Are People ‘Canceric’? How We Stigmatize Mental Illnesses Without Knowing It.

The stigma of mental illnesses manifests itself in any ways today. Most of these are intrinsic while there are very few people who explicitly admit that they have negative stereotypes against the mentally ill.

One of those stigmatising exercise is surprisingly common in mental health activists as well. This is the ‘discrimination by language’.

Have you ever met someone who has cancer or a fever? If you had to describe such a person what would you say?

“He was found to have cancer 2 years back and has been seeking treatment for it. It was caught in an early stage so he will be cancer free soon.”

If you had to do the same to someone with schizophrenia, what would you say?

“He is schizophrenic and is undergoing therapy. He has been courageous throughout. I am proud to know him.”

Notice a difference?

Do you see how we say a person HAS CANCER but another person IS SCHIZOPHRENIC?


We don’t call someone with malaria as ‘malaric’ but why do we call those who have anorexia as ‘anorexic’?

It is because we have a tendency to form a separate identity for those who are mentally ill. Someone with cancer is suffering from a disease but someone with anorexia IS that disease. I often see people who try to raise mental health awareness do this too. They like to use the words as adjectives or introduce themselves as their disease.

People are not just their disease. They are much more than that.

No one is ‘anorexic’, ‘bipolar’ or ‘schizophrenic’.

After all no one is ‘pneumonic’ either.

8 Replies to “Are People ‘Canceric’? How We Stigmatize Mental Illnesses Without Knowing It.”

  1. My MIL was a patient of schizophrenia and my hubby is a patient of Bi Polar Disorder. I can understand what you mean to say in your post, Arjun. I am trying to spread awareness about mental health through my blog in my own tiny ways, so I understand how mentally ill patients get stigmatised. But, the difference between a patient suffering from malaria/cancer and a patient suffering from schizophrenia / bipolar is, that the former are diseases that can be cured. They do return, but can be/tried to be cured. My hubby, for example, has also been a cancer patient almost 25 years ago. He is cancer-free now. It was a disease and could be cured. However, his bi polar disorder is not a disease, but an illness that will be there lifelong, as was the case with my MIL. Mental illnesses are illnesses, that are (most of them) lifelong companions of the patients and maybe that’s why the patients are called schizophrenic/bipolar. Having said that, I agree that mentally ill patients do have an identity of their own and shouldn’t be labelled as per their illnesses.
    These are just my thoughts.

    1. You raise an interesting point Shilpa. I think if a mental illness has receded then returns, would we say that it is incurable? I mean as you said malaria or cancer can return but then there are times when schizophrenia are under control of the patient and some times when they are not. Does the person have schizophrenia when he/she shows no symptoms of it for some time? What do you think about this?

  2. I remember watching a show that explained it perfectly by saying something along the lines of, “I’m not my disorder. I like (this), (this), and (this), but I don’t like those things because I have (this) disorder, I like those things because I’m me. There’s a difference.” Pretty shit explanation but the way the person said it really put that point forward.

    1. That’s a good enough explanation Tasha . If it gets the point across, the explanation is good enough 🙂

    2. And as you said, a person can have likes and dislikes regardless of their illness. A person has a whole identity apart from their illness.

  3. I battled worth ADHD my entire life unknowingly bc when I was a young child that was never heard of. Later in life it was diagnosed as depression. My point is I had so many looking at me like I was alien, I’m 55 now so back then any furniture if mental illness was looked on in the way your post describes. Thank you for this!
    Here is my FB page for signs related disorders and diseases. Please LIKE it!
    💋 Stop hating what you don’t understand ~
    Also I’m following you, could you please follow me as well?
    Comments are welcomed!
    💚My blog website :

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