In talking with a friend about the state of mental health care in the state of Tennessee our conclusion was that a mental health diagnosis should not be a felony nor the pronouncement of terminal illness. Too often, way too often it is. Much of mental health reform is simply the effort to increase the justice in the lives of those diagnosed with mental illness in a system and cultural context that assumes the reality of a condition it says will last forever and effect everything and ignores the injustice of a system which too often uses the diagnosis it gives as a justification to disempower, disillusion and manipulate those it claims to help
The use of words is crucial. Whoever controls how you talk defines what it is possible to say. The assumption that diagnostic labels reflect a concrete reality rather than an abstraction that is used to understand that reality ultimately has a terribly poisonous effect. When people become what we call them the potential abuse goes through the roof. History has shown that the labels we put on people are all too often the mechanism that ends up being how we deny that they are people.
Helping people to understand the very real distress they live with should never be an act of violence on their soul. Too often it is.