I saw a tweet the other day that said about a news story. “I am beyond depressed over this”
What does that mean? Beyond depressed is probably dead to be brutally honest about it. Would the writer have noted “I am beyond a heart attack over this”? I am not saying that mental health is any worse, but rather that it’s treated as equal to physical health. And anyway the two are not separate, you cannot separate the mind from the body.
So why are mental health issues commonly used to describe reactions and events.
These are the words and phrases I most dislike around mental health. This post links back a little to one of my very early posts, post 2, which talked about the power of words, both how they can hurt or help.
A medical word to describe someone suffering a period of depression. And I really dislike it. To re-quote myself, people with depression are simply that people, who happen to have depression. Same for other mental health issues. The issue does not define us, it may be part of us and we may be managing it – but it does not own or define us.
Confess and admit
How many times do you read of someone “confessing” or “admitting” to a mental health issue? At what point did they commit a crime or do something wrong ? Being open, talking about their mental health, yes. Confession and admittance have no place in discussing mental health, all they do is support the stigma.
Actually I think they go further. Most people with mental health issues have accompanying shame and guilt, over the burden they pose to others and how they feel. These two words just justify that even more to the person.
Mental Health issues to describe things
I have already covered one of these at top. Other’s I have heard :
“I am being a bit OCD about this”. Perhaps what is meant is “I am focussing on this too much” ? Not sure, but OCD is much more than that.
“He is almost schizophrenic in his approach”. Why not say “He is changeable in his approach”?
The term mental health itself – what does that mean to you when you hear it? It means someone has an issue with their mental health right? No – it just means the health of your mind. We all have mental health, just like we all have physical health. And just like physical health, sometimes we all have issues or problems that we need some help with.
And really we don’t have mental and physical health – we have health.
I don’t want to sound “politically correct” over this, my simple request is for consideration for the phrases and words that are used around mental health. If we are just a little more thoughtful then the stigma and discrimination, which sadly can prevent help, can start to be reduced.
One day, in the not so far off future, I would love someone to read this post and wonder why it was written, when stigma and discrimination are replaced with compassion and timely intervention.
So here is a thought around language we can all use. In a recent interview by Sheryl Sandberg, the CEO of Facebook, she bravely talked about her grief around her husband’s death. One thing really stuck with me…rather than asking “Are you okay?” or “How are you ?” she suggested adding on one word. So the question becomes “Are you okay today?” or “How are you today?” . Try it, even just asking yourself with the added today can make that question so much focused and easier to answer.
Love to hear any thoughts or comments, Chris