Funder by the Department of Human Services Auspiced by Our Community

Help Sheet

Why do we put put the words "mental illness" in inverted commas?

We are very aware that people make sense of their experiences in many different ways. Here at Our Consumer Place, we endeavour to respect this diversity and honour that people have a right to come to their own understanding and make their own meaning. We don't think it's either possible or desirable to develop a language that we all can agree on absolutely to describe our experiences. Hence, we often use the language of "mental illness" - recognising that many people understand and relate to this language - while also putting it in inverted commas, out of respect for people who reject or critique this understanding.

"The dream of a common language ... is a totalizing and imperialist one" -Donna Harraway

Today, the language of "mental illness" is the dominant way public conversations are framed about experiences that may also be called profound emotional distress, madness, altered states, hearing voices, psychosocial disability, psyche-ache and a whole range of other terms too.

Many consumers identify with the concept of "mental illness" - they find that this is a helpful way to explain their experiences. For these consumers, this may include:

However, not all consumers find the concept of "mental illness" useful, truthful, or OK. Some reasons include:

At Our Consumer Place, we don't want to tell anyone how they should make sense of their experiences, and we respect that we will all come to our own understanding. Because of this diversity, we put "mental illness" in inverted commas, to honour this diversity.

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