Montemayor draws flak for usage of term ‘crazy’ to refer to mental institution patients

April 4, 2022 - 1:56 PM
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Jose Montemayor, a presidential candidate, speaks at the second leg of the Commission on Elections' PiliPinas Debates at the Sofitel Plaza in Pasay City on April 3, 2022. (The STAR/Miguel de Guzman)

A 2022 presidential bet was called out after he referred to mental health patients as “baliw,” a Filipino term for “crazy,” during the second presidential debate hosted by the Commission on Elections on Sunday.

At that time, debate moderator Ces Oreña-Drilon was asking some of the aspirants about the measures they would take to find out the truth behind the alleged extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration’s anti-drug campaign.

Physician-lawyer Jose Montemayor, one of those who answered, claimed that there have been extrajudicial killings in the country since the time of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

“Ever since nung panahon pa nila Marcos… hanggang ngayon, meron po iyan,” he answered, referencing the killings that happened during Martial Law rule.

“Now, if you need further investigation, alam niyo, hintayin niyo matapos ‘yung Duterte administration, ‘yung mismong mga pulis ang magsasabing meron. Pangalawa, napakaraming umiiyak, napakaraming tumatangis na kamag-anak na nagsasabi ang kanilang anak, ang kanilang kamag-anak, ay pinatay,” Montemayor added.

“Alam niyo, meron pa bang due process ngayon? Wala na,” Montemayor added. The government no, ‘yung extrajudicial killing, alam naman ng bawat isa sa inyo eh, kahit ‘yung mga baliw sa mental hospital, alam niyo, alam ‘yan,” he further said.

“Tandaan niyo ah, the government is committing human rights violation right and left,” the physician-lawyer added.

Arguments 

Montemayor did not escape the scrutiny of some viewers who called him out for using the word “crazy” in reference to patients in mental institutions.

They argued that it was not the right term to use, citing that he is a member of the medical community.

On his website, the presidential bet is identified as a virologist, interventional cardiologist, internist and medical board topnotcher.

“Montemayor using the term ‘baliw’ is one of the reasons why getting professional help isn’t normalized and being looked down upon,” a Twitter user said.

“Who are to call people with mental disorders, ‘baliw’??!! You’re a doctor, Dr. Montemayor. You should have known better,” another online user tweeted.

“Montemayor already lost me with his ‘baliw sa mental hospital’ reply. Considering he’s a doctor, he should’ve been sensitive with terms like this in a public forum,” a different Filipino argued.

“Hi, Dr. Montemayor, may psych po tayo sa med school, the term ‘baliw’ shouldn’t be used to refer sa mga tao in the mental institutions. Ilang beses ko bang sasabihin ‘to? Doctor ka pa naman,” another Twitter user said.

A clinical psychologist said that using the term “crazy” prevents people from understanding individuals in terms of the nuances of their mental health issues. The doctor cited those suffering from depression, anxiety and psychosis, among others.

“It is at once dehumanizing and unhelpful. It gives us no insight into the processes by which an individual thinks about the world, experiences emotion, or behaves. And once we have dismissed and dehumanized someone, it becomes that much more difficult to understand, connect with or help them,” physician Michael Friedman said in an article.

“The repeated use of the word ‘crazy’ reinforces the stigma of mental illness. It makes it so that everything that is uncomfortable in the world is assumed to have some basis in poor mental health. And it inadvertently deems people with mental illness as being unpredictable and dangerous—to be shunned rather than embraced,” he added.

According to Friedman, people should stop using the term and instead seek to understand others by displaying empathy.

“We can start replacing the term ‘crazy’ with a more useful and descriptive explanation of their experience,” Friedman said.

“When someone is uncontrollably sobbing, we can understand that they may be feeling a sense of loss. If someone is angry with us, we can see how they are feeling hurt. If someone has strong but differing political views, we can find the experiences, assumptions, and beliefs that resulted in these differing views,” he added.