Thursday, August 21, 2014

It's just crazy

Every single time something involving mental illness or mental issues becomes news -- say, someone with a psychiatric history gets into a shootout with police, or a beloved celebrity kills himself -- noted experts always weigh in to say they hope the greater awareness of these issues will help "change the stigma" of mental illness. As though "changing the stigma" is also going to increase access to mental health professionals and give people the cash to afford such professionals. Not to mention, absolutely ensure that therapy/medication/neurofeedback/deep breathing is going to be the exact thing the patient needs. Sure, that's all it takes obviously.

But every single time I hear experts talking about "changing the stigma" I can't help but feel like those experts don't listen to how people talk.

"Man, that party was crazy!"

"That girl is nuts."

"All the traffic was making me insane."

"Getting the kids to school today was just total madness."

And that's just the general terminology. We can get more specific.

"He is so anal-retentive about cleaning the dishes."

"Did I lock the door? I get so OCD about that stuff."

"I'm doing 15 things at once today, I'm just completely ADD right now."

"I'm so depressed that summer is over."

"This show is funny and sad and funny and sad. It's totally bipolar."

Now I'm not interested in being The Word Police. I've used some of the above terms and I'm absolutely not holier than thou (or anyone else). But you can't exactly change the stigma of mental illness, or mental disorders, when the language of mental health has been co-opted as slang. When the terms used to describe mental illness or mental disorders are being used, on a regular basis, as jokes.

I don't know how to change that. People dislike being told they can't use this word or that word and then they go on rants about political correctness and how no one is allowed to hurt anyone's feelings anymore and society is stifling them and blah blah. But I do think occasionally reminding people what those words actually mean, and that these are disorders people legitimately suffer from, might -- maybe? -- bring a little bit of understanding.

At any rate, it would make for a more interesting conversation than constantly parroted repetitions of "We have to change the stigma!"


  1. I agree with this and have noticed it myself. One of my friends has a mental illness and I have tried to change how I talk so I do not hurt her.

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