Let’s Not Call Things ‘Crazy’: Language and Portrayal of Mental Illness

Neurodiversity holds that atypical neural configurations of certain mental conditions are too diverse to be collectively "othered" as abnormal. The antecedents of neurodiversity are addressed in this article by understanding media representations of neuroatypicality and how words construct our perceptions regarding the mentally ill. This evolution, partly due to a climate of political correctness, is apparent when comparing the language of the Lunacy Act (1858) with the Mental Health Care Act (2017).

Neurodiversity holds that atypical neural configurations of certain mental conditions are too diverse to be collectively "othered" as abnormal. The antecedents of neurodiversity are addressed in this article by understanding media representations of neuroatypicality and how words construct our perceptions regarding the mentally ill. This evolution, partly due to a climate of political correctness, is apparent when comparing the language of the Lunacy Act (1858) with the Mental Health Care Act (2017).

M Night Shyamalan’s latest release, Split, came under fire early this year for deriving its thrills from the inaccurate portrayal of a psychological condition (dissociative identity disorder or DID; Rose 2017). Described as a financial success, the movie was criticised for perpetuating the myth that persons with mental health conditions are predisposed to violent and erratic behaviour and lack empathy for the suffering of their victims.

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