“I’m so depressed” — a common phrase that many students hear throughout school on a daily basis. Students tend to misuse words to describe their mental health so loosely because they do not realize what their statements actually mean. If you are organized and neat, that does not mean you are diagnosed with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder); if you are feeling sad or down for a day or two, that does not mean you are suffering with clinical depression; if you are feeling anxious about a test or quiz, that does not mean you have severe anxiety or suffer from anxiety attacks.
Looking at the misuse of these terms from a broader perspective, it doesn’t seem to make a difference if one misuses one of these conditions in order to “make fun of how they feel” or not. When used improperly, these terms can seem to belittle these conditions, make fun of them or even hurt those suffering from them.
Mrs. Krisynda Cicos, psychology and sociology teacher and holder of a masters degree in Mental Health Counseling, agrees that we do use these terms very loosely.
“I think that we do use [mental terms] quite easily because society coins those terms as regular vocabulary that we use while not really understanding what it means,” Mrs.Cicos said. “If you look at the DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Health Disorders), it spells out for you what the disorder is and what symptoms have to be present [in order to be diagnosed with these mental health disorders.”
Mrs. Cicos gives the example of depression. She explains that someone has to have five out of nine symptoms present for a minimum of two weeks to officially be able to meet the criteria of being diagnosed with depression, some being: feelings of hopelessness, insomnia, irritability, and loss of interest.
Students misuse phrases not only with mental illnesses, but also suicide. For example, using phrases like “I want to kill myself” or “I want to die,” could be taken seriously by someone, making them believe you are truly trying to harm yourself.
“Anytime anyone ever says [“I want to kill myself”], even jokingly, I try to stop it because the reality is, it’s going to be that one time that somebody says it and is not joking, but is crying out for attention and people just assume the person to be overly dramatic,” Mrs. Cicos said.
Teen suicide is an epidemic that is sweeping the nation and not one to make fun of or dramatize, as each day in our nation, there are an average of over 3,041 suicide attempts by young people grades 9-12.
Teens who are diagnosed with these conditions or try to commit harm upon themselves are not taken seriously as society believes that “I am having a panic attack,” or “I want to kill myself,” is a daily phrase that means nothing more than “I am sad” or “I am stressed” to those who use it to dramatize their state of mind.
This is unfair to the people who are actually diagnosed with these mental illnesses, as our society interprets these conditions as a “joke”, even though 1 in 5 young people suffer from a mental illness — that’s 20 percent of our population.
To end this misuse of terms, we need to inform people of what these phrases actually mean.
“If you hear someone calling someone else psycho, crazy, or ‘schizo,’ you stop it, because it will be a lot stronger coming from another student,” Mrs. Cicos said “I think education is the key to [stopping this]”
The next step Mrs. Cicos said is to actually inform students what these mental health disorders are.
“If you truly have depression, and someone is calling you names because you are ‘acting weird,’ is that going to uplift you or is that going to hurt you?” Cicos said.
As Mrs. Cicos believes, it is “detrimental at this age to be down on yourself constantly.” Students should stop normalizing terms used to diagnose mental illnesses. It doesn’t make one’s state of being any less important, but one cannot describe themselves as being sad over a poor test grade as possessing a mental condition.