Friday, April 23, 2010

It's PC-gone-mentally-challenged

Psychotic, autistic, paranoid, schizophrenic, bald. Just 5 of the words I have been called today by uncaring members of my own family. Thanks, mum. But 3 of these words feature in a comment piece in today's Guardian by Beatrice Bray. In it she argues that we should be more careful about our casual use of medical terms that describe mental illness. She argues that psychotic should only be used when referring to people who have the condition "psychosis", not as a more generalised term of abuse to describe someone who's a bit unstable.


The use of the word "psychotic" (is) offensive. You may think this political correctness gone mad, but if you are ill, or have been, you need words to describe your experience to yourself and to others. If for you these words are negative, you will hate yourself. Language can make or break your happiness.

So how far should we go to avoid causing offence to minority groups? Bray argues that we shouldn't be misusing the term bi-polar either. Katy Perry is going to be in big trouble for her "love bi-polar" in Hot'n'Cold. And the term schizophrenia? No longer should we even consider using it to mean "in two minds" or "experiencing mixed emotions".

And please allow individuals an identity apart from their illness, so always say "a person with schizophrenia" rather than "a schizophrenic".

Bray is not the only person to be concerned about the language of disability leaking into the mainstream lexicon. back in November of last year, the French politician Pierre Lellouche caused controversy by describing Gordon Brown as "autistic".

Is this PC-gone-mad (sorry, PC-gone-mentally-challenged) or a case of being sensitive to words that can cause a lot of distress? Let's have a heated debate: add your comments.