Introduction to Language & Technology

Word Choices Matter When Confronting Mental Illness

Creative Détournement

A d√©tournement (French¬†for ‚Äúrerouting‚ÄĚ, ‚Äúhijacking‚ÄĚ) is a technique of a variation on previous work, perhaps artwork in which the newly created work has a meaning that is¬†hostile or aggressive¬†to the original. The original media work that is d√©tourned must be somewhat familiar to the target audience, so that it can appreciate the opposition of the new message. Keep reading and below you‚Äôll find the creative¬†d√©tournement I‚Äôve created based on the social justice issue of mentally ill individuals being stigmatized by society.


Words are powerful, and for too long, the words to describe mental illness have been loaded with negativity and judgment. Words like ‚Äúpsycho,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúwacko,‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúcrazy‚ÄĚ can¬†add to the stigmatization of people with mental illness.¬†Stereotypes are barriers that can prevent people with mental illness from getting treatment and can create problems for them in all aspects of their lives. It impacts negatively on people‚Äôs ability to get jobs, to find housing, and¬†to have social relationships. Words with negative connotations can also¬†greatly affect how people with disabilities of all kinds are treated and can influence public policy.

Some of the terms used to denote mental illness commonly heard that they regularly pass without comment but those who deal with their illness live with it everyday as well as live with how people feel/think about it.

My creative détournement  represents the impact of stigmatizing the mentally ill and the result of lashing out through the use of firearms. News media coverage can sometimes if not always depict that individuals’ violent behavior is connected to mental illness. And if the behavior is essentially  violent; as in mass shootings, the offender must certainly have been sick. Take for instance,

  • Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer who¬†shot and killed eight fellow students and teachers at Umpqua Community College.
  • Dylann Storm Roof who killed nine people at a historic black church in Charleston,¬†S.C.
  • Aaron Alexis, a Navy contractor and former Navy enlisted man, shoots and kills 12 people.
  • Adam Lanza forces his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. and shoots and kills 20 first graders and six adults.

People who all went on a shooting spree with firearms and were depicted by the media as mentally ill. People who lack the knowledge of what it truly means to be mentally ill and use condescending words freely are oblivious to the backlash and outrage that those who suffer from their illness endure. My détournement piece below depicts someone who is essentially living through a mental illness and decides to use a firearm to ultimately shut people up or stop them from the prejudice and stereotype because the individual can no longer take it. It is significant for society to choose their words wisely as to not offend anyone whether they suffer from a mental illness or not.



My third project of the semester was an issue paper where I developed on a topic (or issue) into a full discussion, with proposed interventions to help remedy the problem. Take a look at my project to learn more about how people who suffer from mental illness are stigmatized by us; society as a whole.

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