The Importance of Language in Mental Health; With Rwenshaun Miller
“Using the same language in conversation fuels the same mentality and rarely inflicts change.” -Anthony Bartlett
The comment above comes from a conversation I had with a friend this weekend. It made me think about the words that are associated with mental health and mental illness in my own social circles.
Let’s look at the possibly the most noticeable word, Crazy. Depending on whom I am talking to, this word can have number or meanings.
Crazy…a situation that is hard to believe “Did you see that game winning shot last night. It was crazy”
Crazy…the person that has the reputation of having a quick temper is a live wire. This may differ from the previous definition because these individuals gain respect for their level of “crazy”. Think about Debo, the neighborhood bully.
Crazy…the person that does something that you would not do. “He likes to skydive…he’s crazy”
Crazy…the person who asks you to do something that you believe is irrational. This could be at work, home, or in the community. “She just asked me to give $100. She must be crazy” (I hear and use something very similar to this a lot LOL).
Crazy…the person that is socially banned because they are misunderstood and may suffer from a mental illness BUT we as a community fail to acknowledge this and treat them like an outcast instead of a person.
Our language can be a difficult thing to grasp, but the words that we speak can be powerful, both positive and negative. I am not saying we should never use this word, because even with my own battles with mental illness, I use it but I am conscious of how I use it.
Recently, I ran into an acquaintance that is aware of my work and her first words to me were “I didn’t know you were Bipolar. I never thought of you as being crazy.I always thought you were normal”. Then she laughed.
Knowing her, I understood that she did not mean any harm by her comments but this may not be received well by others. Outside of that, we were able to discuss how mental illness affects people how she believes things need to change.
Similar to the multiple uses of crazy, we utilize many other terms that professionally defined in a the field of Mental Health, but are used loosely in everyday conversations. For example, there is a quick change in the weather. A person may say “this weather is bipolar”.
Conversations about Mental Illness and Mental Health must continue to happen but it is not always an easy talk to have. It does not have to be so formal. We can have fun with it. We must use our language to formulate a connection. Especially across generations, races, and classes to educate and help.
Does the professional language of mental illness, such as a diagnosis or medication, deter you from actually having a conversation?