Introduced by the Act of February 11, 2005, the “mental disability” is often confused with the “mental handicap” by the general public. What is it?

From an etymological point of view, the term disability is an abbreviation of hand in cap, which literally means hand in cap. It refers to a game of chance in which players competed for personal items. The player of a property of lesser value was then put into a hat (“hand in cap”) a sum of money intended to restore balance. Subsequently, the disability appears in horse racing. These are not all equally strong, the best are handicapped by a higher weight or a greater distance. Handicap is therefore supposed to restore balance in the interest of fairness.

The distinction between “disability” and “mental illness”

In France, the term disability is for the first time in the texts in 1957. It includes the concept of balance. The disabled worker is then defined as “any person whose opportunities to acquire or retain employment are substantially reduced, due to lack or decrease of physical or mental [1] Disability replaces the terms become pejorative, such as crippled, moron or backward. The International Classification of Disability (ICF) established by WHO in the 80 determines disability from three aspects: impairments, disabilities and handicaps. [2] He is considered an irreversible disadvantage. Mental illness is distinct from disability to the extent it can be treated by therapeutic means. It is not irreversible.


The emergence of the concept of “mental disability”

The law of 11 February 2005 that challenges the traditional distinction between disability and mental illness. This in fact introduces the notion of mental disability. It defines disability as “any activity limitation or restriction of participation in life suffered in its environment by a person because of a substantial, lasting or permanent one or several physical, sensory, mental, cognitive or psychological [3] The 2005 Act thus distinguishes more conventional notion of a mental disability, sensory, motor, mental handicap. Mental disability is the result of a severe psychiatric disorder (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), for example). The new name refers more to the problems of integration (in terms of housing, employment, social life) and not only on the treatment of the disease in a hospital setting.

Intellectual disability and mental disability

Intellectual disability refers to an irrevocable intellectual disability, while mental disorders can temporarily impair intellectual functions, but not permanently. Level of social representations, confusion persists among many persons between intellectual disability and mental illness. According to the survey ” Mental Health in the general population [4] , 45% of respondents associate the term intellectual disability” for mental illness, while the intellectual level in people with mental illness is the same the general population. The emergence of the notion of mental handicap in the legislation should be able to participate to demystify the terms mental illness and madness became obsolete. Indeed, it will place more emphasis on the social consequences experienced by people affected by mental disorders and not just on their origin and strange character.