Tomato or Tomahto? A random thought on how we view Mental Health.

Tomato…or Tomahto?

Scone…or Scon?

Childcare technician…or babysitter?

Are you going out drinking with your friends tonight?

…or are you going out with your friends to get wasted?

Are the comparisons basically saying the same thing? Are these just a matter of semantics? Or does saying something another way actually change the perception?

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Scone? Or scon?
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Gone drinking? Or getting wasted?

I had this random thought tonight…

..what if we looked at mental health a little differently.

Look at the following statements:

  • I struggle with depression.
  • He has a mental illness.
  • She suffers from social anxiety.
  • He isn’t normal.
  • I had a panic attack.
  • She has an eating disorder.
  • I am a victim of abuse.

These are examples of some statements that I’ve either used or often hear when it comes to mental health. I took a step back, dissected these statements and highlighted the words that I felt carries a heavy and negative connotation. Struggle, illness, suffers, isn’t normal, attack, disorder, victim. These are some scary words!

I recently volunteered at a men’s mental health workshop hosted by a group called Strength in Unity where we discussed and shared ideas around how we can reduce stigma in mental health within the community.

What if we started using different words and perspectives to describe mental health? Does that reduce the fear and shame we have in talking about it? Does it make it easier to chat about it with your wife and kids?

My ex-wife whom I remain great friends with said to me one day, “Jason, instead of referring to it as mental health, why not call it inner health?”

It immediately made me think. It made me look at mental health from a different angle, one that’s gentler and less daunting. I thought it was brilliant because it shifted my perspective on something that was overused into something that’s sellable. I once saw a TV infomercial selling a car polish that removes scratches, dings and dents. If you buy now, they’ll throw in a FREE “Hydrophilic Applicator!”….also known as a sponge…

So what if I attempted to reframe those statements above into something gentler? I might start off with something like this:

  • I’m managing my depression.
  • He’s working on his inner health.
  • She’s managing her social anxiety.
  • He is unique.
  • I had a surge of an intense overwhelming moment.
  • She’s having some irregularities with her eating.
  • I’ve been abused before.

OK, I know some of these aren’t very good at reframing the statements. I admit that. But my point is, what if we shifted how we talk about these difficult topics? What if we used softer words and terms to describe our difficulties, instead of heavy and painful words that sound fearful? Does it make it less frightening to talk about? Can Depression be Sexy?

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Perspective

Or does it minimize and undermine the pain and hardship that we endure? Maybe.

I’m a little torn on this because I am a participant to both sides: On one hand I battle depression, have been abused as a child and I battle anxiety from time to time. The pain I feel is sometimes difficult to articulate into words. On the other hand I also believe it would be a lot easier for me in my healing if I can feel safer and less stigmatized to talk about my struggles with anybody. By the way…that’s another word…“healing”…does it mean that I’m wounded? Am I less whole of a person than a person who wasn’t abused?

Is reframing how we look at mental health just a marketing tool to create an illusion that something unpleasant can be more palatable? But maybe that’s what we need. Maybe mental health needs its hydrophilic applicator.sponge-1976828_640

5 thoughts on “Tomato or Tomahto? A random thought on how we view Mental Health.

  1. I appreciate this sentiment but I think there’s some value in describing it as an issue or a problem or something that CAN be “worked on” or “managed” but dealing with mental disorder often times doesn’t mean you’re doing anything on your end to actually deal with it.

    I’d be careful to say someone has “eating irregularities” rather than to go with just saying eating disorder. Particularly in this situation the person with the mental health issue often does write it off so they can continue to give in to it. There are lots of mental disorders that would negatively benefit from changing the language to suggest it’s under control. I think re-framing language in the mental health realm is much more nuanced. Words like “obsession” are very abrasive and can feel like an attack so we can use “compulsion”. It feels like, to the recipient, a more gentle and reasonable description rather than an accusation.

    I know you said your re-framings were maybe bad examples but I have to say it… a panic attack is much much more than a “surge of an intense overwhelming moment”. That’s almost insulting to those of us who actually have panic attacks. When I lose mobility in my hands while hunched over the toilet because I think I’m going to vomit, I’m having more than an intense overwhelming moment. I’m losing control of my body and it often times happens without trigger and in very non-overwhelming scenarios.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. I agree with you on all your points – and that’s where education would benefit greatly. Awareness as well would help. It’s a sensitive topic for sure and I am fully aware of challenges in bringing these sensitivities into discussions from personal first hand experiences. Cheers. Jason

      Like

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