I would like to start an imaginary petition to eradicate the word “just” from general vocabulary. This word is a major fuel of the stigma associated with mental health; by starting a sentence with “just”, you are telling someone that what you are asking them to do is the easiest thing in the world – you are telling them that they should be able to do it without a thought, and you are telling them that their illness isn’t a valid excuse. If a friend of yours had a broken leg and they were having trouble getting out of bed in the morning, you would give them all the time they needed and you would ask if there was anything you could do to help. You would not tell them to “just get up” or “just ignore the broken leg”, because you would be aware that it simply doesn’t work that way.

If however your friend was experiencing a prolonged bout of severe depression and was having trouble getting out of bed in the morning, you would probably be tempted to immediately resort to “just get out of bed”. You would probably be aware – at least on some level – that this is a pointless and completely unhelpful statement, yet that would be your first port of call before asking if there were anything you could do to making getting out of bed easier for them.

This doesn’t only apply to the friends and families of people with mental health complications though, “just” is a word very common to my own vocabulary and it interferes in all sorts of places it shouldn’t be. The word “just” belittles the challenges that I face every day, and this is very well illustrated in this post, and judging by the number of notes this has received in a day would suggest that I’m not the only one. The restrictions imposed upon us by mental health are just as real and just as frustrating as those that result from having a broken leg: you are unable to do things that people all around you are doing; your ability to carry out mundane household tasks like feeding yourself and showering is impaired; your ability to work may be impaired; your social life may be affected, and it is all due to something completely beyond your control and that is frustrating.

The major difference between having depression or other mental illness and having a broken leg is that response to difficulty getting out of bed in the morning. Just get up. Just get dressed. Just walk down the stairs. Just ignore it. The “just” attitude towards mental health is so deeply ingrained in our brains that we do not consider the possibility that adding “just” onto the beginning of a sentence does not actually make it any easier to perform that task, and although you probably do not mean to, by using these statements you are telling someone that their illness is their own fault and it is something they can snap out of whenever they please. Mental illness is still illness.

There are so many people who have addressed this very same point, but mental illness and physical illness are still treated so very differently.

Someone’s got it right though. Take a lesson from Piglet!

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: My 3 Words # 19 | emilykarn

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