In The Divorse Of Message From Meaning

Language is a funny thing. All sorts of things mean all sorts of things to all sorts of people. Take mental whatchamacallit, for instance. There is this Washington Post piece in the Health and Science section, bearing the heading, How to find help for mental health. Next question; do people who are mentally healthy need help?

The first paragraph in this guide is a little more “helpful”…

When you’re in the throes of a mental health problem, making the decision to seek help is hard enough. Then there’s the next step: figuring out where to go, a task that can feel daunting when you’re already overwhelmed.

“Mental health” has been magically transformed into “mental health problem”, and a “problem” that gives one fits to boot. “Mental health problems” are a little more…What is the word I’m looking for? Oh, yeah, problematic.

In the 4th paragraph, “mental health problems” have metamorphosed into “mental health conditions”.

Some mental health conditions have organizations that can direct you to a qualified provider, [Beverly] Palmer [clinical psychologist] says. For instance, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance offer lists of providers who treat those conditions.

This is enlightening. Problems you solve. Conditions you live with. I imagine this explains all those “disorders” people claim to accompany, and pretty persistent “disorders” from what I hear. Otherwise, maybe they’d just lay their, in their words, somewhat annoying pet on somebody else.

Clincher. Last paragraph. Even more enlightening. Or do I mean unenlightening? Perhaps even mystifying? Anyway, “mental health conditions” have progressed, if that’s the right word to use, into “mental illnesses”, and then he throws that other word into the mix, “issues”. Many people speak of people having “mental health issues”. Maybe Paolo del Vecchio [director of SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services] is doing the same, but I can’t say for sure. Nonetheless, some people could, according to del Vecchio anyway, be said to have “issues”.

“Recovery is possible,” del Vecchio says. Mental illness is not a life sentence, he says. “People overcome these issues to lead happy, productive lives.”

I’m not sure how anybody would “overcome” an “issue” exactly, but I imagine it is done, depending on the particular “issue” involved. Multiple “issues”? Well, I’m not ready to tackle that bunch either. Not right now. As they say in the literature, ‘simplify, simplify, simplify’. This takes us back to the beginning of the post. How do we solve the “problem” that complicates our “mental health” so to speak?

“Recovery” is the other word used, as in “recovery” of a space capsule after splashdown from some sort of mission in outer space. What does one “recover” from? Is it “mental health”, “mental health problems”, “mental health conditions”, specific “disorders”, “overwhelm” (that word is used at one point), “mental illness”, or “issues”? I can easily imagine some little overeager hypochondriac scribbling all of the above.

You could certainly spend a lot of time going through the various files in your cabinet, labeled after the various “mentals”, if you were industrious enough. Notice, the file labeled “recovery” is way down there in the alphabet, and you might never get there if you spent a great deal of time on the other subjects. Okay, and I suppose, if you never wanted to get there in the first place, “disability” pays, or hadn’t you noticed.

Alright. Enough already. Maybe I should slip the “mental patient” gloves back on before somebody gets “triggered”, and going “ballistic”, in the “acting out” department, accuses me of “stigmatizing” him or her. All of these expressions have a way of going to a person’s head, kind of like hard liquor, or an awards ceremony. You’ve got to remember, some folks are brittle, and more fragile than glass. Especially when they’ve read the literature, and they believe such and such to be as true as Jesus. We are not dealing with ordinary people after all.


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