Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Talking proper

So I was thinking about some of the negative terms we use with respect to mental illness. Not the obvious ones, psycho head case basket job nutter, the ones intended to cause offence. The more subtle, insidious ones, used by people who mean no harm and may even be trying to help. The ones that are so much a part of our vocabulary we don't even notice.
A cry for help. It's just a cry for help. No need to worry, no need to do anything. In what other situation in life would you apply that rule? In what scenario would it be ok to simply dismiss someone who's crying out for you to help them? A swimmer starts screaming do you sit and do nothing, think you don't need to do anything because their head is still above water? It's just a cry for help.  Someone hanging off a cliff, it would be ok to ignore them until they let go and hit the bottom right? Afterall it's just a cry for help. Someone dials 999 because their house is on fire, no need to bother til it's actually burnt down is there? Cos it's just a cry for help. What's the point in helping after the event? If someone is screaming that loud then they need help. If someone feels desperate enough to take an overdose, self harm, whatever that IS a problem and it DOES need addressing... it's not 'just' anything.

Oh yea just. One of the most infuriating words in the English language and not just in the context of mental health. I try not to use it...I don't always succeed tbh. I often use it in regards to myself, as I'm sure many do: in just having a bad day, it's just anxiety, don't worry it's just a depression thing. Downplaying.
But then you have people saying 'it's just a panic attack'. Im sure anyone who's ever had one would agree there's no just about it. Or how about 'it's just in your head'? As if that makes it less painful, less of an issue. 'Of course it's happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?'. Gotta love a bit of Harry Potter.
Just also rears it's head when people are trying to give you advice. Telling an anorexic to just eat may be the most infamous but you also have just relax, just try, you just need to break the habit, just challenge the negative thoughts. It's dismissive of the problem and ignores just how difficult any of those things can be to achieve.

Speaking of difficult to achieve how about don't do anything silly/stupid? There's that obvious fact that it really isn't that easy... you're desperate enough to contemplate suicide but everything is changed just by being told not to? It may help to know someone gives a damn but really?
Asides from that, there's really nothing silly about suicide. Silly is those comedy glasses with a nose and moustache attached. Silly is accidently putting your cup of tea in the fridge and trying to drink the bottle of milk (definitely didn't do that yesterday!). Silly is definitely not feeling so desperate, so hopeless that you thinking taking your life is the best or only option. As for stupid, lacking in intelligence? What has that got to do with anything? Suicide has nothing to do with iq or education. I don't even know what else to say about that. It's an innocent phrase but the implications behind it aren't.
You'll notice I keep saying 'suicide' which may make some people uncomfortable. That's why we have all these euphemisms. We don't want to talk about it because it's awkward, difficult, scary. We seem to have some notion that mentioning suicide will somehow give a person in distress ideas. There are a lot of triggers out there, mentioning the word isn't one of them. There is a whole chain of thoughts and feelings and events that leads someone to that place, talking about it isn't one of them. In fact taking about it is more likely to help.

Those chains of thoughts... they're not illogical. They may be maladaptive or unhealthy but to the person experiencing them they make total sense. Dismissing them as merely illogical is not really productive, better to work out the particular logic involved and try to start looking at things from different perspectives.

My final one is breakdown. What does that even mean? It has no real medical definition and covers such a broad spectrum it's meaningless. It seems to be used as a catchall term for any number of mental health issues and ignores the diversity and subtleties of symptoms. Different disorders are all very different and need to be approached in different ways and lumping them all in together is not very helpful.

Ok I'm sure there are more but that's what I've got off the top of my head and I've rambled enough already. X