Vernacular mental health terms are used in everyday language as a nonspecific indicator of extreme value judgement or deviation from an expectation or norm. Examples of words include 'crazy', 'cray', 'insane', 'whack', 'mental', and 'retarded'. I think we can criticise the language on numerous grounds:
- It normalises poor mental health as something extreme or atypical
- Where the language is used to connote a negative value judgement (example 3) it reinforces the association that "poor mental health" = "bad"
- It can be triggering to people with mental health issues because of the way they are or their condition is perceived or because of experiences they have had
- It can be imprecise, in the sense that there are often more contextually appropriate words to describe the specific quality being discussed
- "This new track from Lone is insane!" -- positive use cf. 'extremely good'
- "I can't believe Tesla bought all that BTC, that's insane!" -- neutral use, no value or ethical judgement, observing deviation from typical or expected behaviour cf. 'unexpected'
- "Trump is fucking insane" -- negative use cf. 'extremely bad'
- 'wild' -- I use this particularly for positive and neutral connotations
- 'ridiculous' -- for the negative connotation
- Something more specific to the context, e.g. "Trump is fucking evil", or "This new track is banging", or "I had a hectic morning" instead of "I had a crazy morning"
- Why has 'retarded' faced so much backlash and fallen out of acceptable usage, but other terms like 'crazy' have not?
- Are the criticisms valid and do they apply to all of the examples? Are there more grounds to criticise this language on that I have not listed?
- Are there other ways the language is used which is not covered in the examples?
- What alternatives do you use?
- Is use of crazy/insane/mental/... common in non-English languages? If not, what is used instead?
Thanks for your input! 🙏