The eye-rolling description ‘Pagal ka doctor’ is a habitual association for the profession of mental health practitioners (Clinical Psychologists, Psychological Counselors, Psychotherapists, Psychiatrists and Mental Health Coaches). The trend has seen miniscule decline even now.
While the conversation around mental health saw an uphill climb in India and around the world, in general since the lockdown commenced the language used to describe it has not seen any change. ‘Mad’, ‘Psycho’, ‘mental’ still manages to find its way in our daily conversation unlike caste discrimination, unemployment, job loss, dipping GDP, communalism and farmer suicide (Sigh!).
The dismantling of stigma around mental health is a combination of a plethora of social and cultural thinking and conditioning and language happens to be one of them. Language alone cannot be a tool in breaking the stigma however, it, is powerful. Many who are in the journey of healing and who enter the therapy room recall how these labels added more to their existing struggle and distress. The least, if I may say, labels belittles their daily struggle and reduces it to a gimmick. Our sensitivity with the use of language and choice of words is their one big wound less among many others.
Language evolves and it is exacting to be policing it. Is it perfectly possible to be polite and sensitive? The answer is a resounding YES. Next time you catch yourself saying ‘He/she is a psycho’ correct yourself incontinently. It is hardly a chore to replace ‘psycho’ with eccentric’. Use language to destigmatize people and mental health, not stigmatize it further. This is, however not a path to linguistic squabble rather being mindful of what you say to the recipient of your words.