CHS, stop undermining mental illness

Observer Opinion

Mental illnesses: serious, yet stigmatized conditions that impact countless members of the CHS community. But when those conditions are stereotyped or referenced in casual context, it completely undermines the severity of mental health disorders.

Despite the rise of mental health issues in America, many people continually fail to recognize significant indicators of serious mental health issues. In modern society, depression is often casually discussed, the disorder is oftentimes referred to in a joking manner.

As more people unemotionally and casually use the word “depressed” in phrases such as “I’m depressed” or “I have anxiety” to describe mild states of sadness or stress, it gets harder to tell when someone is being serious. This can potentially lead to severe consequences when someone truly is suffering from depression. The overuse of these phrases trivialize harmful symptoms. It is simply not fair to those who are actually clinically ill.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, depressive disorder, referred to colloquially as depression, is more than just feeling sad or going through a rough patch. It’s a serious mental health condition that requires understanding and medical care. In order to be diagnosed with depressive disorder, a person must have experienced a depressive episode lasting longer than two weeks.

Daily stress and anxiety can ultimately lead to depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder and many more. That being said, feeling sad or stressed for a few days due to school work or personal life absolutely does not qualify someone as clinically depressed.

According to The Herald-Tribune, one in five adults will experience mental illness problems each year; however, 50 percent of chronic mental illness begin by age 14. Although many people today understand mental illness is a medical condition, individuals and families affected by it are still often subjected to stigma and discrimination.

Some would argue that joking around about depression is a coping mechanism. But according to an Aug. 2016 Time to Change article, the sensitivity that usually comes with mental health issues causes victims to feel their condition is something to be laughed and joked about rather than helped.

It is imperative that the stigma surrounding mental health be addressed. People should educate themselves about mental health and its ramifications. It is time to teach people to respect mental health issues. It is time to recognize that making “silly remarks” about such serious conditions contributes to the harm and suffering of people who experience them.

Mental illness is a serious problem and should be seen and treated as such. Those with depression are not just “sad,” and those with OCD are not just “neat freaks.” Mental illness is not something to be laughed at, nor is it something to jest about. If mental health was treated as seriously as physical health, the offer for treatments would be almost infinite for those who need it. We can begin eliminating the negative stigma surrounding mental illness simply by avoiding misusing the terms.