I feel like I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, bringing up over and over again the topic of “how we talk about mental illness” and why it matters.

But let’s be honest: a record with a scratch isn’t actually broken, it just has a scratch that affects how it plays. If you go over and move the needle, the record will continue to play as normal (unless it’s super scratched all over the place, and then sure, maybe it’s broken).

But just like we tend to say “broken record” instead of, maybe, “scratched record,” we like to overstate things. We like to simplify them, even if it creates a wrong or damaging impression. We like to say things are all one way when maybe they are really more like a scratched record—not totally damaged but having one scratch that the needle gets stuck on. We zero in on that one scratch, forgetting in the moment that the whole rest of the record is normal and playable.

Using the broken record analogy

Let’s compare the way we talk about mental health to how we talk about scratched records. Someone has OCD? Oh, well, broken record time. They are now “crazy,” weird, unstable. Someone tells you they have struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts? Uh oh, that record is trashed. Better not trust them with anything important anymore. A celebrity has a mental illness and actually shows symptoms of that mental illness (see this article by Courtney Hickman, which I love!)? Better make fun of them and not respect the struggle they are going through!

Really, people? Really? Are you going to throw out the record for one scratch? Are you going to ignore the person and instead focus in on the mental illness, telling yourself (and anyone else who will listen to your ranting) that the person doesn’t have as much value as they used to have? Are you going to tell those who are affected and living with mental illnesses to not be so sensitive when the struggle they are dealing with is being mocked? When people are telling them it’s not such a big deal and they should just lighten up and get a sense of humor?

How we act and communicate

How are you talking about mental illness? Would you say the things you say flippantly to the face of a loved one who told you they were dealing with a mental illness? If not, maybe you need to watch what you say, because they just might be watching or listening without you knowing.

Recently I saw an old article about the “Obsessive Christmas Disorder” sweater. I’ve seen this controversy before. And I’ve seen people’s comments about how the girl who was upset needs to get over it and stop her whining. I witnessed someone I know make a similar comment. And you know what, it kind of hurt. It hurt because I write these things and try to encourage awareness and sensitivity and then someone I know does something like that. And it hurt because although I wasn’t the one campaigning against this rude sweater, I have OCD. And I can understand why it is offensive. We can’t really dictate to someone what they should and shouldn’t be upset about. We shouldn’t tell them they have no sense of humor. We shouldn’t say, “Oh, get over it. They didn’t mean any harm. I don’t mean any harm.” Because that’s not your choice. You can do things, say things, comment on articles, but you can’t tell me or anyone else who has a mental illness (or a conscience at all) that we are wrong in how we interpret your actions and words personally.

Politically correct or just kind?

Maybe we are taking it seriously. Who cares! It’s serious to us! We live with a mental illness, and it’s not a joke. It’s not something that goes away when we scroll past the article or turn off the computer. It’s part of our life, and sometimes some people like to take their lives seriously.

Sure, you have your freedom of speech and opinion, but so do we. So do minorities, females, children, any and everyone! It seems like the people who get so mad about the politically correct movement are those who can’t be bothered to be politically correct, to be sensitive to those who are different from themselves, or to even try to see the world in the way someone else sees it.

This ought to change. We should be kind to each other. We should worry less about ourselves and our snap judgments and more about others. Then maybe we could make some real progress as a society.

What are your thoughts on this issue? 

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