Sunday, 11 January 2015

This ain't no joke

There're a few things that I consider 'cringe-worthy'. I'm not talking about pet peeves or minor nuisances - I'm talking about things that really cause you to pause, count to 10, and, in extreme cases, ask for forgiveness later! Well, let's just say I had one of those cringe worthy moments last week.

Here's how it went down:

Guy #1: "Haven't seen (let's say his name is John) in a while."
Guy #2: "He's in the loony bin."

And, that's when my cringe erupted.

Yup. That's what he said. The 'L' word. Now, I'm not the most politically correct guy on the block, but I do try my best not to use words that are insulting and hurtful. I happen to be firmly rooted in the camp that tries to avoid usage of the 'W', the 'N', the 'P', the 'C', the 'B' words - as in 'Whacked', 'Nuts', 'Psycho', 'Crazy', 'Bananas' and 'Loony', of course - and all the other pejorative, debasing, derogatory, derisive, deprecatory, irreverent, rude, and unpleasant (I can keep going) words used to describe persons with mental illness.

Be honest. When's the last time you heard someone use the 'R' word to describe a person with "low intellectual ability". I'm almost certain you haven't in a long time. I won't spell out the word because we all know what it is and we all know that it's usage is insensitive and edging towards abusive when referring to a person. We should all be thankful that somewhere along the line that part of our language has been redeemed. Roget's 21st Century Online Thesaurus even includes a special usage note of the 'R' word. Here's part of their explanation: "In reference to low intellectual ability, the terms 'R'ed, 'R'ation, and mental 'R'ation are now usually perceived as insulting...to disabled people." Awesome. Well done, Roget's.

This brings me to Bell Media's lastest #BellLetsTalk campaign: #LanguageMatters (Bell.ca/LetsTalk). Through well know TV personalities, comedians, and athletes, such as Howie Mandel, Michael Landsberg, and Clara Hughes, Bell Media is once again doing its honourable part to end the stigma of mental illness. On their latest commercials, the message you'll hear is that saying words such as loony, nuts, bananas, crazy, etc to describe those with mental illness is off base and out of line. They're not acceptable. They're in the same category as the 'R' word! And, people with mental illness perceive those words as insulting!

Now...let's get Roget's to do the right thing and acknowledge the same because...you guessed it...they don't. When you ask Roget's Online Thesaurus to find synonyms for mental illness you'll find lots of substitute words that I don't mention above.

Mental illness is real and it hurts. Take it from one who knows first hand what Howie Mandel deals with daily. And...that's no joke.