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On telling people with mental health diagnoses and disabilities how to self-identify

Today I read about using "person first" language with regards to people with mental health diagnoses and disabilities in the book Christ on the Psych Ward by David Finnegan-Hosey. He has an interesting section in the book on the complicated language we use concerning mental illness. In the chapter, he refers to a comic recently written by Christine Denewith. Her comic, entitled "I am Schizophrenic, Not a 'Person With Schizophrenia', So Please Stop Correcting Me" provides insights into how a mental health diagnosis can be helpful and also empowering to some people with mental illness. In the comic, she explains that she grew up knowing that something was wrong with her, but did not have a name for it. When she was diagnosed, she finally could proudly call herself schizophrenic because it is a part of her. This is a very insightful comic, and great for getting discussions started regarding mental health language, identity, stigma and labels.

I often come across sources (mostly online) that call people who self-injure "cutters" or "self-injurers". I agree Finnegan-Hosey that people first language should always be used when talking about individuals with mental health diagnoses or disabilities, but Denewith has a good point, that it is up to each of us to find the language that feels right for us.

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