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Readers Respond: What Does "Mental Illness" Mean to You, And Why?

Responses: 25


Updated February 11, 2014

From the article: What Is Mental Illness?
Definitions of the term "mental illness" vary according to usage and also based on a person's experience with a mental illness and/or with treatment, encounters with stigma or intolerance, religious beliefs, etc. What does the term mean to you, and why does it mean that?

mental illness

I have a mental illness and i am very much normal. I live a daily successful life - school, work ,and take care of my children. I am connected to only a few people for my physical well being and my mental well being. To live a healthy life and a whole, successful life. Mental illness mean to me is an illness that effects your well-being, your behaviour, and your ability in your daily living. It can change your life for the good and for the bad.
—Guest tasha'thesuccess

Lack of a better definition

I define "mental illness" as the lack of a better understanding of what truly ails us. Anyone who has suffered mental illness is aware of the lack of words to define our suffering in a way that "makes sense" to ourselves..& to those who do NOT yet deal with "MI". It is a suffering of the mind which bleeds into our daily reality..and there is SUCH a lack of true understanding. Even for me. After being & meeting OTHER mentally ill people I finally do know one thing. We need a better way. A "COLLECTIVE" understanding of how to COPE..despite what we are being defined as "being".
—Guest Jennifer

What am I?

To me, mental illness is a broad term covering all psychiatric illnesses & their effects on the brain. I am not sure if I agree with it as it comes with a lot of baggage, stigma and the like. I was previously diagnosed with Bipolar w psychotic features to schizoaffective which I am not sure of the difference.


Passmyway said it all! My illness does not define me. I am a person "with" brain dysfunction. I am so much more than my diagnosis. I worked with persons with mental illnesses and had a family member also that was ill. I become so upset when people label others and say "crazy" or "nuts" or that person is mentally ill! As you say, Passmyway, your illness does not define you - you are a person first, the illness is second! So many people are shunned or discriminated against just by others who say things like "he has epilepsy" instead of "he is a person who has epilepsy." What are people thinking? or talking to someone about this person while they stand or sit there like they aren't even there!! Such stupidity!!!! Thank you for your comment - I have thought this for many years and it still make me angry to hear it!
—Guest ellymae


One of R. D. Laing's [1] main claim was that "mental sickness is a justified reaction to a sick society" is something I can relate to. [1] One of the founding fathers of Anti-psychiatry in the '60. Ref. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-psychiatry
—Guest SnurreSprett

Accept the illness and the labels

I have read many responses here where the posters are complaining about the labels and the "stigma" associated with various mental illnesses. I was diagnosed initially as BPII, then later as BPIw/psychotic features. In the beginning, I was not all surprised after the illness was explained to me via my doc. I was treated for depression with celexa (or something like that), which almost immediately put me into a rage unlike I have ever felt or experienced at any time in my life. I literally wanted to hurt people. My doc then explained to me that I was likely not suffering from just depression, and that the issue was likely BPD. Long story short, I was eventually diagnosed as stated before. I have accepted the diagnosis as who I am. There is no changing the fact that I have BPD. I have educated myself and I am not ashamed nor do I try to hide the illness. As far as being a mental illness or a disease or whatever label sounds the "nicest", get over the PC stuff, and accept it.
—Guest Aaron

ppl call me crazy

Im mental health n get a check why I got a problems....
—Guest Annetta

fighting with mental illness

What does this mean to me a lot. I Have tried to get people that its not air born. and u cant get it no matter what happens. some just dont understand when i tell them i have been this way as long as i can recall. i been on and off so many meds that its like i think i found one that works and find out that the doc has to change my doseage or meds cause.its not working. I Go through what i call a roller coaster of life. I have days that can change on a drop of a dime and then i learn how to hide my feeling from others cause even the one that r here to help think that i still need to be in the hospital for help but all that is done there is meds hand out and people that dont give a rats and meals given 3 times aday. so what do u do for help?


I'm so glad that I receive this newsletter and I am able to learn from other peers answers as well, as facts in this newsletter. I feel I can justify what this illness means to me. I can not even relate to my family. When I was first diagnosed after years of wondering why I was different then others (I'm 57) the first people I opened up to was my family and got no response other than negativity and care to understand. It was as if they were afraid it would rub off on them or something. So I got the "oh, your just bringing this on yourself" or "you could fix this if you wanted to. I sent them all a book about bi-polar disorder which I'm sure wasn't read by anyone. When I had to to go on disability all eye brows rose and they made feel like I was pulling something over on the government. Now, I keep to myself and it hurts all the time. My mother is still alive and I have 3 sister, two brothers, and even my sons who are clueless. I am blessed that I have a wonderful husband who loves me.
—Guest PJ

A mental disorder

A mental disorder or mental illness for me is a psychological or behavioral pattern generally associated with subjective distress or disability that occurs in an individual, and which is not a part of normal development or culture. The recognition and understanding of mental health conditions has changed over time and across cultures, and there are still variations in the definition, assessment, and classification of mental disorders, although standard guideline criteria are widely accepted. A few mental disorders are diagnosed based on the harm to others, regardless of the subject's perception of distress. Over a third of people in most countries report meeting criteria for the major categories at some point in their lives.
—Guest Bytes land

forever young

This illiness that I truly suffer from daily is deadly. I cannot understand where has all the joy I once felt is gone forever. Please stop calling me crazy. I do not know why this is happening to me.
—Guest Donna Angolia

Erasing stigma

Mental illness to me means I have a disorder of the brain, which causes me to act, think, and respond different from others at times. So many people still think negatively when they hear the term mental illness. They have the old idea of istitutionalize people unable to function normally or care for there own needs. Bipolar is so misused by the media, denoting a person who is dangerous to themself and others and unable to do things like care for their families or hold a job. I cring when I hear a story on the news where some horrindous act has taken place and they report the party was diagnosed with bipolar or a mental illness. There are millions of people that are raising their kids, working in responsible positions and functioning in society. I work very hard as a volunteer to break the stigma that the terms referring to mental disorders still hold. The only way to end the stigma is if we come out of the closet and speak out.
—Guest princessjrs

mental illness

I really don't like that terminology. I have a brain disorder. I just don't like it. It makes me feel very stigmatized, less than, not capable of living an autonamous life. I'm really smart and that makes me sound stupid.

I haven't decided yet

I am glad that I am not the only one with this problem. I have been asked why are you.. if I say becasue I have bipolar/depression, I usually get that eye roll and yeh ok good excuse. And if I just say I have a chemical inbalance in my brain, they act as if I am really deathly ill, and hevean forbid if you just say "I am mentallyIll" oh my they move back in a hurry. So I have not yet come up with a good answer to this question.

Not a good term

It reminds me of insane, people who have no control over their thoughts and behaviors. It is not a delicate label to me. When I use "bipolar" as defining myself, I feel much better. I can easily skip the stigma by mentioning some great artists who were bipolar!

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