What it means to be mentally literate today

Phrases such as “I’m so depressed” and “I had a panic attack thinking about it” are the ones that are often thrown around in schools as chatter. Teenagers around the world are plagued by these words as they struggle with what is expected of them academically and socially.

After a global pandemic and rising teen suicide rates around the world, it is very important to recognize that while we all have different and important experiences, we must also remain respectful of others. This article will outline some ways we can improve our understanding of mental health literacy and how we can build on this to make the environments we live in safe for everyone.

Disclaimer: I am not a professional and I have no experience in psychology; I’m just interested in learning more about the domain. This article is not intended to be and should not be used as a diagnosis. If you are having difficulty, please seek help from a licensed professional, or make an appointment with your GP, to get started. All of the information in this article comes from web sources about each disorder and from personal experience with those diagnosed. For more information, I’ve included a link to a source at the end of each section for your perusal.

Why should I be careful?

Mental illnesses carry a heavy stigma, especially among teenagers and young adults, but we often ignore the other side of the equation. Creating normality from mental health battles, including procrastination, poor relationships with food, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, or anxiety, is often disrespectful to those who are clinically diagnosed, especially if they already feel left out. and misunderstood by society. It can make them believe they don’t need to seek help since it’s so common or encourage them to believe their feelings aren’t valid as they watch others joke about their illness. daily.

The stigmas surrounding mental illnesses and psychological disorders prevent a true understanding of these often alien experiences and are rooted in the deep history of ignorance towards people who seem ‘different’. Therefore, it is important to start reading about the real and raw struggles of others to better understand ourselves and the surrounding community, and to be aware that some statements are not relevant or acceptable as they were in the past.

Some examples:

1. “I’m so depressed.”

Depression is debilitating sadness, lack of motivation, and long-held beliefs of worthlessness. Depression, alongside anxiety, is something most people will experience at some point in their lives, whether for a short period (i.e. 2 weeks) or something more chronic (i.e. 6 months or more). Clinical depression is recognized as a persistent depressed mood or lack of interest/motivation that greatly impairs a person’s quality of life. Using the word “depressed” with connotations of major depressive disorder without an official diagnosis can be extremely harmful to someone who suffers in silence, or even someone who speaks openly about their experience.

Unfortunately, many young adult novels normalize the experiences of depression and even romanticize their impact on the person’s life, leaving out the crippling sadness and symptoms that aren’t as “pretty.” Exposure to this portrayal changes the perspective of the severity of the disorder for a wide audience, especially young people, which influences how many of us approach it in conversation.

Depression is often associated with hopelessness, so obviously it’s important to consider the context in which you say this and to keep in mind who you are. If you’re with an unfamiliar crowd, it’s probably best to avoid this phrase in case you’re unintentionally harmful.

  • Information about clinical depression
  • How you can help someone you know who is suffering from depression

2. “I can be so OCD about this…”

The most important idea to recognize in this sentence is that it is completely normal to be a perfectionist in certain areas and to prefer order to disorder. It’s also okay to have little idiosyncrasies based on our experiences and to have rituals, after all humans live lives of repetition and routine. But the intentions behind these rituals and their time-consuming characteristics make all the difference to someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The diagnosis of OCD is determined by time-consuming obsessive thoughts (over an hour a day) that lead to repetitive or time-consuming compulsions. It is also helpful to understand that there are many forms of OCD. While one person may fear that their family will tragically die if they stand on a crack in the path, others may believe they will get sick if they don’t wash their hands one more time. These compulsions temporarily relieve the distress but become repetitive the next time the obsession returns.

So if you had OCD, you would have to correct the order of your pens or correct the disturbed pattern for fear that something bad might happen. Even saying you’re “obsessive-compulsive” may be incorrect if your rituals aren’t related to anxiety or a specific worry. Ultimately, if you’re undiagnosed, there’s no reason to say you’re “OCD” about anything.

  • Information about obsessive-compulsive disorder

3. “Everyone is a little bipolar sometimes.”

Mood swings are completely natural and humans are born to react to stimuli in their environment that affect their emotions and feelings. However, these mood swings are exaggerated in the extreme for bipolar people, ranging from manic states involving high levels of risky behaviors to crippling depression that sometimes leaves them bedridden.

Not everyone is a “little bipolar” because if they were, bipolar disorder would be a constant diagnosis in humans when it currently affects only about 2.8% of people in the United States. United. It’s totally okay to help someone through the ups and downs of their life because whether or not you have a clinical disorder, your emotions are real, important, and valid. In saying this, the common message is that you should be careful when using the name of disorders for typical experiences when you have not been diagnosed, and the same message goes for bipolar disorder.

  • Bipolar Disorder Information

4. “I get distracted so easily, it’s like I have ADHD.”

People with ADHD or other neurodevelopmental disorders often struggle to be diagnosed due to the frequency of their symptoms in the general population. People get distracted, people focus on their interests, people interrupt others, and people procrastinate. All too often, people with ADHD struggle for many years before seeking a diagnosis, and it is highly likely that a percentage of them will go undiagnosed.

As with many other disorders discussed in this article, it is when these behaviors/fighting become so frequent and unstoppable that they can be considered a disorder and labeled “ADHD”.

Another aspect of ADHD is the associated symptom known as Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, which means they can often be very sensitive to rejection, criticism or rejection. It is also common in people with autism. As such, be careful where you use the term clinical in your conversations to avoid harming others.

  • Information on Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

5. “I had a panic attack just thinking about it.”

Those who have been through a panic attack often describe it as a feeling of death. Also called an anxiety attack, many common somatic symptoms include rapid heartbeat, dizziness, tremors, and difficulty breathing. This is different from the cold shivers you may have when you quickly worry about something or the anxiety you may feel in your body when thinking about an exam or a first date.

Panic attacks can be random or induced by intense levels of anxiety, which is not something to be used casually in conversation. As demonstrated above, the anxiety felt has many effects on the physical body as well as on the person’s psyche. If you ever feel like you’re having an anxiety attack, it’s a good idea to look around and name the things you observe. It helps you focus on the moment, instead of focusing on how you feel or what you think is happening to you.

  • Information about generalized anxiety disorder
  • Information about other anxiety disorders

There are many other examples that extremely downplay the experience and struggles of someone with mental illness, and I recommend reading articles about specific disorders you may not know much about.

I encourage you to be more careful about how you phrase things, especially with people you don’t know as well. It’s a common misconception, but: you can never really know what’s going on in someone else’s life. But, I believe you can always learn more and be respectful of those differences.