Monday, 16 July 2012

The language of mental health

So often the language around mental health is put into medical terms. As a worker I am relatively new to the field of mental health (three years ago), and still sometimes have to stop myself using this language. Terms such as “disorder”, “mental illness” and the “need for a cure” are commonly found in articles in the media about mental health. Friends and family refer to mental “illnesses” as a matter of course, many of them being unfamiliar with alternative terms.

Yet since working in the field of mental health (Powys Agency for Mental Health in fact) I have become acutely aware that many people experiencing mental distress are not at all comfortable with this medical language.

So, perhaps wellbeing is a better word to use than health. Or is it? The more I think about it the more I feel I need clarity. So I checked out some definitions:

Health – the condition of the body and the degree to which it is free from illness, or the state of being well.

Wellbeing - the state of feeling healthy and happy.

(both definitions courtesy of the Cambridge Dictionary online). So, one is “being well”, and the others is…. “wellbeing…”
Before I tie myself completely in knots writing about language, I would like to share an essay about the subject on another blog – which was recently brought to my attention. The essay is by “psychiatric survivor” David Oaks, and is called “Let’s stop saying mental illness.” You can find the link here on Mind Freedom’s site.

Let us know what you think.

There is another relevant article by Clare Allen, The Guardian writer on mental health matters, here, followed by some thought-provoking comments by readers. 

Actually, Clare’s column is well worth a regular read.

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