When I was thinking about a name, I was certain I did not want a name that included mental illness or mental health because those are the ideological terms of our oppression. I also did not want this endeavor to be confused for a mental health/mental illness organization and I did not want to be referred to as a mental health advocate.
I like the term “mad” because I see it as a political term rather than a medical term. I come to the term “mad” after having worked through the labels “black,” “woman,” and “queer.” What I’ve learned from that journey is that the names by which we are called never quite apply to us, but in answering them, we find our voice and our power. The term “mad” can either be evaded or embraced, but for true liberation, I do believe it must be embraced. I don’t feel that I can be free if I’m afraid of or shamed by that term.
For me, madness is not about whether I’m crazy. It’s about regardless of whether I am, I’m still a human being and I insist on the same rights and protections as those who would oppress me on the basis of my mental state.
When I embrace the term mad, I’m saying I love myself. I’m saying I’m proud of who I am, whether mad or not, crazy or not, unwell or not.
I “identify” as mad in the same way I identify as black or queer. Those terms are not who I am; they are what I believe. They are political identities not biological or social identities. I get my identity from my politics; I don’t get my politics from my identity.
The term “mad” is a way of entering a movement to change the world. It’s making this axis of oppression visible.
Finally, “freedom” conveys the change I am seeking, i.e., freedom from coercion, particularly forced drugging and psychiatric incarceration.