People Told Her Not to Call Herself ‘Schizophrenic,’ So She Made This Comic
“People-first” language, referring to a person as someone who has an illness or disability, rather than the illness itself, is advocated by some in the disability community — but not everyone prefers it.
In a comic originally posted on Everyday Feminism, cartoonist Christine Deneweth, who prefers to be identified as “schizophrenic,” expressed her annoyance when people tell her she should refer to herself as a “person with schizophrenia.”
In the comic, Deneweth explains why she prefers to call herself schizophrenic: “I lived my whole life knowing something was wrong with me but not having a name for it,” she writes. “Once I was diagnosed, my life changed for the better. I had a name for what was wrong! I proudly call myself schizophrenic because it is part of me.”
Deneweth told The Mighty she actually made this comic as a response to negative feedback she received after calling herself “schizophrenic” in an earlier comic.
“I wrote this comic to help people understand that identifying your own mental disorder is your choice, not others’,” she said. “People with mental disabilities have a right to identify themselves as they choose without being corrected.”
Not everyone with schizophrenia prefers identity-first language. Rebecca Chamaa, a Mighty contributor who lives with schizophrenia, told The Mighty she absolutely prefers people-first language.
“Everything I do in life is trying to overcome the stigma of being identified by my illness. I want to be seen and treated as others are seen and treated. I don’t want to be defined by my illness,” she told The Mighty in the email.
Syrena Clark, a Mighty contributor who also lives with schizophrenia, says she prefers to be referred to as “a person who has schizophrenia” as well.
“Schizophrenic feel more stigmatizing to me,” she told The Mighty in an email. “I’ve been called both at this point, and I find people who are calling me a schizophrenic are aiming to discriminate, while those choosing to call me a person with schizophrenia are looking to understand.”
But Clark said she does think it’s up to the person to choose how they want to identify.
“I read the comic and I totally understand and agree. It’s up to the person with schizophrenia to decide how they want to be identified when comes to the illness.”
Even Deneweth, who prefers to be called schizophrenic, said it’s best to use people-first language when you meet someone for the first time.
“It’s always a nice gesture to ask how the person identifies,” she said.
What do you prefer?
To see the rest of the comic, check out the original on Everyday Feminism.
Christine Deneweth is a Contributing Comic Artist for Everyday Feminism. A queer cartoonist and artist, Christine lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan. She is a cartoonist for Eastern Michigan University’s newspaper the Eastern Echo. She writes children’s books about mental disability and has a comic strip that has been published for five years. Comics can be found on her Facebook page, and art can be found on her Instagram @crassaster. Check out her work here!