Language is a structured system of communication used by humans, based on speech and gesture, sign, and often, writing. Mental Health is a state when people realize their abilities. They can cope with everyday stresses, work productively and can contribute positively to their community.
Now, you would wonder, what is the role of language in maintaining mental health? Language shapes how you see the world and vice versa. If used constructively, however, language can substantially affect people’s lives. There is a strong relationship between concurrent language ability and mental health outcomes.
Language, its importance and implications
Language plays a vital role in expressing your thoughts, ideas, and feelings to the world and shapes how you see the world. Your choice of words and the meanings you attach to them have an indomitable effect on how you view mental health and display your beliefs & strengths. Despite the progress of humanity has made in the recent past, certain language sensationalizes mental health and reinforces stigma. This kind of language is often the reason people shy away from seeking treatment.
The language you use to describe mental health does matter. One area, systematically stigmatized for decades uses discriminatory language. People have grown up in biased societies finding terms such as “loonie”, “psycho”, “schizo”, and “crazy” perfectly acceptable. Language changes concerning mental health can have harmful implications, particularly for people who have a mental illness, thus implying that their situation is unimportant. If used constructively, however, language can substantially affect people’s lives.
In the perspective of well-being and mental health, we can interpret negative words as condescending, stigmatizing, and isolating. At the same time, positive words convey empathy, dignity, and hope. Using respectable language can go a long way in combating the stigma associated with mental illnesses. It can encourage more people to seek treatment and stop suffering alone. One way to change the way we talk is to see someone with a mental illness first as a person rather than their illness. An example would choose to say, “This person has bipolar disorder” instead of saying “This person is bipolar.”
To ensure good mental health, one can practice yoga as well.
Significance of words
As a language, words have power too. They can destroy and create at will. You can either constructively use this power with encouraging words or use despairing words destructively. Words & language have power and energy to help, heal, hinder, hurt, harm, humiliate, and humble. Your choice of words can also make the difference between someone opening up to you to share their troubles or someone closing their heart, never wanting to share their worries with you.
Words do hurt. Spoken intentionally, hurtful words can wound deeply. While negative language stops people from opening up, positive language encourages a dialogue. Using words such as psycho, for example, is extremely hurtful and damaging the person with a mental condition, as it serves to other them as someone abnormal. Such words form the cornerstone of bullying and become the cause of cracks in marital harmony and scars of longtime friendships.
Every positive word you read, write or speak can have a very direct influence on your physical body. The more you use and hear such words or phrases, the more it becomes normal and the more power it has over you. While speaking with a person who has a mental health condition, your language should be accepting and respectful. The message you convey should be clear, positive, and show that you see that person as an individual. Do focus on the person, not the mental health condition.
Avoiding Myths and Trivialization
Myths about mental illness are common in our societies. You must have heard things like mental health is perpetual, they are all same, people with mental health problems are violent, and that mental illness is more prevalent in some communities. A change in the way we talk about mental health helps in combating stereotypes against mentally ill individuals so that we readily accepted them in society.
Over the years, it has also become extremely common to use mental health terminology to describe common situations. Examples of this would say “I’m depressed” when you’re having a bad day or saying “I’m OCD about this” if you’re very particular about something. Such usage appears insensitive and trivializes the experiences of people living with serious mental illnesses. This kind of trivializing also needs to be avoided.
Language is an obstacle a motivator to make discrimination acceptable. Most times, we respond to words without even realizing it as our language is emotionally charged. It is not just how we speak about problems and diagnoses that are important. Let’s remember, 1 person in 6 experiences a lot of distress or mental health problems every week. Thus, being thoughtful and respectful, and thoughtful in our language related to mental health can work wonders for the brain and emotions of the people around us.
The importance of language in mental health care is such that if used constructively, it can substantially affect people’s lives. You cannot change the understanding of social circumstances that expose us to the risk of mental health unless your language evolves. Our conversations around mental health need to develop in a way that centers on the person who is suffering, without making them seem abnormal or scary. Language also needs to break down the stigma against getting mental health treatment so that we can all move towards a healthier society.
This post is part of Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter‘
© Ruchie Verma.
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