Adjusting The Way We Talk About Mental Health

If you’re a longtime reader of My Brain’s Not Broken, you know my fascination with words and language. I have posts all about mental health terms and why we use the words we do when we talk about mental health. This blog started as a way for me to tell my story, and there is no story without writing one word after the other.

My story has evolved over the years, and I think a big reason for that is because my language has evolved. I have a different way of talking about mental health than I did in years past, and I know I’m better for it. But making those adjustments – even just recognizing that they need to be made – is a challenge.

For most of my life, I didn’t realize how self-critical my thoughts were. I thought everyone had thoughts about themselves. Positive, negative, somewhere in the middle; that’s just the way things were. What I’d failed to realize is the impact of the world around me. I’d read, listen to or watch people use unfamiliar words without any context. Sometimes I was curious and asked questions but otherwise, I was on my own to figure out what they meant.

Looking back, I don’t like how I talked about mental health for most of my life. Now I realize that writing that at 29 is much different than at 49 or 59, but still. At least two-thirds of my life (possibly longer) were spent not knowing how to talk about certain issues.

Until I started having my own struggles, mental health definitely felt like one of them. I couldn’t connect hearing someone talk about their anxiety with the anxious thoughts I was having. I didn’t understand that the depression a person was describing was identical to thoughts I’d had, or feelings I was familiar with. There was language people were using that didn’t make sense because I’d never heard it before. And rather than ask questions, I made assumptions. I tried to go off what I already knew, instead of learning things that could have helped me learn more about myself.

There are plenty of valid reasons to adjust the way we talk about mental health. Society hasn’t always been able to have healthy discussions about mental health, and it shows in how we talk about it. We use words that stigmatize and phrases that disrespect because that’s what we’re used to.

Language persists when people use the same words and phrases over and over, but that doesn’t make it okay. It’s time we challenge that language for what it is. We deserve to be kinder with ourselves and gentler with our struggles. Change isn’t easy and it doesn’t happen overnight, but it is absolutely worth it. And like many things when it comes to mental health, this change happens one moment, one decision at a time.

Now, over to you! How do you think our world can adjust the way we talk about mental health? What are some of your suggestions? Let me know in the comments!

"A different language is a different vision of life." - Federico Fellini