My Words Matter?
11 months ago csegal 0
“You’re so retarded.”
“OMG kill me.”
“He’s so OCD about it.”
Did any of those phrases trigger you? When one of your classmates or friends says “I want to die,” does it effect you, or do you brush it off with a laugh? We hear it all the time; in fact, I bet all of us have said one of those phrases at least once this week.
I don’t know about you, but it bothers me. Last week, on more than one occasion, a few of my friends ‘jokingly’ asked me if I have autism. Why is that acceptable? Regardless of the context, it hurt, a lot. It was rude, disrespectful, and offensive. More than that, I have friends and family members who have autism. For me, it’s not a joking matter.
We don’t pay attention to the words we use. Phrases like “The weather is so bipolar,” easily roll off of our tongues. But, we have to take a step back and think about the reality of our words. They can be hurtful, painful, and dangerous. We have to realize how many people we can offend.
Our generation is known for acceptance, awareness, and change. We’re the ones who are speaking up about things that, even ten years ago, would have been uncomfortable to discuss publicly. Recently, things like mental health have been receiving a lot of attention. Yet, even with the awareness, we still treat mental illness, or people who are different than us, with disrespect, speaking ill of them or down on them. We all know that mental health is an important and sensitive topic; you’d think that we’d think twice before using words like retarded, depressed, and OCD to describe our day-to-day lives. These are just some of the many, many words that I have heard in school and with friends on a daily basis, but these words don’t really apply to us.
Your friend isn’t mentally retarded; why would you want call him such? That girl is thin, but not anorexic. That boy is obsessed with having the whiteboard completely erased, but he does not suffer from OCD.
You’re probably thinking, “This girl is overreacting. OMG, it’s just a word—it’s not like I mean it.”
Well, if you don’t mean it, then why are you using it? Rather than saying “depressed,” use “upset.” Or “hyper” rather than “ADHD”; “thin” over “anorexic.”
Some of us do have to face the struggles of mental health. I’m a teenager, just like you are; as a senior in high school, I know what it feels like to be overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed. But using these terms like we do, we have no idea who our words are affecting. Not only is it inappropriate to use these words to describe ourselves, but it also hurts those who really are struggling with these issues.
That boy you’re talking to about your sister acting depressed? He could be suffering from depression. Gossiping about how that kid was so funny that he makes you want to die? It’s likely that he’s a comedian because he’s trying to cover up that fact that he has suicidal thoughts and constantly contemplates whether or not he would rather die than live. Calling a teacher retarded to a fellow classmate? It could be possible that that classmate’s sister has Down syndrome and it hits close to home.
I’m aware of this issue because of my personal connection. There are people in my life who struggle with depression—real depression—, anxiety—real anxiety—, and OCD—real OCD. I have seen the firsthand effect of suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, and hospitalizations in my own high school. These are not joking matters.
So, what are we—yes we—going to do about this? Think before you speak. Next time you speak up, be aware of what you’re saying. I get it—it’s difficult when you’re laughing so hard that “I’m dying of laughter” just rolls off of your tongue. Hey, it happens to me too. But maybe next time, try saying “I can’t stop laughing” instead. Maybe reach out to your friend who seems stressed instead of calling them “bipolar.”
We have the power to make the world a kinder, nicer place to live. Let’s start with the words we use.