So, a little something happened on my recent trip to London for the RichmondFellowship ENRICH Awards 2019… I was in the bathroom on the train when a faulty cabinet cracked me on the head (the LNER staff were incredible and dealt with the whole thing amazingly)! Still suffering from headaches almost two weeks later, I decided to ring my GP but whilst waiting for the return call, I checked with a Pharmacist if I was doing the right thing in ringing the Doctor. I explained that I was worried because when I’d called, the Receptionist had said that I could only get a phone call returned if it was urgent and I thought it urgent so I told them that it was; but whilst waiting for the GP to ring, I was worried they’d think ‘why has this girl wasted our time? Why does she think this is urgent?! It’s nothing!’ I told my Richmond Fellowship support worker that I think it’s all about the fact that ‘urgent’ doesn’t really have a concrete definition. I mean, it might be in the dictionary, but everyone has their own different spin on it. Everyone rates things on a different scale of urgent-ness! It’s like ‘emergency.’ But it’s all based on an individual’s experiences; if you’ve ever had a broken leg, you might think that the pain was so unbearable you wanted immediate help. You might have seen a relative die and believe you don’t call an Ambulance unless you are… dying, I mean.

This all got me thinking about the fact that there are words in mental health that this applies to as well:

1.      ANXIOUS

I feel like anxiety is becoming a bit ‘trendy’ with celebrities and other well-known people speaking publicly about suffering from it. It becomes hard to tell whether people are coming forward about their own ‘symptoms’ because their confidence has been inspired or because they think that it’s ‘cool’ to have anxiety… I would say that I’ve experienced anxiety before but I’ve also witnessed fellow mental health service users need mild sedative medications because their anxiety has felt so horrific that they’ve had thoughts of self-harm or even suicide. Because of this, it makes me doubt if I can label my feelings anxious; I mean, do they cut it? Do they count?

2.      HOPELESS

Hopelessness was actually the first word I thought of when I came up with this post… I think that’s because it’s a feeling that leads massively on to suicidal ideation – another overused word/phrase from mental health! And suicidal ideation is the epitome of ill mental health. People often say that when something is wrong, they feel hopeless that it will never get better. Hopeless that it will continue to worsen. And that’s the right definition but is it ok to use that word when the issue is that you had plans to go out and now it’s raining? Or should the word be persevered for when you’re being abused and can’t see it ever ending? I guess it’s like what I first wrote; the use of this word depends on your experience; if you’ve never experienced hopelessness in it’s full, dramatic, most horrific state; then how could you possibly understand the gravity of using that word?


Another word that can directly link to suicidal ideation. And another word loosely used by people – people who are stuck in the house instead of on their night out because it’s raining(!). But we can’t judge those people. It is not their fault that this word comes to mind in their situation. It’s more about society on a whole; and how regularly this word is used in the most ‘trivial’ of situations. But how can we judge someone for saying that their situation is causing them to feel the worst they’ve ever felt? Maybe it’s about judging that there are people ‘out there’ in worse situations. People ‘out there’ who are feeling worse and so what right do you have to use this word? But if you’re going to go that far then what right does anyone have? The overuse of it can mean that professionals will question its validity when it is actually used and we have to completely rely on that professional to see the truth in it and decide whether someone actually needs help. 

4.      OBSESSED

OCD. Oh, how popular have those three letters become?! Like ‘anxiety’ Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has begun being talked about by celebrities; people who are well-known are telling the media how they’ve struggled with obsessive thoughts and actions and now others are hearing about these and thinking that they can identify. Wanting to identify. Because how much do we idolize these people? How perfect do we think their lives are? So, it becomes encouraging – almost - to hear that there’s something ‘wrong’ in their lives. It also means that it becomes almost inspirational to say you have the same experience - to say that you too, have OCD. 

5.      DUTY OF CARE

After my recent experiences with the Police I couldn’t not put this one in! It fits with the rest too; like the rest, it is used often. Like the rest, it is often – sometimes arguably – misused. Like the rest, people argue over whether it is even true! A ‘duty of care’ is a phrase that a lot of professionals use in mental health; they debate who has it. They’re adamant it’s not them - or sometimes they’re adamant that it is them! Who has a duty of care over a person in a mental health crisis? And who doesn’t? But it’s another definition error; the Police, the staff in A&E, the Psychiatrists and Social workers; they all interpret ‘duty of care’ in a different way. What it means to one profession, is – sometimes – the complete opposite of what it means to another. And it is this disagreement, the often leads to, in all honesty (not meaning to be dramatic!), people succeeding with self-harm and even suicide. Like the other words, it’s dangerous if it is misinterpreted.
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