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Crying Wolf: Society’s Tendency to Minimalize Mental Illness

Phrases which detract from the severity of mental illness have become common in our society.  Is it right to use certain words as slang if it may hinder how seriously people take real issues?

Phrases which detract from the severity of mental illness have become common in our society. Is it right to use certain words as slang if it may hinder how seriously people take real issues?

Emily Stocksdale, Literature Editor

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It seems to be a constant in our society these days, with teens muttering, “I’m going to kill myself!” after getting a bad test grade, brushing off their neatness as “just my OCD acting up again,” labeling other students as “autistic” or “retarded” for little reason.  Often, these things are said in jest.  They have become so common and misused that it can be hard to remember these terms actually mean something.  Mental illness is not something which should be taken lightly by anyone, and while it is not what most people are intending when they say they are feeling “so bipolar” (or whatever other phrase they choose), it is exactly what they do.

The main problem with this type of speech is that it takes away from the severity of mental illness.  People who struggle with disorders such as anxiety or ADHD may not appreciate people using it in such a colloquial manner, and even if they don’t care, it is still detracting from their struggle.  Mental illnesses should not be looked at in such a nonchalant way, nor should they be used as slang.  What happens to the people who really do want to kill themselves? To the people who actually have obsessive thoughts that detract from their life?  How can those people expect to be taken seriously when they tell other people that they are depressed, when most of the time that term is assigned to simple sorrow and not a serious problem?

All in all, it is insensitive to pervert such terms as a form of figurative slang.  People need to use words which more accurately express their feelings rather than stealing medical terms which encompass far more than they are speaking of.  By doing this we lend a bit more credence to mental illnesses and the people who suffer from them.

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Crying Wolf: Society’s Tendency to Minimalize Mental Illness