Alex joined us recently for his first taste of work experience. Before leaving us for the new school term, we asked him how working at Unmind has changed his views on mental health.
The way we talk about mental health, even in casual conversation, impacts the way it’s understood. Getting the language right helps everyone engage and can gently shape attitudes so that mental health becomes part of everyone’s agenda.
Our Head of Psychology, Dr Heather Bolton, has highlighted 4 key considerations when talking about mental health:
1. We all have mental health because we all have minds. The health of our minds lies on a spectrum, and we’ll move up and down that spectrum throughout our lives. Talking about mental health as something we all have, and approaching it with the same attitude, curiosity and openness as we do with physical health, helps give it equal weighting.
2. People with mental health problems aren’t defined by them and they’re not victims. So it’s better to talk about someone experiencing or having a problem, rather than being it. Instead of describing someone as being a depressive, an anorexic or a psychotic, say she is depressed, he has anorexia, or he is experiencing psychosis. This is much more empowering language and fits with the modern view of mental health being fluid, rather than set in stone.
3. Don’t criminalise suicide. Suicide stopped being a crime in the UK in 1961, and yet “committing” suicide is still part of our modern language. It’s better to say that somebody died by suicide, or that they attempted or completed suicide. It’s also best not to refer to a successful or failed suicide attempt, which can glorify the death, or lead a survivor to feel even worse.
4. Don't undermine serious issues. There is no such thing as being “a little bit OCD”. OCD (or obsessive-compulsive disorder) is a mental health problem that can cause great distress and seriously impact a person’s ability to function, whereas a preference for cleanliness or order is more of a personal choice. In a similar vein, fleeting anxiety is very different to a full-blown panic attack, which is an intense state of heightened anxiety where it’s hard to breathe, and it feels like you’re dying. Being careful not to exaggerate mild or fleeting problems is important so that we don’t downplay the reality of more serious mental health issues.
At Unmind, we want to make mental health part of everyday conversation. Stay tuned for our next MH101 post - we’ll be covering Positive Psychology next Monday!
To learn more about how you can empower your employees to measurably improve their mental wellbeing, get in touch here.