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bearlikecher October 2, 2022

Thanks for opening up the conversation. Long comment, in coming! If you make it to the end there'll be a joke for ya.

I talk to young people about mental health for a living and I'm also studying Psychology and have been taught by Nick Haslam, I always appreciate his expertise on these issues. In my work and studies about mental health stigma reduction (which is still a fairly new field) I learn about how stigma can grow and change, and how important it is to have professionals in the field guiding the general public to correct misinformation and to explain language and concepts to everyday folk. Easy access to plain language information is more important than ever.

I hadn't heard of "concept creep" before this article, but in the literature I came across the idea of "trivialisation", basically stigma's cousin, and is quite similar to what you've already discussed in this article. The mis/overuse of words that trivialise a legitimate mental health experience. And it seeps into daily life before we know it sometimes, and sometimes it's because mental health is becoming less of a taboo in certain ways which means people are having conversations about their mental health, which is great!

Unfortunately, however, recent studies have shown that although our personal "echo chambers" may not be as prevalent in discussing certain mental health issues amongst the public on social media as we may have thought (Instagram and Twitter, in the case of the studies), there is evidence of a significant echo chamber when it comes to mental health professionals. It appears that professionals may be ending up (whether intentionally or algorithmically) talking amongst themselves.

Basically, the word isn't getting out about what terms like "trauma" and even "anxiety", "trigger" or "depression" even mean, because they are clinical words and remained so until recently. Researchers also think that this could be a factor contributing to a decrease in help-seeking behaviour, because people of all ages are getting their information from people with their own individual experience, from unreliable sources or from people who they believe to be professionals, but are not.

It's so important that we all gain understanding that every single person is unique. People go through years and years of study and then research to attempt to understand the unique biological, social and environmental ingredients that contribute to each of our individual risk and protective factors when it comes to developing mental ill health or a disorder. That's why watching TikTok therapists talk so generally about these issues can actually cause someone who is suffering in silence to feel worse and more alone. Working with a therapist one on one to recover or manage symptoms means that our treatment can be exactly tailored for us - that's how it works! 

We know that about 1/3 of people who go through a traumatic event (which in itself is a complicated clinical definition, see the revision of the DSM-5 if you're interested) then go on to develop PTSD. Top people in psychology around the world are still all arguing about the specifics of C-PTSD. These concepts are living and breathing and change slightly with every new issue of any diagnostic criteria.

So for me, it feels less about telling people not to use clinical language, but informing people of the actual clinical use of the word, and giving new language to try out. For example, instead of "trauma" to describe, say, our car breaking down, we could just say we had a really terrible experience, or to acknowledge that we were affected by it, or I always tell high schoolers that I say "having a roughie" or "devo" - even make up words! Use slang! Make it fun! (lol)

I'll be eagerly awaiting ideas that people much wiser than me (and maybe some of my own, one day) come up with and implement to help curb this issue. Would love to hear others' thoughts, feelings etc.

Joke time, make sure u say the answer aloud: Did u hear about the beans that travelled around Australia?

They ended up in Cairns