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Why Mental Health Labels May Be Destructive Instead of Helpful
With it being mental health month, I feel inclined to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of mental health labels. First of all – what are mental health labels? They are the words used to describe the various conditions and illnesses that interfere with the proper functioning of the brain. They are Anxiety, Depression, Schizophrenia, Eating Disorders and Addictive behaviours.
Why Mental Health Labels Can Be Helpful
There is no question that mental health labels can be helpful, particularly for those with more severe mental illness. Here are 4 advantages of mental health labels. The labels:
- Continue to increase our awareness of mental health issues.
- Augment our understanding and compassion for those struggling with mental health.
- Allow individuals to avoid certain situations that aggravate their condition.
- Allow individuals to receive the help they need.
Here is an example of how this works: A teen, diagnosed with generalized anxiety, feels horrible anxiety, speaking in front of their class. They are told they don’t need to speak in front of their class and instead are given a different assignment to show they understand the material they have been taught.
Now, some of you might be saying “How are they supposed to learn to cope with new or uncomfortable situations if they are simply told they don’t need to?”
Here is the thing: The kids today, who are severely anxious speaking in front of groups, CANNOT be made to do what they are so afraid of doing. They drip with sweat, shake, feel faint and are overcome with sheer terror. The anxiety overtakes them the way fear does in some of us adults when we are on a roller coaster, knowing we truly can’t handle the feeling of dropping from mid-air a second longer.
You might wonder why today’s children feel MORE than prior generations ever did. The reason is a spiritual one. In the past, only a fragment of a soul’s consciousness entered the body. The majority of a person’s awareness remained outside of the body and disconnected. This is why prior generations could go to school or do things even when they didn’t want to!
As we continue to evolve, human consciousness increases. We have new perceptions and we FEEL more than ever before. For example, the kids today have real challenges with certain textures in food, labels in their clothing, and sensitivities to foods that are often unhealthy for them. Having greater awareness and feeling more allows our souls to grow faster than ever before!!!
But I digress…
Why Mental Health Labels Can Be Destructive
Mental health labels become destructive when they take away our power. Here are some examples of the powerlessness that might emerge as a result of labelling children with mental illness (less severe):
- A boy diagnosed with generalized anxiety might feel he has absolutely no control over his anxiety. He doesn’t learn his triggers or develop any coping skills.
- A girl is horrified she is having yet another panic attack but her anxiety is simply warning her that something is not feeling right in her world! In fact, she panics every time she heads into work because her sub-conscious doesn’t feel safe in this particular job.
- A girl was upset because her parents were splitting up. Her mom took her to the doctor who prescribed anti-depressants. She took them regularly for years until she finally realized she didn’t want to be on anti-depressants and asked her doctor to wean her. Since that, every time she gets sad, she wonders if she should go back on the anti-depressants.
We are human. We are going to be triggered. We are going to be sad, angry, ashamed, confused or fearful. Negative emotions are only problems when we do not identify, understand or express them, when we express them inappropriately or when we don’t take responsibility for them.
When we hold in our anger, it can find an outlet in depression. When we don’t explore our fear, it can result in anxiety. Unresolved anger can result in irritability. It is only when we can express our negative emotions healthily that we can truly heal from them.
The more we trust ourselves to tell the truth about how we feel and expose our hurt and fear, the more we give permission for others to the same. When we are authentic, more compassion and intimacy enters our relationships and we are deeply rewarded.
However, if we don’t feel safe to share our feelings with others, we might receive mental health labels that are unwarranted and subsequently destructive.
I am very sad to say that I often see children who have been given mental health labels simply because the individual ‘diagnosing’ them does not know the root cause of their unhappiness or how to help them turn things around. I believe that the majority of mental illness is preventable through nutritional consulting and life coaching sessions.
And yes, I am fully aware that I am putting myself out on a limb saying this.
Hi! I’m Meredith Deasley BA, RHN, RNCP, ACC and I am a Certified Life Coach and Registered Holistic Nutritionist, who helps family members overcome or cope with less severe forms of mental illness. I help individuals identify their physical and/or emotional triggers, become more comfortable with themselves and develop strategies to live more peacefully. Contact me for more information.