans By Calling Vets Suffering From PTSD Weak. PoliticsUSA.com. Retrieved October 3, 2016.

Add a CommentComments

There are no comments yet. Be the first one and get the conversation started!

Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.