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

Responses: 19


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?

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!


I know for a fact, we are stigmatized. This illness runs a large gamut. The real cause unknown, just theory. I refuse anymore to say to Health professionals, I am Bipolar. You then are subject to their interpretations of insanity. B/c that's what that title states. I like--'neurological disorder.' It lets you blend in, without the stigma. The 'crazy' stigma. It's enough we suffer in silence, let alone be divulged with the private lives we try to lead. We can lift our heads up, with this name. It's ambiguity, distracts the busy body, nosy whoever that might want to know EXACTLY what we have, by its sigmatizing given name. It's outdated, debasing, and too much of a "blanket" term. I'd rather say "I'm nuts, how are you?" That's what the current name implies, anyway. And we could be talking in a bus, and you wouldn't even know what I had. Lose that term, it's way too broad.

"Mental Illness"

When someone asks me why I am retired on disability at such an early age, I reply I have a brain illness or a chemical imbalance in my brain. This takes away the "mental" reference and places a physical reference instead. Still I don't feel comfortable sharing why I have been hospitalized for a week.

What Does "Mental Illness" Mean to You,

Musikmama's response resonates within me. Thank you! The term "Mental Illness" is a misnomer. These are disorders in the organ of the brain. It is an organic disease involving the chemistry in the brain. To me, it means sometimes daily acceptance of having this lifelong condition. It means working every day in my recovery and knowing that I cannot do this alone. I need a circle of support, including a psychiatrist, medication, weekly therapy, support groups, supportive friends and family. It means letting go of those people in my life that are toxic to me. Instead of asking, "Why me?" I ask, "Now that I have this disorder, what meaning can I make of it for my life, and how am I going to let my life be of service to others?" This is a lifelong journey, and I want to make the most of my talents and knowledge. My illness does not define me. I am a person "with" brain dysfunction. I am so much more than my diagnosis. I hold on to hope and borrow it from others when I am overwhelmed.

What does Mental Illness Mean to You,

Having to be very careful to take my meds, avoid stressful situations, negative people and crowds. Why? I don't act differnt than "Normal" if I follow these few rules, most of the time. Why? I wish I knew why I have BP but more important is what I do to be responsible for myself and my behavior.
—Guest Rigidflexibility

define mental illness

Mental illness to me means that one's brain is just not reacting correctly to the world around them. Correctly might not even be the right word...differently??? I think that being mentally ill is not the worst thing in the world. Taking pills suck but I am a very creative person and many people in history who are/were mentally ill are creative. I think of it as a gift really. I wish though I had known I was bi-polar earlier. I wasted many years drinking and drugging to medicate my illness. Not that it didn't make me creative but there was a lot of hurt and missing brain cells. I am not drinking, or doing drugs. I am creating visual art, writing a play, making an animated movie and so much more. All be it hard...my life is very fulfilling these days.
—Guest Jo

Mental Illness

Over the years, even before being diagnosed Atypical Bipolar, it appeared to me Bipolar and mental illness are at odds with each other. As I understand it: When an individual experiences physical pathology, I have never heard a doctor or patient refer to the medical diagnosis as a 'physical illness'; the medical or physiological diagnoses is referred to as a disease or syndrome i.e. Restless Legs Syndrome, Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome. As Bipolar mood disorder is a physiological, organic pathology, it seems to me it should be referred to as a disease rather then mental illness.

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