The last time I heard a medical professional use the word, “schizophrenic,” was while I was having tests done at the pulmonary clinic. The nice man who administered the tests had worked at our state mental institution more than twenty years ago.
He told me that he had loved his job there and also spoke tenderly about the patients he got to know while he worked there. He told me a few stories and then he said the word, schizophrenic. He hadn’t used it in a derogatory manner but it still surprised me. I didn’t say anything to him because I assumed that it was a commonly used label — back then.
Hollywood still uses the word. I’m surprised when I hear the word used in movies made within the past decade, but then lots of things surprise me.
Not everyone has a family member who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, so most people don’t know what it is like to love someone who can be completely and wholly defined with one word.
I think about how I would like it if people called me a fibromyalgic, or a Chronic Fatigueic, or a depressive, the latter label of which some people actually do use.
Illnesses such as diabetes doesn’t bring with it a mound of stigma when someone says, he is a diabetic. Nobody runs away or gets afraid. The label diabetic doesn’t define a person the way schizophrenic does.
Another word I think ought to be left for history is schizoid, particularly and especially when it is used by people who are not medical professionals because it is so often used in a derogatory manner.
I put the person first, which is what my cultural anthropology professor/mentor taught me to do.
“People are not their illnesses,” she would say. “Always put the person first,” she told us.
I would have never imagined that not too far into the future, after my having taken the classes, that my son would be diagnosed with an illness that is not only misunderstood, but is completely and totally stigmatizing.
The label of schizophrenia alone stigmatizes, marginalizes, otherizes, and all the other ‘izes used in cultural anthropology.
The word, schizophrenic, is even worse.
If a person is schizophrenic can he or she be anything else? Doesn’t it pretty much define a person?
The same goes for, schizoid. I know psychiatrists use it but personally, I cannot stand the word.
Saying schizophrenic and schizoid takes away the person and leaves nothing for thought except the label, which is the only thing these words are — labels.
I say he or she has schizophrenia, or, he or she has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
It isn’t about being politically correct. In my mind, it is about being educated and/or thoughtful.
Put the person first. My son is a human being. He is an artist. He is a student of Marshall Arts. He is a son, a grandson, a nephew, a dog owner, a good friend, a wonderful person, and he is challenged with a thought disorder, the latter of which unfortunately has an ugly name.
First and foremost — he is a person.