Opinion: Misuse of mental illness terms insensitive

Owned and published by UMHB, The Bells is a biweekly publication. This content was previously published in print on the Opinions page. Opinions expressed in this section do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff or the university.

Mental illness in college aged students is at an all-time high. According to Chardon Chadron State College Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, 75 percent of all mental health issues begin by the age of 24, and one in four people in general suffer from mental illness.
With mental health being such a prevalent issue among college aged students, it is important for students, professors, and community alike to comprehend and take seriously the severity of these conditions. People should not throw the terms around loosely and use them as slang, or a re-appropriation of words that identify a medical condition to convey a momentary feeling or situation.
It is not uncommon to hear someone say: “Oh, I’m so depressed today” or “This test is giving me anxiety” or “Today, I’ve been so bipolar” or even, “Oh, I’m just OCD.” However, use of these terms outside the home can be mis-interpreted, and so they should be used with more care.
I feel it is not appropriate to use the names of these illnesses without care, because it lessens the meaning of words that are really designated to encompass the severity and seriousness of a mental illnesses.
Personally, hearing at least one of these phrases weekly makes my stomach turn, because when students and professors alike misuse and laugh off certain mental illnesses, it feels as though they are laughing off people who have really been affected by illness.
According to the Preventing Suicide Among College Students by the New York Times in 2018, suicide attempts among college-aged students have increased.
So with the severity of the issue being what it is, why should those without illness use medical terms for serious health issues as terms for day-to-day emotions?
And so, it must be said that someone’s mental illness should not be someone else’s slang to use in expressing how they feel with every day events.
For instance, anxiety is a nervous disorder characterized by apprehension, usually accompanied by panic attacks, according to Medical News Today. And yet, the word anxiety is often used to explain away or define nerves.
According to the same source, depression is a mental condition characterized by severe despondency and dejection, often accompanied by feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and lack of energy, sleep, and appetite. But instead, people sometimes use the term to define someone who is simply sad.
The list goes on and on with the misuse of terms that name mental illnesses, but is it that inconvenient to come up with a better expression that does not run the risk of demeaning anyone?
Having a mental illness increases the risk of suicide, as more than half (54 percent) of those who die by suicide have known mental illnesses, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
So again, the importance of not using mental illness terms as slang lies at least here, in that using the terms loosely can be injurious.
This is because such use lessens the value and seriousness of terms that are meant to describe real illnesses, and ultimately devalues those who truly suffer from the diseases.

Author: Jasmin Ortiz

Share This Post On

Commenting Policy
We welcome your comments on news and opinions articles, provided that they allowed by our Commenting Policy.