An article published in today's edition of The Guardian:
It's not political correctness gone mad. Some things really should be unsayable
By Beatrice Bray [pictured]
Newspaper cartoons can be great. They can say the unsayable. They have licence to push the boundaries of taste. Their images can resonate for years. But Martin Rowson's cartoon "Dressing-up box" (Comment & Debate, 29 March) overstepped the mark.
Rowson had fun depicting different Conservative politicians in fancy dress. They are shown like kids in the playroom. But as one Tory lifts Mrs Thatcher's moth-eaten blue dress, he shouts: "Hey everybody! This is the 'psychotic yet tough union basher' cozzie!"
The use of the word "psychotic" was offensive. You may think this political correctness gone mad, but if you are ill, or have been, you need words to describe your experience to yourself and to others. If for you these words are negative, you will hate yourself. Language can make or break your happiness.
That is why mental health activists do not like psychiatric terms being used as abuse. We want to show the public how to use terms like "schizophrenia", "psychosis" and "bipolar" in the correct way.
For starters, do not use the word "schizophrenia" when you don't mean mental illness – as when, a few years ago, an MP on a Commons committee claimed there was "schizophrenia" within the BBC.
And please allow individuals an identity apart from their illness, so always say "a person with schizophrenia" rather than "a schizophrenic".
In general usage the word "paranoia" means an undue sense of suspicion. It does not mean illness. The psychiatric term "paranoia" involves an extreme sense of persecution.
"Psychosis" is another escapee into the fashionable world. In the street sense it implies wackiness, but some of us need it to report distressing symptoms to doctors in life-threatening crises. We are not always believed.
There are attempts to banish such ambiguity. "Bipolar" is a new term which was introduced to replace the stigmatised "manic depression". This creates a chance to reinvent the illness, but already the new label is becoming tarnished. You cannot separate words from their popular meanings. You have to change attitudes and behaviours as well as words.
Rowson's cartoon is testament to this, even though he does not sound like the kind of man who would want to disfranchise those of us with severe mental health problems.
We were not Rowson's target: Margaret Thatcher was. But just to complicate matters we are now championing the honour of Thatcher even though some of us are leftwingers. We do not think that Thatcher, a dementia sufferer, should face misused words of abuse.
In the mental health world we try not to offend. At conferences we agree to avoid insulting each other with derogatory terms. We are glad that the main party leaders have copied us. All three have signed a compact, drafted by the all-party parliamentary mental health group, on the use of language. This is the first time such an agreement has been reached. It would be appropriate if journalists and cartoonists were to respect this compact.