Our Anti-Sanist Future

How to talk about mental health during the holidays and why it’s vital we create an anti-sanist culture

Jenara Nerenberg
7 min readDec 17, 2020

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The year 2020 forced us to reimagine life on the planet in diverse ways — socially, ecologically, politically. Nothing was “normal,” and yet our basic human needs remained and confronted us: how to eat anew, how to schedule our lives anew, and how to live in even closer emotional proximity with those in our immediate environments.

And yet, for a unique and oft-neglected demographic, the conditions of 2020 made things easier — for those with some forms of mental or psychiatric difference, the abrupt shift to quiet, home, and routine was a welcome balm, and a relief from the frenzy of everyday modern life.

As a journalist with mental health challenges myself, and a researcher on cognitive diversity, in 2020 I found myself digging into a new area of inquiry — on sanism. What is sanism? Sanism is prejudice and discrimination toward those with mental health differences, judging people because of their mental health status, or even denying certain opportunities because of such differences. Like sexism, racism, ageism, and homophobia, sanism is embedded into our very culture and society.

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Jenara Nerenberg

Author, Divergent Mind (HarperCollins). Journalist at UC Berkeley & Garrison. Founder, The Neurodiversity Project. divergentlit.com