By Laurie Scarborough
“I’m so depressed. I had like, the worst day,” says a girl in high-waisted shorts sitting on Jammie stairs. “My laptop died while I was starting my essay and then I spilt coffee on my white Tomys.”
I roll my eyes and walk on.
“…and you know how my mother is totally OCD about the house being tidy,” says a boy to his friend dismissively.
“I wish I had the will-power to be anorexic,” says a slim blonde student.
“The one minute he’s fine and the next he starts flipping out. It’s like he’s bipolar. Lol.”
Phrases like these have crept in to our daily language. Words like “OCD”, “schizo”, or “ano” are being used almost for comedic effect, to slightly exaggerate our normal, everyday trials.
But when your iPhone screen cracks is it really “depressing”? Do you actually feel five of the nine symptoms of a Major Depression Episode if you can no longer swipe your way through your camera roll, or type quite as quickly as you used to? No, I think not.
Being skinny is not the same as being anorexic. Feeling sad is different to suffering from depression. Having mood swings is not being bipolar. Being a little too organised is not the same as having OCD.
Would it ever be acceptable to say “he has a cancer-head” about your bald uncle? Of course not. So why is it fine to joke about mental illness?
The names of mental disorders are not a linguistic embellishment to your stories. They are a reality in many people’s lives and by using them nonchalantly in your conversations you diminish the perceived severity and seriousness of these disorders.
Having known many people with mental disorders myself, and having spent three years studying psychology, I can tell you in great detail about how debilitating, disruptive and distressing a mental illness can be. Not to mention the stigma that is attached to having a mental illness or even trying to seek help by seeing a psychologist or a psychiatrist – a notion that is as narrow as thinking that seeing a GP for your tonsilitis is a sign of weakness.
Show some respect to those struggling with real mental disorders and reserve those terms for the medical use for which they were intended.
Originally published in Varsity Newspaper: http://varsitynewspaper.co.za/opinions/3700-me-and-my-mental-disorder