In a recent Huffington Post article, psychiatrist Sohom Das asks if “re-branding schizophrenia,” that is, changing the name, would make much difference to those who suffer from its symptoms. In his opinion, a change would not reduce prejudice against them. “Bigots are bigots,”¹ he said, no matter what label you put on an illness.
As for those who suffer from the illness, a change in the “S-word” would not reduce their suffering. “Pain that is not called pain still hurts,” he said. Even after listening to patients who said a change would help give recovery “a more positive framework,” Dr. Das believed merely changing a name was “a simplistic way to approach an intricate issue.”
In spite of the perceived pros and cons of re-branding diagnostic labels, the trend has already begun:
• Brain illness would be a better choice of words, declares a journalist, who believes schizophrenia, autism, and Alzheimer’s should fall into this one category.
• Mental diversity is the preferred label an activist uses for the symptoms of schizophrenia.
• Thought integration disorder (togo shiccho sho) is the newer term for schizophrenia in Japan.
• In March 2012, an international organization removed the word ‘Schizophrenias’ from its title which is now the International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis.
• The College of Specialist Psychologists in Australia suggests the use of psychological disorder as a category for diagnoses of depression and anxiety, to differentiate from the more severe category of mental illnesses for diagnoses of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
• Posttraumatic stress injury (PTSI) should become the new label to replace posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), exhorts the Defense Secretary of the U.S. Army, because the psychological wound is equivalent to “visible wounds.²
Even the advocacy panel established in the UK in April 2012 to examine use of the words schizophrenia and psychosis in diagnoses (which leaned toward a change in words from the outset) has concluded that new terms will not “deliver an improvement in attitudes.”³ However, what they did suggest was actual change, tangible steps to take that would transform the system of prevention and care. Not re-branding.
In scripture we find the generic term “suffering” given to the whole range of sicknesses, afflictions, and trials that affect men’s lives. No better word or descriptor seems necessary to the eyes of God. He does, however, change names of individuals to reflect actual turning points in their lives, such as with Abraham (previously Abram), Sarah (Sarai), and Israel (Jacob). The course of their lives changed, and of history.
The prophet Isaiah’s proclaimed a change in names also:
Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken, neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate; but thou shalt be called Hephzibah (My delight is in her), and thy land Beulah (Married), for the Lord delighteth in thee and thy land shall be married. (Isaiah 62:4)
Though he speaks of the nation of Israel in this passage and not about you or me specifically, the fact that God changes a barren and forsaken nation to one delighted in reveals his character and omnipotence.
Later in scripture we do find a change in name for each believer who perseveres:
To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna and will give him a white stone and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth except he that receiveth it. (Rev. 2:17)
Beside the intimacy of receiving a name that only each individual and God will know, he will also write a name upon each of us that everyone in public will see, a name that will not bring shame:
Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God and he shall go no more out; and I will write upon him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God; and I will write upon him my new name. (Rev. 3:12)
The more remarkable change to come will take place in your lifetime, long before the days referred to above. After you have suffered your years of affliction and seen the Lord work with your circumstances for his good purposes, you will call him by a different name. Your relationship will change as he reveals his goodness and grace to you. As in the redemptive story of Gomer, beloved by Hosea even while her heart was distant and hard—though she didn’t know it— your heart and mine will change toward God as he affects our lives in spirit, soul, or body.
And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi (My Husband), and shalt call me no more Baali (My Lord). (Hosea 2:16)
Re-brand, change labels? Whether to comfort us in our suffering or to hush the scorn of others, different words might help, but I believe our God has something much greater in mind.
¹ “Re-Branding Schizophrenia – Would Changing the Name Make a Difference?” by Dr. Sohom Das, Huffpost Lifestyle United Kingdom, 11/28/12. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-sohom-das/rebranding-schizophrenia-_b_2194353.html?view=print&comm_ref=false
² “A Rose by Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet—Or Would It?” by Jean Moore of NAMI http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Top_Story&template=/contentmanagement/contentdisplay.cfm&ContentID=139848&title=A%20Rose%20by%20Any%20Other%20Name%20Would%20Smell%20As%20Sweet%E2%80%94Or%20Would%20It?
³ “The Abandoned Illness, a report by the Schizophrenia Commission,” November 2012. http://www.schizophreniacommission.org.uk/the-report/