Talking about mental health is important.
It’s even more important to make sure that we are supporting those diagnosed with a mental disorder (or any disorder for that matter).
With that said, there is something that I have been wanting to discuss because it has been bothering me a lot, especially lately.
To those of you that do not have a mental illness or don’t have any experience with how scary it can be sometimes or don’t understand how it can impact that person that has it, please do not use mental disorders as adjectives.
Let me explain what I mean by this.
When someone gets a little angry sometimes and can get upset pretty quickly, please do not say, “Oh my gosh, he’s so bipolar.” I know that you are trying to say that that individual can get upset fast, but that does not mean that he, or she, has bipolar disorder.
When you are having are having a bad day at work, and you feel like everything is going wrong, please don’t say that you are “so depressed.” You do not have depression, and having one bad will not suddenly bring an onset of depression.
When you are nervous about a big project, please don’t say that your project is “causing you so much anxiety.” If you haven’t been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you can’t begin to understand what those with an anxiety disorder, like me, have to endure every. single. day.
When your friend likes to keep their room clean and organized, please do not tell them, “Oh my gosh! You are so OCD!” Being clean and organized does not even equate to having an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
When you are out with your friends and you see something that you think is dumb or silly, please do not call it “retarded.” First of all, please just don’t ever use the R-word; it’s not nice. But especially do not use it when you think that something is silly. Just use the word that you actually mean to use: silly or dumb.
Now, I know that this one isn’t an example of a mental disorder word being used inappropriately, but it’s still an example that needs to be shared. When you think that something is uncool, please don’t call it “lame.” Lame means that someone has difficulty walking because of an injury or an illness. So if it’s uncool, say that it’s uncool.
But for now, I think that this is enough examples and you get the point.
The point of this article is not to reprimand you for using any of the above words or phrases in the manner in which I am asking you to not use it; instead, I want to educate you on what these terms actually mean, and bring awareness to the point that the words you use can have a profound and negative impact on someone.
Using mental disorder related words or conditions as an adjective or to describe something is not right. The problem is that this use of the language only adds to the mental health stigma.
By saying that someone is “so bipolar,” you are equating that person with being crazy, and that is not at all what bipolar disorder is about. But by using “bipolar” in this way, it is further creating this negative picture in people’s mind about individuals that have bipolar disorder.
When you say that you are “so depressed” because you had a bad day, you are lessening the experiences of someone that has been diagnosed with depression. It equates having a bad day to having depression, and it can’t even begin to compare. You see, those that aren’t diagnosed with depression can’t begin to fathom every day struggles that a person with depression has to endure, so please do not equate yourself with them.
Mental health has long had a stigma associated with it, and those with mental disorders, and any other disorder have long been fighting to break that stigma. We have been trying to show that having a mental illness does not make us “crazy” or “nonfunctioning.” And it certainly does not make us any less “able” than any other individual.
So in order to break that mental health stigma, we need to stop using mental health words or phrases as insults, because if we let this behavior persist, it will only lead to more negativity surrounding mental health.
Mental health is not an insult. Mental disorders are not bad. And having a mental disorder does not make us any less.
So please, I ask that you please stop using mental health words or phrases inappropriately, and take a moment to reflect on how individuals with those mental disorders, or disorders in general, would feel if they heard you use their condition in such a manner.
Please remember to always be kind, and to use positive, supporting language so we can continue to break the mental health stigma.