I wrote this in May of 2012 but I thought I would repost it.
My friend Noelle posted this on her Facebook and it got me thinking. What if we treated other illnesses like they were mental illnesses? It got me thinking that some people still treat Autism as if it was a mental illness. As if somehow having Autism made us crazy or mentally unstable or at the very least deserving to be treated as if we were less than human. Then I got to thinking, I write this blog so that one day I won’t have to write it. I write it so that one day Autistic will be completely synonymous with human in the neurotypical worldview and not equated in some cases with mental illness.
The day we are treated as equals and as fellow human beings is the day that we autistics will be quiet. It’s the day we won’t blog. Its the day that the world won’t need us to say anything because we will be understood. I believe that autistics and other differently-abled people are given the responsibility to educate humanity on it’s shortcomings and cry out at injustice.
As Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.” Our words are both a sword and a shield against the intolerance and injustice of humanity. We are in a pitched battle to save the very soil of humanity from the depths of it’s own depravity and from the legions of those who are against and are led down the path of ignorance. We as autistics who are capable of putting pen to paper or putting words in mouths have a moral obligation to do so. Especially for those of us who can’t speak or write. Our words are the swords that educate the world and they are the shield that shall protect us from the spread of ignorance. There shall be nothing written or said about us without us writing it or saying it.
2 thoughts on “A call to action”
Mental disability is a much more accurate term to refer to “mental illness,” and I’ve been making a point lately to replace the language I’d been using. I think it’s unfortunate and sad that a number of Autistic folk are further marginalizing folks with mental disabilities, as many of the systemic problems that face us are similar to or shared with those faced by people with mental disabilities — and there is a large number of Autistic people who have co-occurring mental disability as well. I see a lot of this kind of ableism perpetuated in our community where Autistics are trying too hard to separate themselves from “mental illness.” Yes, it is a fact that autism is not a mental disability; it is a developmental disability, and I’m not at all opposed to clarifying the distinction whenever or wherever. But it becomes problematic when clarifying that distinction turns into furthering the marginalization of people who do have mental disabilities.
My concern with using the term “mental disability” is that it includes the word “disability” which is and of itself an ableist term. I think instead of using those terms we should just categorize them by the different disorders. If a person is schizophrenic we should just call them that and the same goes for a person who has other psychotic disorders. “Psychotic disorder” seems to be a better term to use than either “mentally ill” or “mentally disabled.”