Instagram recently blocked many mental health related hashtags like #suicide, #cutting, and #schizophrenic. As an advocate, I question why we are blocking the language — and therefore the discussion — surrounding of mental illness at all. But, as a schizophrenic, I’m deeply concerned that Instagram determined my illness is offensive and/or inappropriate.
In my research, I noticed that the hashtag “schizophrenia” is still allowed. I do have schizophrenia but — on Instagram — I’m not permitted to be schizophrenic. This is an odd distinction to draw and I suspect the well-intention, yet terribly misinformed, people behind person first language have influenced this decision. I’m sure many people consider limiting the words people can use to openly discuss mental illness is a victory. But I don’t. Because it’s another barrier to discussion, education, and ultimately understanding.
I want to openly discuss schizophrenia because I’m a schizophrenic. I don’t understand what rules I have to follow outside of being respectful to my fellow Instagrammers? Blocking the word “schizophrenic” has now let everyone know that the illness I live with is offensive. People are afraid of asking questions for fear they will be labeled rude, stigmatizing, or discriminatory.
I have no doubt Instagram believes they helped people like me today and I am equally sure people will claim a victory over limiting the ways that people can access information and education about mental illness. As a person who lives with schizophrenia or as a schizophrenic — your choice — I can tell you with absolutely certainty that this did nothing to make my life better. I will never understand why we argue this nonsense about the right language.
When can we talk more about access to healthcare?