Out of Context

Actual sentence heard on a college campus: “Those shoes gave me PTSD.”

Statements like these are all too common. Mental health terms are used out of context on a regular basis in popular culture. “I was so depressed.” “He went totally schizo.” “She was so bipolar about it.” Were you really clinically depressed? Was he actually seeing things, hearing voices, and having delusions? Did she cycle through periods of high moods and low moods that she could not control? Something tells me none of those were true.

So what is mental illness, then? Just an emotional state? Will a schizophrenic patient only be schizophrenic temporarily? Because that’s what it sounds like. When people saying things so flippantly like that, it makes it seem like being mentally ill is just a switch you can turn on and off. Like being mentally ill is a choice and why don’t you just turn it off?

Having a mental illness, not to mention more than one, is difficult and horrible. It is no different than any physical ailment. People spend years getting stabilized on medications and other treatments. Typically, stabilization is the best that you can do with a mental illness. There are no cures. The struggle is lifelong. When others pull mental health terms out of context, it diminishes the struggle down to a passing comment. No discussion. No kindnesses shown. It invalidates the feelings and experiences of those that are dealing with whatever illness you’ve chosen to disregard. This is hurtful and only worsens the plight of those with mental illness.

Please be mindful of those who are suffering internally with mental illness. Don’t use mental health terms out of context to describe situations that have nothing to do with the amount of pain that comes with the term you are misusing. Show compassion and offer support instead. You have the power to make someone else’s life better through your actions and words. Choose those words carefully.

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