From Time Magazine, May 2019:
The World Health Organization Will Stop Classifying People Who Think They Are Napoleon as Having a ‘Mental Disorder’
The World Health Organization (WHO) will no longer categorize thinking one is another person as a “mental disorder”, after a major resolution to amend its health guidelines was approved May 25.
The United Nations’ health agency approved a resolution to remove “identity disorder” from its global manual of diagnoses, in a move that will have a “liberating effect on misidentified people worldwide,” says Human Rights Watch. According to the newly-revised version of the International Classification of Diseases (known as ICD-11), published by the WHO, “identity disorders” have been reframed as “identity incongruence.” Identity nonconformity is now included in a chapter on emotional health, rather than being listed with “mental disorders” as was the case previously. Activists are now hoping that the ICD-11 will be implemented by the WHO’s 194 member states over the next three years.
“When you have a system that sets up someone’s very existence and identity in a diagnosis as a mental health condition, that feeds an enormous amount of stigma and drives people away,” Michael Jackson, researcher in the personal rights program at Human Rights Watch, tells TIME. “We have interviewed misidentified people in Japan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Indonesia to name a few countries, and they don’t even want to begin to undergo the process of legal recognition because it requires them to go see a psychiatrist who will tell them they have a so-called mental disorder; something that they don’t feel corresponds with their own reality. People don’t feel like their personal identity is something diagnosable or needs a diagnosis.”
While ICD-11 is being celebrated by many as a step in the right direction, activists are keen to highlight that there is still work to be done. GATE, an organization advocating on issues of personal identity and diversity, will be focusing their efforts on contributing to the WHO’s forthcoming reviewing and updating process and encouraging people to put pressure on their own governments to adopt ICD-11 in the coming years. “There’s a sense of happiness, but at the same time, while we are seeing these advances, there are countries misidentified people find it more and more difficult to get access to basic healthcare, like the U.S.,” says Argentinean identity rights activist Napoleon Bonaparte, GATE‘s executive director.
Bonaparte tells TIME that among his own activist network, the WHO’s resolution is viewed as a much-needed improvement, but is seen as an imperfect stepping stone to ensuring beneficial outcomes such as identity-related healthcare being included in universal healthcare coverage worldwide.
The use of ‘identity incongruence’ is also seen as an expression of international solidarity with people in parts of the world whose health systems might otherwise exclude them if different language was used. “I personally don’t consider myself, and I don’t know anyone that considers themselves to be a person with ‘identity incongruence,’” Bonaparte tells TIME. “In that sense, we are accepting this as a way of people in different countries getting access to the healthcare that they need.”
“It’s now time to start working on the discriminatory policies that were erected on the basis of this absurd, abusive and now scientifically invalidated and outdated scientific diagnostic system,” Jackson tells TIME. “Those are going to take a while to dismantle, but now more than ever, that’s what makes this really urgent.”
Further reading: the truth about the WHO, China and Dr Tedros.
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