jump to navigation

Mental Illness Rebranded (Revised 12.16.09) December 14, 2009

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in mental illness, NAMI.
Tags: ,

RE: Rebranding

The tainted reputation of the age-old term “mentally ill”, used to describe people with Brain Functioning Impairment (BFI) has added to the burden of suffering caused by the malady itself. In general the public’s only contact with people suffering from BFI is when the term “mentally ill” is used in the news media to describe a person with BFI who committed a crime (usually murder).

One of the most fascinating points of Brain Functioning Impairment is the way criteria in the health spectrum are defined as either “physical” or “mental”. For example, migraine headaches, although technically a BFI, are considered part of the physical rather than mental health spectrum. This is because the manifestation of that BFI is a physical pain in a specific locale. In general, if you can perceive the manifestation of the injury in physical form (cuts and/.or bleeding from blunt trauma to the head) or “feel” it at a specific location (migraine headache), it’s thrown into the “physical illness” category. If you can’t see a direct physical manifestation of the disease, then in most cases it’s deemed a mental illness. This practice of forcing the separation of “physical” from “mental” would have to stop with the re-branding. Brain trauma, brain cancer, dementia, depression, migraine headaches, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder would all fall under the same general category: “Brain Functioning Impairment”. Imagine the political and economic powerhouse of a category whose umbrella spanned such a wide array of ailments. It’s enough to make a lobbyist salivate all over himself.

Eventually, with the advent of the new brain imaging tools, the term “mental illness” will become obsolete, taking its place next to the “bleeding” done to people a hundred years ago in the name of “health”.  Until the changeover diagnosis tools such as MRI’s and brain scans take deep roots, we can speed up a more empathetic public persona with one simple action: Rebranding.

Re-branding the current term “mental illness” to the more accurate description “Brain Functioning Impairment” (BFI) will go a long way towards solving our stigma problem. We can reposition the impairment term as the politically correct term, and phase out that awful connotations of that old term “mental illness”. At a minimum, re-branding and expanding the definition of BFI to encompass ALL brain-impacted impairment will go a long ways toward forcing the general public to change its perception of people with BFI.

Lance Armstrong’s “yellow” campaign focuses on the association of the color yellow (the shirt color of the winner of a well-known bicycle race) with success and winning. Similarly, it’s natural for the breast cancer survivors to fasten onto the color pink because that color has long been associated with women.  The color red is a natural for heart disease. But mental illness aka Brain Functioning Impairment? Nothing. Nada.

Because the color blue is already associated with depression (having the “blues”) publicly promoting identification of the color cobalt blue with BFI is a natural first step in the re-branding effort. (NOTE: I don’t really care about a specific color as much as the selection of SOME color). Selling cobalt blue wrist bracelets similar to the ones sold by the Lance Armstrong Foundation (with a cute little saying similar to LIVESTRONG )would kill two birds with one stone, generating both positive publicity and money to further support the re-branding effort. Putting a well-known face and personality to BFI (Kay Redfield Jamison comes to mind)  will go a long way towards the re-branding effort.

Please join me in pushing to effect this change by actively working to persuade major organizations like NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) to become a front-runner in our re-branding effort. It won’t be easy, but it will be well worth the effort.

NOTE:  One of my readers told me that someone “beat me to the punch” HAPPILY!!!  The color’s silver, not blue…….  check it out at http://www.silverribbon.org/



1. Mirjam - December 16, 2009

There is already a SILVER ribbon campaign for the brain going on. see http://www.silverribbon.org. That campaign focusses on all brain disorders, just like you proposed..

2. Carter Nelsen - December 16, 2009

I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of the renaming effort. If the general public is going to accept mental illness as a “legitimate” spectrum of conditions, they’ll do it when they’ve seen & heard enough people with mental illnesses who represent the vast majority of us in the real world. I do think the notion that brain scans, etc., will prove the similarity of “mental illness” and “brain illness” is incredibly important. Epilepsy & bipolar disorder, for example, almost certainly involve very, very similar processes in the brain (hence the effectiveness of epileptic anticonvulsants such as Lamictal in reducing mood swings in bipolar patients).

3. moodybpgirl - December 17, 2009

Everything I’ve read in the past couple years seems to be ultimately moving in that direction. Even PTSD, which would seem like an entirely acquired mental illness, appears to be latent in some people’s brains and not in others. Conversely, PTSD does measurable physical damage to the brain following trauma. I think brain mapping suggests all mental illnesses will be found to have some kind of organic basis at some point.

(Thanks for the link, btw!)

4. moodybpgirl - December 17, 2009

Another reason I like the silver ribbon is that it’s also the color of invisible illness and invisible disability, which gives me a feeling of solidarity with all the other people who get dirty looks from the general public for not “looking sick enough.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: