Just get over it!

Painting called Overthrown by Marc Chagall

Overthrown by Marc Chagall

“Just get over it.” “The past is in the past.” “What’s your problem?!” “You cry too much.” “You are too sensitive.” “That’s mental.” “What’s wrong with you?!?”

These are common phrases one can hear while navigating mental illnesses. I know. I’ve lived through this myself as I struggle living alongside with complexPTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder]. As I continue to look at how our language reinforces our identities, I would like to take a quick peak at the subject of mental health.

A good book on the history of mental illness and how society reacted to ‘madness’ is Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason by Michel Foucault. Foucault covers the history from the middle ages to the end of the nineteenth. He shows the progression of erasing those struggling with mental illness (madness) and gaining the stigma that lepers once had. He referred to this marginalization as “the great confinement” of the ‘madmen’ (Foucault, 1988). What I found interesting while reading this book is at one time in history, if one had a mental illness, they were not ostracized from society or treated as ‘other’. Historically language such as ‘moron’, ‘retarded’ have been not only acceptable, but used even in textbooks.  Within my own collection I have an older psychology book called General Psychology. I would like to share some text from this book within the topic of mental health:

Feebleminded persons were recognized long before there were mental tests. They were so lacking in mental ability as to be obvious to the average observer, and if they were social dependents or annoyers, they were segregated in special institutions when such institutions were available. Three degrees of feeblemindedness were distinguished. … the idiot, who is distinguished for his inability to dress and feed himself and to avoid common dangers such as fire and water. … the imbecile, who can avoid common dangers and take care of his elementary personal wants, but cannot be taught to earn a living, even under supervision.  … The moron can be taught to do useful work and can sometimes earn a living, especially under supervision (Guilford, 507, 1939).” [emphasis mine]

Is it any wonder we are so entrenched in our current language when historically these terms were the norm and deemed appropriate? To this day, we hear these phrases  in our use of language, especially in our own self-talk. Present day, bringing mental health into the forefront and erasing the stereotypes and stigmatism has become a current norm of sort. Despite many movements here in Canada such as Bell’s Lets Talk campaign (#BellLetsTalk) are we  making progress? Working at a university, we are becoming more conscientious of students who struggle with anxiety attacks and other mental illnesses and yet I am surrounded by those who still ‘other’ these students and are frustrated at “having to accommodate”.  Even as a student myself, especially when writing papers, I find I do not want to be stereotyped if struggling with anxiety which deeply affects my production of papers, as I have to battle many panic attacks before a paper is written. I do not like to say anything but realize in hiding my own anxieties, it flies

in the face of my own advocacy of bringing mental health issues to the forefront. I just want to be ‘normal’ and found I’d rather accept a lower mark, then bring attention to an anxiety disorder. So I am deny my own issues while standing up for others full disclosures. I then become a part of the problem too. We need to encourage and build safe places to talk of our this situations to help those not struggling see how real this is, be aware, and to accommodate our language and action.

For more educational information:

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health


Guilford, J. P. (1939). General Psychology. Philadelphia: D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Just get over it!

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post! Coming from somebody who struggles with anxiety and depression I completly get where you are coming from with the idea that mental health has a stigma and almost a bad wrap in a sense.. At times I am so ashamed to tell people about it because im afriad people will look at me different or even weak. The only reason why I post this on here is because I’m hiding behind a computer screen. I do agree with you though that people are becoming more aware of mental health and as you said brining it to the forefront but I still feel ALOT needs to be done about our mental health system in regards to giving individuals the tools and support they need in order to function in society and feel like a normal person. I completly understand to when writing papers as well it isnt so much that I get really bad anxiety but at times I can be stuck in such a depressive state and sleep all day and do nothing that a day or two before its due I’m scrambling to get it done and I’m angry with myself because I left it to last minute and then my anxiety starts to go through the roof. Why do you think things like anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc are at an increasingly alarming rate?

    Like

  2. Thank you. 🙂 I too struggle with depression each and every time I have to write a paper. It is so excruciating, that there are times I wonder why I even try to pursue a degree knowing full well I have to face that wall each time a paper comes up. I have to wonder if the reason anxiety, depression, PTSD are becoming more prevalent is twofold. One, due to the inroads that are being built to open up the conversation on mental health struggles, more people are talking. Unfortunately, there still is not a lot of “buy-in” that anxieties really are a true reality so the ‘just get over it’ attitude is still steeped in our culture so we are still fighting the prejudices and stereotypes. Because we have now ‘outed’ ourselves, we are more exposed and yet perhaps not yet equipped to handle that exposure. D.

    Like

  3. Hi Donna,

    I really enjoyed reading this post of yours because I think that you did a really good job at following up with the impression you are trying to make out of this blog. By this, I mean that the post you created really went into depth about the negative outcomes individuals may experience from the way they are viewed in society. In your first post “What’s wrong with that” you did a good job at pointing out that the language we tend to use on a daily basis is a main producer of negative situations for individuals who experience issues related to mental health. As you mentioned it is so true that there is such a stigma around mental health issues, which cause individuals to suffer each and every day. What is worse is that most of the time it is them suffering in silence. In this post you mentioned that slowly our society is starting to realize the impact they are having on individuals who experience mental health and are trying to stop it by promoting and encouraging awareness days such as Bell Lets Talk. Although I think this is a step in the right direction, I agree with you in the sense that there is so much more needs to be done. Diagnosed or undiagnosed individuals need to feel comfortable sharing how they feel and also feel comfortable enough to reach out for support when they need it. Personally there has been many times just being in University in which I feel like I’m alone with no escape. So personally, I am really happy that you brought forth some of these issues in your post, and also felt comfortable enough to share some of your own experiences dealing with mental health.

    From a structural standpoint I enjoyed the layout and information embedded within the post. For instance I really enjoyed that you were able to incorporate work by Foucault. Without even having to search for more information on mental health, I felt like I got a background in relation to the progression of mental health issues over the years. Overall a really great post, I really admire your ability to talk about such a sensitive topic. Keep up the great blogging!

    Briar

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s