I am a bit concerned that most of our anti-stigma mental health efforts have been focused on labelling a person as different in that they suffer from a “brain disorder.”Mental illness is located in our brains, and in our hearts and in our guts (and everywhere else neurons are found), and in our MINDS, which is not the same as simply our brains. Our minds interface with our brains beautifully, but the mind can change the brain, and the brain can change the mind. May our struggles not be reduced to a shortsighted description of misfiring neurochemicals. When we do this, we write off the humanity in our experience as psych survivors, and are inadvertently placing ourselves in the “other” category. All humans suffer, and it is a complex continuum, involving our entire world, as well as the principle organ that interfaces with it – our brains. We would do better to  focus our anti-stigma efforts toward our sameness (and the fact that everyone suffers to some degree: it is the human experience) and that some, for reasons too complex to nail down, suffer more and in different ways. We should focus on what we know of suffering, and how we can empathize with this suffering through the gateway of our own experience – not through the seemingly safer “glad I don’t have a broken brain like that guy” othering that is suppose to somehow reduce stigma. Studies show that this brain disorder labelling has done nothing but increase stigma, so why are we still putting our money into this shortsighted nonsense! Why? Because it makes us feel safer to see a person with a mental illness as someone as inherently different than to see them as someone we feel compelled to help because we know the same thing could always happen to us. If we were really acknowledging the humanity of these people who suffer, then we’d have no choice but to put our money where our mouth is, and something tells me Canada’s not quite ready for that.

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