The illness is not the person

The Madison County Record Nov. 1, 2009, 5:44am

To the editor:

This letter is not about Terry Sedlacek, but it is about the language that is used to describe people living with mental health conditions.

The Edwardsville Intelligencer and the Edwardsville Suburban Journals both ran articles on the same day about the legal status of Terry Sedlacek. I was genuinely impressed with the usage of person-first-language that both reporters used in their work.

The Journals reported that "Sedlacek has Schizophrenia" while the Intelligencer described him as "suffering from Schizophrenia."

In a glaring contrast to our local reporters, Jim Suhr from the Associated Press described Sedlacek "to be Schizophrenic" using language that identified persons with a mental health diagnosis as actually being the illness they did not choose to live with.

Imagine how it would sound if I referred to my neighbor Pam as being cancer.

The point is that people are not mental illnesses, just like people are not physical illnesses. An illness is something that is lived with, but not the genuine identity of who God created that individual to be.

I applaud your attention to this detail.

AJ French

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