Does it bother you? Don’t trivialize mental illness

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By Olivia Ritter ’17

Photo by Isabel Tabs

Does it bother you how often the phrases “I want to kill myself” or “I have OCD” are thrown around in casual conversation? It’s hard to ignore the constant use of these expressions, which have become go-to responses in times of stress or frustration. The problem with saying things like “I’m gonna kill myself” so loosely is: you don’t know who is in earshot of you. To you, you’re just expressing aggravation or you’re “100 percent done.”
But to someone with depression, you’re normalizing the feelings that they may have on a regular basis, feelings that they struggle with every day.
The same goes for throwing around “I have such OCD” when you’re talking about how neat your Precalculus binder is. People who are afflicted with obsessive compulsive disorder are not simply “neat freaks.” According to Psychology Today, OCD is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated obsessions and engage in behaviors or mental acts in response to these thoughts or obsessions.
So, in reality, when you’re saying “I want to kill myself” or “I’m going to kill myself,” all you really mean is you don’t want to take that Anatomy test or you have a bad grade in English. Yeah, that stuff sucks but depression is definitely worse and I think that should be obvious. Just because your papers are in order, doesn’t mean you have a condition that can debilitate people.
Most people would be lying if they said they had never uttered the words “I just wanna die” after a particularly tough day. I understand that they mean no harm.They might just be the first things that come to mind when you’re a bit too stressed or just overcome with frustration.
But even though the expressions mean no harm, the facts still remain; 2.8 million teenagers experience depression in the U.S., according to adolescent advice source, Teen Help, and 3.3 million people have OCD, according to Understanding OCD, a website dedicated to OCD awareness.
The real issue is when people with depression hear someone complain that they “want to kill themselves” is that it delegitimizes their illness. When someone declares that they would rather commit suicide than take a math test, it takes away the seriousness and true struggle actual people with depression deal with. These are the people who may feel this kind of sadness or frustration on a daily basis and could have intensive psychotherapy to control it.
Like I said, I know these phrases have no deeper meaning than to conve
y annoyance at a teacher or a class. However, there’s no way of knowing if there’s someone around who may be thinking the exact same thing, but, the difference is, they’re not kidding.
So next time you’re complaining about a major test you forgot to study for or a teacher that’s just rubbing you the wrong way, think about those numbers of people who struggle with OCD and depression every day.