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Mental Illness: Brain Function Impairment December 19, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in mental illness.

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.  Creating a new, more accurate category encompassing all brain functioning impairments, everything from Alzheimer’s to schizophrenia, is a partial answer to changing the negative perception of bipolar disorder and other terms currently branded “mental illnesses”.

One of the most fascinating points of brain functioning impairment is how 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 health rather than mental health spectrum. This is because the manifestation of that BFI is 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), then 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.  If the change to BFI is implemented, this perception of mental versus physical illness would change as well, since one of the points of the re-branding is to challenge the illogical way that BFI is categorized.

Re-branding the current term “mental illness” to the more accurate description “brain functioning impairment”, will go a long way towards solving our stigma problem. We can reposition the impairment term as the politically correct term, and phase out the awful connotations of the old term. At a minimum, rebranding will go a long way toward forcing the general public to change its perception of people with BFI.

For example, imagine how differently a news story would play out if the news media were forced to use the more appropriate and accurate description.  “Joe Blow, affected with Brain Functioning Impairment, is a suspect in the murder of Jane Doe” would certainly go a long way towards stamping out the intolerance and embarrassment engendered by the mental illness misnomer. Encouraging the use of the re-branded term BFI would put the proper emphasis on the impairment as the cause, rather than the murderer’s sinister moral bankruptcy.

Forcing the marriage of illnesses like Alzheimers with schizophrenia by putting them under the same umbrella in the general public will give schizophrenia a better, more socially acceptable reputation, softened by its close relationship to other brain functioning impairments.  It would be simply one of a spectrum of disorders people suffer from, instead of a “stand-alone” mental illness experienced by abnormal people.

Combining “mental” and “physical” illnesses will give “mental illnesses” more research dollars because the synergy of all BFI’s together will be a huge number, encompassing a tremendous portion of the population. As the general public finally discovers the magnitude of the problem, more research money will become available to all BFI’s. There’s power in numbers.

Please join me in pushing to effect this change by actively working to encourage and persuade major organizations like NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) -info@nami-eastside.org (WA) or info@nami.org (National) and DBSA (Depression Bipolar Support Alliance – info@dbsalliance.org- to become a front-runner in our re-branding effort.  It won’t be easy but it will be well worth the effort.



1. Mental Illness: Brain Function Impairment « Bipolar: Crazy … : Schizophrenia Page - December 19, 2010

[…] Read more: Mental Illness: Brain Function Impairment « Bipolar: Crazy … […]

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