Change The Name of Selective Mutism To Situational Mutism

Change The Name of Selective Mutism To Situational Mutism

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Silent Memory started this petition to World Health Organization and

Selective Mutism is a severe anxiety disorder which prevents a person from being able to speak in certain situations and/or to certain people. The most obvious characteristic is mutism, although it also affects the ability to communicate in other ways such as writing or using gestures. It is sometimes thought to be a type of social anxiety as well as a type of obsessive compulsive disorder and phobia and is often mistaken for autism, which it is frequently comorbid with.

Sufferers are commonly only able to talk to their immediate families, and usually must be at home when doing so, with nobody else around. When communicating with any other people, the person will become anxious and will usually need to use notes or have a family member speak on their behalf. SM is different for everybody. To give more clarity, this is how it has been for me:

SM is usually diagnosed in kindergarten or primary school aged children after consistent inability to speak at school. Often dismissed as shyness, many children never receive a diagnosis, and the condition carries through to the teenage years and adulthood, sometimes worsening rather than improving. It can affect education and employment as well as the ability to form relationships. It can become a disabling disorder with many consequences and can lead to serious mental health issues such as depression or Progressive Mutism, where the person can no longer speak, even to family members or other people they could initially speak to.

The name “Selective” Mutism implies that the mutism is something the sufferers choose to do, which leads some to believe that the condition is purely a sign of manipulation, unwillingness or refusal to speak, and that the selectively mute person is simply being defiant, stubborn, difficult, rude, snobbish or attention seeking. This is very, very far from the truth -  sufferers of Selective Mutism wish that they could talk as easily as everybody else can. It is a frustrating and often heartbreaking disability that is often overlooked in adults, with attention being focused mostly on children.

Selective Mutism currently does not have much awareness and many people are not aware that it exists, including those in the mental health field. Psychologists dealing with adults are not always knowledgeable about SM, though some knowledge is increasingly spreading in terms of children’s health services and schools. As a result, the awareness and information that currently exists about SM is mostly catered to parents with children who have the disorder, leading adults who also have it to feel invisible and unable to receive the help that is much-needed.

With a name like “Selective Mutism,” this serious mental health issue is often not taken seriously, and some people may not find out that SM exists, so they often spend their lives thinking they are “weird” or “inferior,” which unfortunately increases low self esteem and social anxiety, especially when others may see the sufferer as being of lower intelligence as they do not talk.

Now would be the perfect time to change the name of Selective Mutism without it causing too much confusion.

More suitable names for this disorder include:

Situational Mutism (this is the preferred choice and keeps the “SM” abbreviation, allowing an easier transition of the name)

Anxiety Induced Communication Disorder

Situational Communication Anxiety Disorder 

Anxiety Induced Mutism 

Speech Phobic Anxiety Disorder

Frozen Speech Disorder

Verbal Communication Anxiety

Changing the name of this often misunderstood disorder would be beneficial for all people who are sufferers. It would raise not only awareness of the situation, but promote proper understanding and help to stop the spread of false information, incorrect assumptions and unhelpful advice.

Please feel free to share this petition anywhere you feel would help it be seen by those with the authority to officially change the name

Thank you.

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