I’m sick of the word of the “mental” 54



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Trigger warning: This article could be triggering for some readers.

I wish there was another word to identify health issues that relate to illness of the brain other than ‘mental’.

My first introduction to the stigma of ‘mental illness’ was after having found my Mum. I was fourteen. Her untimely death meant that I would have to lie – ‘She had a brain haemorrhage’ was the explanation we were told to give.

30 years later, I had to stop lying. Genetic or not, I too had my life turned upside down by this insidious illness called ‘depression’. I’d suffered my fair share of the ‘trials and tribulations’ of life but nothing would compare to this. Medication that didn’t work for me; treatments that have left me with huge gaps in my memory; endless sessions with psychologists and the knowledge that if I couldn’t understand this illness, how could those who cared about me do. Recently, we had ‘R U OK’ day – a worthy sentiment, but not much help if you only ask the question once a year and are not prepared for the answer. Most people who suffer depression are acutely aware of being a ‘burden’ to those who care about them so most will answer, ‘I’m fine’.

In my experience, ‘depression’ is the most debilitating of all illnesses. I’ve experienced cancer – a breeze in comparison. What saddens me most is that 25 per cent of the population will experience this illness, yet, comparatively, little funding is offered to those who research it.

It’s not all ‘doom and gloom’. Like many who suffer chronic illness, we either succumb or learn to live with it and live our lives as cheerfully as we can – for the sake of ourselves and those that love and care about us.

As we age, many will fall fowl of the ‘Black Dog’ – to one degree or another. Being sensitive to the changes in the mood of our friends; calling them just to have a chat; …….the smallest of gestures can make an enormous difference.

Today the sun is out; the sky is blue; it’s not too chilly and whilst I’ve got a bloody cold; my ankle is still giving me gip but is improving and I really need to have a shower, it’s a good day!

Time to make a coffee; sit in the sun for a little while; force myself to have that shower I’ve been contemplating and hope that someone reads my ‘blog’!


Lifeline provides all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to online, phone and face-to-face crisis support and suicide prevention services. If you or someone you know is at risk, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Susan Leighton

  1. Depression takes all you are as a person, it is so difficult. I have had this for over 30 years with periods of being well. It makes you know how amazing you do feel when you are well. I am now studying to be a counsellor as I feel I could help other people going through very hard times

  2. Even if there was another word the illness would still be there.

    2 REPLY
    • You are right, Wendy, it would. I guess I dislike the word because of what was conjured up in the minds of those during the 60’s when my Mum died.

    • Yes it would but perhaps a new name might distract from the unwarranted stigma of the word ‘mental’ and people might be more open to learning more about depression and learning how to help. People have to understand that there is no real difference between mental and physical illness, they are both illnesses. Depression is however is the more cruel I think. Having been there for someone I care about very much for many years I have learned that unless you have it you cannot understand what the person is going through and perhaps the only way you can help is to listen

  3. if we talk and understand— mental will have no stigma

    1 REPLY
    • Acknowledge, discuss and understand – these three words are tantamount to fathoming what goes on in our ‘minds’. What goes on in our brain influences every facet of our lives, including the physical. I just wish more funding was given to this research.

  4. I don’t care what they call it, it makes no difference.
    I am bipolar and most of the time I am fine these days. I have always used the word,’condition’, instead of illness.
    And I was more than happy to be diagnosed bipolar all of those years ago, I was terrified it might be Schizophrenia!
    Its all relative and there are always people worse off.
    The only stigma I have felt is when I was called,’spoiled,’ and ‘skinny,’ when I was a child.

    1 REPLY
    • Hi Philomena, I too have bipolar & felt quite a relief when I was diagnosed also. I then developed Agoraphobia which meant I wasn’t going very far – thankfully I have a Carer & I have managed to control both conditions. I have good medical professionals & I too, look at the sunny days, peaceful nights & a good life in Australlia.

  5. Have an ex daughter in law who has mental health issues and while I try to be sympathetic it does get wearing when it’s the reason for every stupid decision she makes especially when she looks after my 12yr old grand daughter!

  6. How about we call it M.B.B.D. Memory bank break down or B.F. Brain Fatigue? A rose is a rose be it any other name. More empathy, compassion and understanding needed.

  7. Thank you so much for this good insight,and I’m so glad the sun shines for you on this day. It is indeed a debilitating condition and unless you’ve been in the depths of it, there is no way you could understand,what falling into that dark pit feels like. I also wonder about the “word depression” .Maybe, it should have another couple of words thrown in. “Repression”and “Suppression”, would tell how many thoughts and turmoil are are being contained and also how much feeling and emotion are pushed down.Then it could be called,”DRS”,and I’m sure,that would attract funding and make?fundraisers so much easier! (Tongue in cheek!) Depression is so easy to just dismiss as a sort of self inflicted state that you should just be able to “snap” out of. So,I’d be in favour of a name change if if would attract more funding for Research and understanding,as well as a CURE for something that cuts your legs from under you and stops your life for the duration of its grabbing hold of you. Thanks to the Black Dog for their great work and those Riders spreading awareness.

    2 REPLY
    • Thank you, Catherine. The brain is the most complex organ in our bodies and determines how we think, react, respond and influence every other facet of our bodies. However more funding is attracted by the ‘physical’ rather than the ‘mental’ aspects of how our bodies behave. That has to change.

  8. It is good to have an avenue to express your feelings, thank you. Many of us will relate to this and it is so good when the sun does eventually shine again.

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