Mental Health will be Taken, not Given

It starts with our language

Emma Barnes
2 min readMay 16, 2023

Begging for liberation never worked. We mustn’t ask. We have to tell. We do that by choosing our language.

When we say, “i’m living with a mental illness” we’re begging for pity. We evoke the basement of the mental hospital; a saline drip trolley and unsound mind — only the psychiatrist can set us free.

Language paints a picture

But we don’t need their signature. We can walk out of the asylum’s front door. We have the keys.

Neurodiversity is a language. Just like “biodiversity”, the word itself points to our variety. It opens the door to the natural world. If we say “I’m mentally ill”, people ask if we’ve taken our meds and usher us back inside. When we say, “I’m neurodivergent” instead, they step out with us into public life.

Fresh air and sunshine turns out to be good for our mental health

We can make replacements like these in our everyday language to bring people along. Try this one: “Language difference” or “language disorder”? Disorder makes us a problem, a burden. But difference makes us unique, valuable, and fit for public life.

Choosing language like this takes some testing. Try these out:



Emma Barnes

Autistic, trans, survivor, abolitionist @friedkrill on Twitstagram