Mental Health and Why We Should Mind Our Language

by Anna Patricia
Language and Mental Health Girl

In today’s society, it has unfortunately become the norm to casually throw words around such as, depression, bipolar, panic attack, and OCD. “I’m so OCD,” or even “I feel so depressed right now,” have become a component of everyday modern language. By all means, we should acknowledge that everyone experiences both stressful and sad days. However, by claiming a medical episode, we are undermining those who actually suffer from mental illness.

So, why is it so important for us to mind our language when it comes to the topic of Mental Health?

“When you said you felt depressed, did you feel as though you were trapped in this state of mind where everything was dark and filled with sadness? Did you lose all enjoyment and motivation for even the most minimal tasks? Was your head filled with self-loathing and ideations of self-harm?”

Well, because we are also contributing to a continuous misunderstanding of what it means to have a mental illness. It’s a medical condition, not an emotional norm. And so, we begin to unconsciously trivialize mental illness. By incorporating common phrases into our daily lexicon such as “I’m depressed”, we are no longer able to differentiate the complexity and potential illness behind someone’s emotions. Instead, we are creating a world in which mental illness is becoming normalized.

“When you joked about having a panic attack, did you feel yourself lose control of your entire body, feeling as though the entire world was caving in? Did you feel your heart palpitate as you began to hyperventilated, barely able to remain standing?”

The whole purpose of the destigmatization of mental illness is to forgo any notion that one’s behaviour and state of mind may be perceived as negative. It is important to educate everyone that each action and reaction associated with a mental illness is a neutral response, just as low and high blood sugar is for a person with diabetes. Yet as we incorporate these words into our day-to-day living, they become associated with a certain negative connotation which leads to judgement rather than the elusive notion of understanding.

When I was diagnosed with clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder, it was the first time in years I felt as though I had regained my power. I felt as though I had a concrete reason for my emotions which provided me with hope for the long journey ahead. Admitting all of this was extremely challenging and thus, for me, the words depression or anxiety, bring with them a lot of pain.

It’s not a matter of watching what you say, rather it’s about being honest and open when it comes to the feelings of anyone else. If you are sad or stressed, let someone know how you are feeling.

If you are feeling sad, tell someone and they will listen. If you’re feeling stressed, tell someone and they will try to help you relax.

Often, our conversations are dictated by the words we are accustomed to and the words we may hear in passing.

Sometimes words just come out because we are accustomed to saying them, but it does not make it right. So I do not ask you to watch what you say, but to perhaps think about your words with a greater conscious effort, and to eventually use them in their appropriate contexts. Join me in my movement to returning these labels to their true meaning and to helping me veer them away from becoming a term of the social norm.

If you, or someone you know is currently struggling with Mental Health, you can find helpful advice here.

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