We all know about the stigma of mental health: the general assumption that anyone with a mental illness can “flip out” at any minute, how we’re near suicidal every minute of ever day, and how we’re likely harm somebody else – and all the other stereotypes. These stereotypes are not just wrong, but damaging. There is another barrier to people with mental health issues seeking and getting help, and that is when people trivialise mental health.What do I mean by “trivialising”? Have you ever heard yourself doing any of these things
- Making light of mental health by saying “yeah, I’m a bit OCD about cleanliness” (when you’re simply meticulous)
- Equally making light of severe mental health conditions by saying things like “I think he/she is a bit bi-polar” (about somebody who is merely a little moody)
- Playing down the most common mental illness by saying “I’m depressed.” (when all you mean is that you’re just feeling a little under the weather)
People do it all the time. Whereas the stigma over-inflates the potential effects of mental health, the trivialisation through the misuse of the types of terms seen above further undermines mental health and those who are trying to do something about it.
I implore everyone to be careful about the words they use when describing their own actions. If you want to know what these conditions are really like, please read the following articles:
- About a year ago, I wrote what depression really feels like and it’s a hell of a lot worse than simply feeling a little fed up. We all have blue days – that is not depression.
- An OCD sufferer talks about his experiences and frustration with the misuse of the word here
- UK mental health charity Mind discusses what Bi-Polar Disorder really means here