Using language correctly is an act of compassion for those who suffer mental illness.
When people say that something or someone is “schizophrenic,” they usually mean that that thing or person is unpredictable, crazy, or something to that effect. But how many people can actually give an accurate definition of this word?
According to a new video released by Rethink Mental Illness, 42 percent of people admit to not knowing what schizophrenia is and 50 percent incorrectly think it means multiple personalities (which is actually covered by a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder). So what is schizophrenia actually?
Schizophrenia is “a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves.” Common symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations, delusions, emotional numbness, loss of motivation, difficulty completing activities, and disorganized thinking.
In the video above, Rethink Mental Illness simulates the experience of hearing voices. Not everyone with schizophrenia hears voices, and not everyone who hears voices has schizophrenia (this can be a symptom of many mental disorders). However, it’s a common experience for people with schizophrenia, and one that is often either misrepresented as dangerous or used as go-to joke about “crazy” people. The lived experience, though, is quite different: hallucinatory voices can be cruel and relentless. We might listen to this audio simulation and think it sounds strange, but what if that audio never ended? What if you couldn’t switch it off and walk away?
For someone who’s never experienced it, mental illness can be a difficult thing to relate to, but, in Christ, no one is left outside — we are all part of God’s family. No one is ever outside the realm of compassion simply because we can’t understand what they’re going through. We shouldn’t employ words and diagnoses as an insult or a joke, knowing that these same words have altered the lives of many who live with this condition (1 in every 100, in fact) and their families and loved ones.
Understanding mental illnesses a little better will hopefully allow us to open our hearts a little wider.