When I was about 18, and I had been diagnosed with depression and recovered somewhat, I started to think a bit about depression in general, and my experiences. I thought that I had definitely been depressed for some time, probably about four years prior to my diagnosis, from the age of 14 to 18. Four years doesn't seem that long to me now, I mean it is a long time, but four teenage years are a lifetime. I thought that prior to the age of 14 I was a child, so at the age of 18 I had spent my entire (sort of) adult life in a state of depression.
I can't say I was particularly outraged. Some people have questioned whether I feel angry that I 'lost' such crucial years of my development, but as people usually do when retrospectively considering shit things that have happened to them, I thought I probably wouldn't change those years, as they made me who I am. I did wonder how it could have been avoided though, and concluded that there were certain things that stopped me from seeking help sooner. They were ignorance, and subsequently fear. I didn't know much about depression really, despite my mum having it for most of my childhood. I think I was ultimately scared that I would end up like her, despite not really knowing what was going on with her, and so the fear stopped me from telling anyone how I felt. I decided at age 18 that what had stopped me from seeking help was that I didn't know or understand depression at all. I thought the way to change this was to raise awareness of the condition. This is when I started my ONE WOMAN CRUSADE TO DE-STIGMATIZE MENTAL ILLNESS.
So, is now the time to sit back and smugly say 'My work here is done?' NO IT ISN'T!! I have now considered finding a different trifling approach to raising awareness about mental health issues, and it is this.
I COULD STOP SAYING THINGS LIKE 'MAD'?
Doing the nursing training, they sometimes asked us to consider what the best term was to refer to a patient. They said the term 'patient' implied that the person recieving care/treatment was passive, and that as we are trying to implement a more 'patient centred' model of care, we ought to use a different term that implied the patients were in fact 'partners in care'. This is the sort of pointless shit they discuss at uni, when you actually become a nurse you couldn't give two shits about this sort of thing, because you're too busy clearing up someone else's two shits, and trying to decide whether you should be giving someone drugs in order to enable them to do one shit, and whether you should be worried about how someone else has done three shits, meaning they might need to be isolated as they could in fact have the shits.
But, words DO matter sometimes, like when they offend people. I used to get a bit offended by the term 'gay' when said to mean 'shit'. I suppose I still am a bit, although I am not offended when it is used to imply that something is a bit soppy, like in Sean of the Dead:-
Sean: I love her!
Ed: Alright! Gay!
So in this climate where people are now starting to be more aware of mental health issues (unfortunately because they all have them), is it offensive to use terms like 'Mad, mental, crazy, insane, lunatic, looney tunes, nutter, nuts...etc' ??? I don't find it is, but then my depression is quite invisible, you wouldn't know I had it unless I told you. What about those poor bastards who get called these names all the time, because their mental illness is more apparent? Do they get offended to hear these words banded about so frequently and without thought? I remember when I was living in Edinburgh, and there was an anti - racism campaign which suggested that people should not call their local shop 'the Paki's', and my housemate (a scot) turned to me, incredulous, and said 'But that's what it's called!'. Maybe we cannot understand why words that we use so automatically are hurtful to some people.
I don't know. But I have thought about it, and it is very hard to eliminate these words from your vocabulary, and I haven't. However, I do tend to use the term 'very strange' more when referring to people who I would previously have said were 'fucking mental'. This is less offensive in more than one way, and is probably a nicer term to use. Especially in a nursing handover.