When you type “problem definition” into google, the first result is ‘a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome: ´ To me this is described as a term which has a negative connotation. Yet, when we discuss health we often label ill health as a problem.
When reading through both local and national health publications, organisational websites offering health support, or general health information, any mental health disorders are categorised as “mental health problems”. But is this itself a problem that needs to be dealt with and overcome? When not all mental health diagnosis’ has a treatable outcome, and many people have to live with their mental health conditions for days to come, I question whether this aids to the stigma of mental health (especially when people might go to these sources for support, information or advice). An estimated 1 in 4 people will be affected by poor mental health in their lifetime, with nearly 9 out of 10 people experiencing stigma The Mental Health Foundation reports. They also describe how stigma can worsen an individual’s mental health, how this can hinder someone to access support, or cause a delay in their recovery.
So what other ways could we discuss mental ill health? A mental health diagnosis, a mental health condition, a mental health concern, all of which I feel would be more proactive ways to discuss mental health and reduce the likelihood of individuals perceiving ill health so negatively.
Time to Change are an organisation which aims to reduce discrimination and improve the public’s attitudes towards mental health. They encourage people to make a pledge to support their campaign. This could be a pledge to ‘keep in touch and ask a friend or loved one how they are’, ‘to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination when I see it’, or you can create your own.
I pledge to not refer to mental health as a ‘problem’.
You can make your own pledge here.