Do you ever casually throw around words like “depressed,” “suicidal” or “OCD?” These mental health terms have seeped into our everyday language, but it’s as simple as this: medical conditions, including mental health disorders, don’t make for good metaphors.
Mental health-related phrases shouldn’t be used in ways that aren’t literal. They hurt and can keep people from seeking help. Using mental health terminology in a negative or belittling manner can be damaging. It largely contributes to the stigma surrounding mental health disorders.
“It’s actually demeaning to those with true illnesses that can’t easily stop these behaviors,” said Dan Reidenberg, the executive director of the suicide awareness organization SAVE. “If we trivialize them into something else or we make that become the person’s identity, we have done everyone a disservice.”
Reidenberg said a good solution is to address stigma directly, and that starts with the words we speak. The more we understand a disorder, the more it can become normalized in society, which means looking at it just as we would look at a physical health issue.
National Mental Illness Awareness Week is Oct. 2 to Oct. 8. Let’s help raise awareness as a community. We can educate others by rejecting stigmatizing stereotypes and encouraging acceptance and understanding.
Take action by advocating for equal care, providing support, and pushing for better legislation and policies to improve lives for everyone. You can also take the stigmafree pledge at nami.org/stigmafree#pledge.
“National Alliance on Mental Illness,” nami.org, accessed Sept. 13, 2016.”
“We Need to Change the Way We Talk About Mental Health,” Lindsay Holmes, huffingtonpost.com, Sept. 6, 2016.