What's in a name?

6 December 2014 2 minute read

No-one likes being called names, but mental health services seem at times to be obsessed with doing just that, attaching labels and definitions to our experiences. It is called "giving a diagnosis" and is usually necessary before any sort of treatment can be offered. And strangely, for many people, this provides a comfort, some sort of validation of what is going on. Totally new or unusual events seems to be much less frightening if we know that others have been through something similar, or that an eminent professional knows what is occurring with us even when we don't. What's more, the expert will often tell us that they now know what to do to help, which is often what we are longing to hear.

But what happens when the label doesn't seem to fit? Or keeps being changed? Or has been given bad publicity in your local paper? Or if the person who gave you the label then insists that they know what the treatment is, and it's really not a treatment that you want to engage in? What if the label you are given brings with a whole new set of problems to add to the ones that you already had?

Sometimes labels can bring comfort, it's true, but sometimes it may be more helpful to remember that we're all unique, and that we might need love and support no matter what difficulties we face.

I might not be an expert in mental health. I might not be a professional who is able to name what you are experiencing. I might not have access to the treatment you require.

I might, however, be able to sit with you in your distress, call you by your name, and offer you my hand if you need it. And I might not be the only one. If you are looking for a place of acceptance you might find it in an unexpected place. Your work colleagues, a neighbour, your local church.

And they won't call you names.