Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 19 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Consumer is offensive

An Open Letter to Mental Health Organizations:

I am writing regarding the use of the term Consumer when referring to a person with mental illness. As a person who has battled depression for 16 years, I find this term baffling and offensive. I ask you to discontinue using it when referring to people with mental illness. I am not a consumer.

According to Merriam-Webster a consumer is: a) a person who buys goods and services, or b) an organism requiring complex organic compounds for food which it obtains by preying on other organisms or by eating particles of organic matter. How does a person with mental illness fit into either of those definitions?

Why are we hijacking a term typically used for Wal-Mart shoppers to label people with mental illness? When did patient become a four-letter word? Why is referring to me as a person with mental illness pejorative? I am not a consumer. I am a person with mental illness.

My mental illness is a biological, treatable brain disease. It is no different than a biological, treatable pancreatic disease like diabetes, or a biological, treatable heart disease like congestive heart failure. Yet while it is acceptable to refer to a diabetic as a person with diabetes, and it is normal to refer to a person with heart disease as a patient, it is somehow unacceptable to refer to me, a person with depression, as a person with mental illness or as a patient? That doesn’t make any sense.

Consumer, used in an attempt to destigmatize mental illness, actually increases the stigma by separating persons with mental illness from those with any other type of biological, treatable illness. It highlights difference. I am not different.

When I am hospitalized, I am not there to choose between a green gown and a blue gown. I am there because my symptoms have gotten worse, and I need specialized medical care to manage my illness. This is true whether I have appendicitis, diabetes, or depression. Each is an illness that may lead to death if I do not allow myself to be treated, to be a patient.

I ask you again to discontinue using the term consumer. It is inaccurate, stigmatizing and offensive. Concocting a term to classify people with depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder rather than speaking directly about mental illness only furthers the stigma we already face.


Anonymous said...

Good points forcefully made.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the term "consumer" has come into vogue at a time when people who suffer from mental illness are mobilising more than ever before to advance their own interests. Those who are undergoing forced treatment and incarceration in psychiatric facilities can hardly be described as "consumers". There are involuntary patients, but there are no involuntary "consumers"; the sleight-of-hand here being the suggestion that anyone undergoing psychiatric treatment does so of their own volition, like buying a washing machine or a Big Mac.

Love your site. Thank you for it. My thoughts and best wishes go with you in your struggle.



etta said...

@ Scott: Thank you. Interesting points made by you as well. I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds this term unnecessary, offensive and ridiculous.