At least once in our lifetime, we've done it. Everyone is guilty of this—how we use different mental illnesses as adjectives to express the emotions we currently feel, like "I'm so depressed." We often use the word “depressed” as a superlative of sad without thinking of the weight of our words when heard by someone who truly suffers from depression, a person who is clinically diagnosed with mental illness.
We don't mean to be the Debbie Downer or the strict tita that you always avoid in family dinners. Sometimes, though, being right isn't always fun. You may say that we're major killjoys, but this is a thing that shouldn't be taken lightly—being sensitive is actually easier than you think. Here are the reasons why we should stop using various mental illnesses as adjectives:
It worsens the already-there stigma. There's an existing stigma that people with mental illness are nag-i-inarte lang. Just like how people use the term "bipolar" to describe someone moody or hot-and-cold, it may be offensive to people who actually suffer from the disorder as it implies that they might just be nag-iinarte. Because people who suffer from bipolar disorder can't control the changes in their mood as if "someone else is living inside them." And if we use their clinically diagnosed condition to describe what we are currently feeling, we are just contributing to the stigma that mental illnesses are just “inside your head” and that it will pass just like how any emotion or mood would.
It keeps the focus away from real illness. A messed up body clock doesn’t necessarily mean you are an insomniac. Insomnia is an illness that is a common precursor of another illness that a person might be suffering from. Depression is more than just being sad, in fact you can be happy while suffering from depression (because, surprise, depression is not an emotion). Having OCD isn’t a good thing either—it is more than just "being neat." It is, in the name itself, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and everything that is too much isn't good. Using these illnesses as an adjective boxes those who suffer from them as if it is a stereotype, reducing them to a single emotion or habit.
It misinforms people about mental illnesses. When dealing with clinically diagnosed individuals, many may think that there is a "negative" and "positive" mental illness list. Unfortunately, there is no such thing! They might associate depression as a "negative" mental illness as it is often associated with drama or they will think OCD as a "positive" mental illness as it is identified with control. And because mental illness is a topic people rarely talk about, not everyone knows the facts—and when people who don’t know a thing about mental illness hear people use these conditions being thrown around so casually, misinformation happens. All we need to know is that we should be more sensitive when we use words, whether in private or in public. We don't know the stories of everyone around us. You never know, you may have a friend who might be suffering from a mental illness and he or she might feel the fear of coming out about it because of how you use those terms and they don't want to be called nag-i-inarte lang.
Mental illness already has a lot of stigma around it and we don't want to add much more to it. This is a reminder that words aren't just words. Choose what you say wisely. Be kind, always.
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Banner photograph by Kristina Flour via Unsplash.