The other day my husband and I were watching Jeopardy and a most interesting category appeared – “Depressing Quotes”. Neither the host nor the contestants seemed to think this was an unusual or inappropriate name for a category and no comments were made. The category was about quotes from poems or something like that.
As I noted in an earlier post, language matters. There are more than 250,000 distinct words in the English language and the writers at Jeopardy couldn’t come up with a better name for a category than that? Do they even know how many of their viewers suffer from a mental illness or are affected by mental illness and could or do find that so insulting and (insert possible expletive remark here). Are you telling me they couldn’t find a better word to describe those quotes?
This goes back to my feelings about how mental illnesses should not be used as adjectives. Out of curiosity (and anger) I googled “depression definition” and this came up:
So where in the 5 possible definitions of the word depression would “depressing quotes” fit in? Were the quotes supposed to evoke feelings of depression and sadness for the contestants/viewers? I guess this is the unfortunate reality, that “depressing” is part of many people’s everyday vocabulary, and it is a convenient word used to describe quotes, the weather or situations.
I doubt that the show’s writers meant to be insulting and I’ll still watch the show. There are usually many categories I enjoy (hence why I watch the show all week). The names of the categories have to be short, fine. I am not making up excuses for them, I will just say I hope that the media learns to choose words wisely, because us mental health advocates are here to stay.
I guess I was bothered by that category because the name of the category was read out so many times, since there are 5 clues in each category and the name of the category was read out a total of 6 times if you include the time the host of the show reads it out while listing the categories. It’s just hearing something you don’t want to hear on repeat.
Another example of this issue with wording (although it was written many years ago) is from an episode of Married With Children, where Peggy sees signs of Elvis, has all these Elvis fans visit her home and once they’ve moved on from her house, she says to Al, when he asks her where everyone went, “Oh Al. I’m so depressed.” And Al, who had a great idea to sell hundreds of pairs of blue suede shoes to these fans and brought them home (to an empty house), says, “Me too Peg” or something like that. I just sighed. I mean it was a silly show and this episode was from the late 80’s or early 90’s, but still, it bothers me, and not because I am sensitive.
Maybe before I had a diagnosis and was really self-aware and accepted my diagnosis I wouldn’t have cared as much about these things. I want people to know why the words we use matter and to help educate, to help change people’s views about stigma and mental illness (even if it’s just one person at a time). I just won’t stand for people saying “it’s all in your head” or “other people have real problems” or for people calling inanimate objects bipolar, someone who has too many drinks one night an alcoholic, speculating if someone who displays erratic behaviour has a mental illness etc. It’s not their job to diagnose – leave that to the professionals, and don’t deter someone from seeking treatment if they need it or want it because they are afraid to due to stigma and judgment.
About Melanie Luxenberg
My name is Melanie Luxenberg and I am finally ready to live openly with mental illness. I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in 2003, which I still experience. At the same time, I was diagnosed with Social Anxiety (which I also still experience), and then briefly experienced Agoraphobia. I have had depression on and off since I was 13 years old. In July 2010 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II. Shortly after it was realized that I experienced rapid cycling. I can experience multiple cycles in a week. Despite my diagnosis, I completed a university degree and then a college program. I have always held stable employment, regularly taken my medication and regularly attended my doctor’s appointments. There have been times of hopelessness, but I have always found support from my family, husband and 3 dogs. I am a law clerk, social media/content writer and of course, mental health advocate. My Twitter feed is full of mental health advocacy messages. I hope one day to see the end of stigma towards mental illness, because stigma has to stop!