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Why You Need to Stop Using These Mental Health Labels in Derogatory Ways

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I want to approach a difficult subject, one I’m sure many of us have experienced. It’s time to end the stigma and derogatory use of mental health and mental illness terms.

Using disabilities as an insult is a “tradition” that has encompassed our world longer than many of us have been alive. Our society has come a long way, eliminating the derogatory usage of many disability terms or labels that hurt people. These labels used to be used regularly to describe something a person didn’t like, or something they thought was “stupid.” Now, the use of those words is socially unacceptable, a great step for our society. However, now it’s time to do away with some more usages of labels.

Far too often so I hear “They must be bipolar,” to describe someone who is angry; “They’re always depressed,” to describe someone who is sad; “They just have anxiety,” to describe a period when one is stressed; “They’re so OCD about that,” to describe someone who cleans a lot. Now, I’m not taking away from those who do have these illnesses, but a vast majority of the time they are used in a derogatory manner.

When I hear someone talk about bipolar disorder, it hurts me. The constant switching from mania to depression, never knowing if I’m going to be happy or sad. The way my head sways and life is a blur.

When I hear someone loosely use depression, it hurts me and reminds me of my darkest times — the periods when I’m down and out, feel like I’ve been put through the grinder. It can be a trigger.

When I hear some nonchalantly use anxiety, it makes my stomach turn into knots. I think of the heavy breathing and struggles for breath, the rapid heartbeats hurting my chest as my heart beat against it, the profuse sweating dripping down my face, falling to my knees with blurry vision, clawing at my face to get rid of the anxiety.

When I hear obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) used negatively, it reminds me of my obsession with things having to be just right or I can’t sleep and can’t think about anything else. When I’m mad at myself for something not being done, but I can’t do it.

These are things I’ve heard and experienced and I know how it makes me feel. I’m sure I have missed some misused labels, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or stroke. Feel free to leave your experiences below to help us fight these stigmatizing phrases.

I’m not coming at this issue as liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, trying to make everything in this world “politically correct.” No, I’m coming at this issue as someone who has experienced the pain these labels can cause. Using them in a derogatory manner makes us feel bad for what we deal with. I’m not a bad person because of my experiences; I’m not the label you use.

Maybe our society sees people living with these disabilities as “defective.” They see us as “not human” and therefore make it socially acceptable to use these labels in a derogatory manner. I’m here to tell them I am a human being and I am not defective. We all need to make the conscious effort to practice what we preach and to help society understand why they shouldn’t use those terms as derogatory labels.

Simple changes will go a long way in promoting a more tolerant and conscious society.

Together, we can make a difference.

We are Mighty together.

Photo by Jonathan Rados on Unsplash

Originally published: April 23, 2019
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