Psychiatric medication is highly stigmatized, and so is physical disability. One way that this comes out is that people say pejoratively, “medication is a crutch.”
Why is “crutch” an insult? What do people think is so terrible about using crutches?
I think that it’s a kind of ableism where people don’t understand that disability actually exists. They believe that anyone can do anything, if they put their mind to it and work hard. When people with disabilities can’t do something others can, they assume that we are just being lazy. They assume that about moving, they assume that about moving, and they assume that about thinking.
They believe that if they push us to try harder, then we will learn to stop being disabled. They think that if we stay disabled; it’s because someone’s giving us permission to be lazy. They’re constantly on guard against the possibility of a disabled person getting away with something.
They are aggressively hostile towards any visible adaptive strategy. When they see crutches or medications or whatever, they are terrified that we are getting permission to be lazy.
Sometimes, they think it’s ok for us to use these things, but only if we fall into a very narrow category of people think think have real disabilities. For instance, they might think wheelchairs are ok for paralyzed people, but have no respect for wheelchair users who can walk. Or they might think it’s ok to use medication if you’re trying to stop, but have contempt for people who need medication long-term and have no plans to stop taking it. Or whatever other combination of things. People have a lot of really weird ideas about disability, and just about any prejudice you can imagine exists.
Crutches are a tool. There are other mobility tools. Medications are several different tools. There are other mental health tools. They all have advantages and disadvantages, and everyone has to figure out what works best for them. Every strategy is stigmatized, because ableists expect us to think our way out of being disabled. But crutches aren’t actually bad things, whether they’re literal or figurative. We all find the ones we need.
Short version: People with disabilities need adaptive strategies to work around disability-related limitations. Ableists think that we’re just being lazy when we use adaptations such as mobility aids or psychiatric medication. They often pejoratively say “you’re just using that as a crutch,” as though using adaptive equipment is the worst thing you could possibly do. But actually, there’s nothing wrong with crutches. We all find the ones we need, and that’s a good thing.