It’s important to note and appreciate the difference in language when speaking about mental health and mental illness. Language is important in all situations, but even more so in this circumstance, as it is in relation to people who are vulnerable. Language can mean the difference between feeling understood and supported, or feeling judged and alone.
There is an important difference between “You’re not alone” and “it’s normal“.
These are two common responses when someone talks about their low mental health. However, one says, “I’ve felt it too” and “I’m here for you” and “I believe you“. While the other says, “it’s not that big of a deal” and “get over it“.
Do you see the key but subtle differences here? If someone explains how they’ve been feeling lately, be careful not to dismiss them and make them feel alone by using the wrong language.
Making them feel alone or as if their problems and difficulties don’t matter is a fast track to making it worse and ensuring they feel isolated. Surely you don’t want people to feel this way, right? So, understand what you’re saying and what it really means.
The same goes for how we speak about ourselves, and how it can affect how we are perceived and how we feel about ourselves.
For example, I often say, “I’m not good with people” but this is inaccurate.
I believe that my boyfriend is good with people and I’m not, but that’s not true. He’s comfortable around people, but I’m the one who’s good with people, in that I’m understanding, empathetic, emotionally available and good with vulnerability.
So, the more accurate language to use here would be, “I’m not always comfortable around people” or “I feel more comfortable alone or on a one-to-one basis with people.”
Why is this important, though?
It’s important to know yourself. It’s important to know what is true and what is not. Many of us, myself included, can fall into the trap of believing something that just isn’t true. And these can be very limiting beliefs. If I kept believing that I wasn’t good with people, then I wouldn’t ever better my social life and my relationships. I’d keep thinking that I could never bond with people. I’d probably never have real friends.
Bad, bad, bad!
The same goes for the language we use on others. Subtle differences will determine what others think of you and themselves. Calling someone “bossy” is different to calling someone “assertive“. They will think different things about themselves and have different feelings towards you and your comment, too. People generally don’t like being called bossy, but being assertive is considered an admirable trait.
To summarise, I believe that we all have a duty to be careful and selective with the language that we use towards others. What we say to them, about them, and in their company can have a lasting effect on how they feel even with very slight differences in language.
When it comes to mental health, we all can contribute to the health of everyone else around us, and of course the health of our own minds. Language is a big driving force in this.
If someone is speaking to you about their mental health, be very intentional about what you say and how it can be perceived.
If you are sharing things about your own health (or life), be careful with what you say, too. Be careful with what you tell yourself and believe about yourself. It will shape who you are, what you do, and how you feel.
The moral of the story, be careful with words for they have power; more than you know.
P.s. never use these words when talking about mental health or mental illness:
- Overly sensitive
- Calm down
- Just chill
- And so on…
Also, if you don’t like the language, explain why. And if you don’t like the universe language, you can use something else.
If you need any help in bettering your mental health, or better coping with anxiety, depression, and stress, then my book “You’re As Mad As I Am” may be for you. Check it out here, and download a free sample to see what it’s all about.
If you want to hire me to write about mental health (or other), then don’t hesitate to get in touch!