Newsletter October 2023

From the Chief Executive Officer's Desk
Joseph Sedlock


I am _____ (fill in the blank).

I am continually struck by how that blank is filled in. For people served or supported by the public behavioral health
system, too often the blank is filled in by naming the conditions we are living with and recovering from:

I am schizophrenic. She is (or I am) autistic. He is (or I am) psychotic. We are suicidal. They are (or I am)
intellectually or developmentally disabled. I am an addict/alcoholic.

When is the last time you heard a person fill in the blank as follows:

I am cardiac. She is (or I am) COPD. He is (or I am) dementia. We are diabetes. They are (or I am) cancer.

Stigma, like racism, ableism, classism, and so much else, is perpetuated implicitly – in large measure by the
language we use. One step – and in my view it’s a big one – is to challenge the “blanks” people fill in their identity

People first language is a requirement of public behavioral health system employees across the State.

This should lead us to promote a change in our lexicon to reframe the reference to our diagnosis to person-first and
strengths focused, such as:

I am Joe, and I am recovering from schizophrenia. I am Sally, and I am (she is) living with autism. He is (or I
am) John, and he is in treatment for psychosis. They are Mira, and they are adapting to life with
developmental challenges. This is Herme, and he is living with and recovering from addiction.

This pattern of reference is common in other healthcare settings where we refer to the person experiencing the
illness differently than we traditionally do in the behavioral health realm: Betty ‘has’ cancer. Sue is in treatment for
emphysema. My mother has dementia. And on and on.

In most areas but sadly not all - we refer to the person that “has” a condition – not “is” a condition.

I am not my diagnosis. I am not my condition.

I am first a person. I have a name. I have a history. I have an identity.

My diagnosis will not define me.

For further information or questions, please contact Joe @