“He’s sick in the way he conjures up things to motivate us and get the guys rallying around him and his vision”
Opinion: I usually don’t do sports at Earthpages but this headline made me think. Is the word “psycho” just a harmless joke or does its use do more harm than good?
Frankly, I am surprised that CBS would post a headline like that, given all the recent awareness about mental health and the dangers of stigma.
We certainly would not see the N-word anymore these days (unless perhaps you are a rapper, which opens up another entire debate). We also won’t see other words like the F-word (for gays) or “girl” for women (unless you are a trendy pop star, which opens up yet another debate). In the past, these words were bandied about but are now recognized as backward and harmful.
So what’s up with pejorative mental health words? Does the psychiatric patient have fewer rights than anyone else?
In my opinion, it all comes down to two sociological words: POWER and IGNORANCE.
Because psychiatric patients typically enjoy less power in society, they can’t fight back as easily. It’s pretty hard to form a political group when you are locked up in a hospital or suffering from mind-numbing drugs.
And, I would suggest, so many patients uncritically accept injurious – and silly – labels that they don’t even think to fight back. They just accept what the APA slaps down on them. They are “ill” and have strange sounding labels affixed to their identities. They don’t fit in. They must be ill and the psychiatric label, which in my view can present a damaging caricature of a person’s entire experience, must also be true.
Philosophically, being different isn’t enough to justify a more powerful social group calling you ill and, by implication, inferior. But groups with a greater degree of ideological and legal, coercive power often make it seem that way.
History reveals that in past centuries words like “evil” (for witches, heathens), “inferior” (for women) or “savages” (for First Nations) were used instead of “ill.” But the dynamic isn’t really that different. One group with legal power marginalizes (or sometimes kills) members of another less powerful group.
I don’t expect many people to agree with me on this point and it admittedly is a complicated topic. In my opinion, however, psychiatry has so thoroughly employed and unconsciously enjoyed its ideological and legal power over others that many of the marginalized simply accept their labels and related treatments.
So what’s the answer to this problem?
As I’ve been suggesting since my undergrad days in psychology and sociology, we don’t need a ‘revolution’ or complete dismantling of psychiatry as some at Mad In America seem to suggest. But we do need additional outlooks and approaches to round out mainstream psychiatry. And using cruel words like “psycho” I think is a creepy step in the wrong direction.
Shame on you, CBS!