By Vikky Storm
Center for a Stateless Society
For many people, mental illness is a terrifying Other to be shamed and attacked. The mentally ill are to blame for mass shootings. Authoritarian leaders are only authoritarian because they are mentally ill. Mental healthcare means locking people up or medicating them until they act “normal.” But this stigma is largely unearned. Mentally ill people are more likely to be victims of violence than to be perpetrators of violence.
The fact that we describe people like this as “ill” is a reflection of our attitudes towards them. For people with conditions like these (such as myself) and people who advocate for us, the more common term is “neurodivergence.” To us, what we have isn’t an illness we suffer from, but a different neurological structure that we live with. The medicalization of neurodivergence — whereby it is treated as synonymous with illness — is, in itself, a harmful practice. It creates various forms of stigma associated with us, such as those described above, and it turns the way we deal with neurodivergence into an issue of making neurodivergent people “normal”: rather than allowing us to live as we are.