Trigger warning: depression, suicide
“I’m so depressed.” “This assignment makes me anxious.” I have so much PTSD from today’s heavy traffic.” “He loves to clean too much. He has OCD.” Ugh, I’m going to kill myself.”
We’ve all used these terms, haven’t we? At one point or another, we’ve all been guilty of serious mental issues like adjectives. However, we often tend to forget that this behavior leads to vague mental health disorders such as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Over the years, terms like psycho, schizo, loonie and crazy have become accepted in everyday language. Your friend who cleans their house religiously and keeps things organized has a penchant for neatness, but that doesn’t mean they have OCD. Your boss with a condescending tone might just be rude. It doesn’t mean they are narcissists.
A 2013 report by the Australian National Mental Health Commission revealed that the incorrect use of clinical diagnoses meant some people were unaware of the seriousness of mental illness.
“Incorporating mental health terminology into our everyday speech can turn a deaf ear to the true meaning and significance of mental health problems and cause us to forget or minimize the needs of someone genuinely suffering from mental health problems. While many people advocate open-mindedness, others hold judgmental and in some cases bigoted attitudes towards mental illness,” the report states.
Mental health problems are very common in all countries of the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about one in eight people in the world suffers from a mental disorder. Anxiety disorders and depressive disorders are most common in both men and women.
According to WHO’s 2022 World Mental Health Report, mental health disorders are the leading cause of years lived with disability, accounting for one in six worldwide.
“Schizophrenia, which occurs in approximately one in 200 adults, is a primary concern: in its acute state, it is the most debilitating of all health conditions. People with schizophrenia or other serious mental health problems die on average 10 to 20 years earlier than other people, often from preventable physical illnesses,” the World Health Organization stated.
– The burden of mental illnesses is certainly on the rise. According to WHO estimates, for every 100,000 Indians, there are 2,443 disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) attributable to mental health problems. In fact, between 2012 and 2030, mental health disorders are expected to cause $1.03 trillion in economic losses. I believe there are still many gaps in the availability and quality of mental health care and a shortage of mental health specialists, making access to mental health care a major concern in India,” said Dr. Puneet Dwevedi, Director, Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Artemis Hospital, Gurugram. Financial Express.com.
Dr. Dwevedi also argued that extremely low mental health literacy, combined with inaccurate or misleading descriptions of mental illness, further exacerbates the stigma associated with mental illness in India.
“Stop using mental health conditions as adjectives”
Many people unconsciously downplay mental health issues by using words like panic attack to describe common everyday feelings. The current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, lists more than 150 disorders. Unfortunately, certain disorders tend to suffer from inappropriate language use – obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
Saying you’re depressed when you’re sad, unpleasant when you’re organized, or bipolar when you’re in a bad mood downplays the seriousness of mental illness, causing confusion between normal emotional distress and serious conditions that require professional help.
“Using mental illnesses as adjectives not only adds to stigma, but also ignores the feelings of people with a real illness. This can make patients question their diagnosis and may not want to actively participate in the treatment process,” Dr. Dwevedi said. Financial Express.com.
He also pointed out that social media allows people to self-express their experiences of mental illness, which can have a positive effect and make mental health problems more relatable. However, he said the availability of misrepresentations of mental illness is one of the biggest drawbacks of the trend.
“Furthermore, the many inadequately trained individuals providing mental health advice can mislead people and cause more harm than good,” he added.
It is important to emphasize that mental illness is a serious health problem that causes dysfunction or anxiety in daily activities. This is why people with mental health problems are at high risk of developing chronic physical health problems.
“A few of the many negative effects of this behavior on sufferers from these conditions may include feeling misunderstood, decreased help-seeking behavior, ostracism from family members or peers, increased self-doubt, and so on,” Dr. Dwevedi argued.
“These sentences are not exact representations”
Casual statements about various mental health problems are extremely problematic because they lead to misconceptions about mental health problems. It is noteworthy that the downplaying of the experiences of people with these illnesses makes it difficult for people to recognize when they need mental health counseling.
“People still believe in long-held myths and stereotypes of general character flaws, bad karma and many others. Language also plays a huge role in perpetuating stigma, as the way we call people with mental illness communicates respect and dignity. People still don’t accept admitting they struggle with a mental health problem and saying, ‘I’m not crazy and I don’t need to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist,'” said Mimansa Singh Tanwar, a clinical psychologist at Fortis’ National Mental Health Program. Financial Express.com.
Tanwar also emphasized that such behavior creates a barrier among people to recognize it as an illness that requires treatment. “It affects their daily lives, causing functional impairment and significant emotional distress,” he added.
He also emphasized that stigma has been one of the main reasons worldwide why people hesitate to seek treatment for mental health-related illnesses.
“Although we have come a long way, there is still a lack of awareness around mental health and illness,” he said.
Using mental health disorders as adjectives, synonyms and metaphors in our daily interactions may seem harmless, but we often forget that some people actually live with these serious illnesses and the casual use of mental health terms to describe people or events negatively adds to the stigma against mental health. static.
“Mental health facilities are seriously underserved”
According to the WHO, in addition to being widespread and costly, mental health conditions are also severely underserved.
“Mental health systems around the world have major gaps and imbalances in knowledge and research, administration, resources and services. Other health conditions are often prioritized over mental health, and community-based mental health care is consistently underfunded in mental health budgets, global health stated.
A number of factors prevent people from seeking help for mental health problems, including poor quality of services, low mental health literacy, and stigma and discrimination, the WHO said.
In many places, official mental health services do not exist. Even if they are available, they are often inaccessible or unaffordable. People often choose to suffer from mental health problems without relief rather than risk the discrimination and exclusion associated with accessing mental health services.
Despite progress in some countries, people with mental health problems often experience serious human rights violations, discrimination and stigmatization.
How to deal effectively with the belittling of mental health problems?
The language we use has a significant impact. We can avoid engaging in this behavior if we think more carefully and consider our words before we write and/or speak them, and avoid relying on mental illness terminology when we write and speak.
According to Dr. Dweved, the best way is to use different strategies to help increase awareness.
“Studies have shown that getting to know or interact with someone with mental illness is one of the most effective strategies to reduce stigma, so encouraging people to tell their stories about their mental illness can be helpful. Other strategies can include having competent or influential people advocate for mental health, using facts to debunk misconceptions on social media,” he said.
According to Tanwar, everyone has a role to play. “All sectors of schools, colleges, organizations, companies and RWAs should take active steps to raise awareness and sensitize about mental health. Awareness leads to acceptance, early identification and timely intervention of mental health issues,” he said.
Mentally ill people fear being judged or discriminated against by others, as a result of which they may even have experiences that are part of their basic human rights, he stressed.
“It is critical that we maintain sensitivity, respect and dignity for them and continue to build robust support systems because mental health is a universal right,” he added.
DISCLAIMER: If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or in distress, please contact the Vandrevala Foundation helpline (+91-9999666555) which is available in 11 languages including English and can be accessed by phone or WhatsApp 24/7. You can also contact Fortis Hospital National Helpline 91-8376804102 which is available 24 hours a day. You can also contact the state mental health rehabilitation helper KIRAN at 18005990019, which is available around the clock.
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