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Using diagnoses as slang sustains stigma

Students casually using the names of mental illnesses undermines their severity

Bella Geroulis

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We’ve all done it. In the heat of the moment, when we’re at a loss for words, we find ourselves us using the first thing that pops into our heads, even if it might offend someone.

Mental illnesses are exactly what they are described as; an illness. Though most people do know and understand the seriousness that mental illnesses carry with them, it seems as though these illness have become belittled in some way and become adjectives for minor inconveniences.

“I’m so depressed,” is not the correct statement when you’re feeling sad or blue. “She’s so bipolar,” is not acceptable to describe someone who might be going through something.

Surely most people don’t mean much harm when using these diseases so casually, but their words are still mightier than the sword.

Using these illnesses to describe someone who is just sad or moody puts shame on the disorder, causing a misconception that the illness is bad or harmful.

By belittling mental and physical illnesses in this way, we as a collective society are putting unwarranted stigmas around the illness that make it harder to normalize and address.

“Using phrases like those that shame the disorder further prevent people from disclosing their illness and seeking the treatment they need,” said senior Hanna Pettersen. She went on to say that the true understanding of these illnesses have been muddled and tampered with by modern American dialogue, only thickening the stigmas that surround them.

Mental illnesses have always faced harsh criticism. Throughout history and especially in the early 20th century, the ideal American lifestyle conveniently forgot to include any sort of recognition to the physically or mentally ill.

Terry Kirkos, an elderly woman living in Lincolnwood, recalled her younger years while she was battling severe depression. “It wasn’t talked about back then,” Kirkos said, “and if it was talked about at all, people who were sick were thought of as crazy.”

It wasn’t until relatively recently when people began to normalize things like psychiatrists, therapy and medical diagnosis.

In part, the slang usage of illnesses is a direct result of those stigmas that people had. By having decades and even centuries of people disregarding mental illnesses as a serious issue, we as a result felt little or no guilt in delegitimizing them in our everyday conversation.

Senior Sofie Way has seen these terms being misused firsthand, and is looking the future to find a solution to this problem.“ Education is the only answer, but people have to want to learn to be able to change.”

But do people want to change? For those who have not battled with a mental illness or seen it’s destruction first hand, using these words in such a casual manner might not seem that bad.

But by using them in such a way, you are offending someone out there, and that alone should be enough reason to actively change the way society views mental illnesses.

Not too long ago, derogatory slang words were the norm when talking to or about certain people.

Women, minorities and the physically disabled, for example. As a society, we were able to recognize and address that those words were bad, and we changed how those groups of people were perceived.

Mental illnesses should be no different. They should not be seen as a joke or as less serious than other illness as, and we need to come together once more to create a generation of people who effectively end the stigmas surrounding mental illnesses.

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The student news site of New Trier High School.
Using diagnoses as slang sustains stigma