Good questions, I though. I remember in my ‘Abnormal Psychology’ classes we used to discuss all kinds of tests –IQ tests, personality tests, aptitude tests, etc. Every time something new was introduced, my friends and I would try to analyze what was wrong with us (we started out wanting to find evidence of our superior intelligence but showed up at other end of the spectrum. We blamed it on the fact that there were no IQ tests standardized for the Indian population in those days). A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing here.
Most of us go through rough patches-from childhood onwards. We learn from our mistakes, accept whatever well meaning support (even the back handed kind) we get without too much damage and promise ourselves that next time, we’ll be able to handle the problem much better. Some people build defenses that help avoid the trouble or the pain. But are we all certifiable? (If you look on the net, it certainly seems like it).
Children are very resilient. Does that mean we let them get on with it? No!
Mental health is a continuum…on one side the child (or adult) is productive, has positive relationships, able to handle change/stress/challenges. One of my friends who has Bi Polar Disorder says it must be like attaining self awareness through meditation-extremely fleeting:)
In the middle lies the child who faces some level of difficulty-unable to function to the best of her ability-socially, intellectually and unable to adapt to circumstances smoothly. With timely support, the child can learn to deal with the problem at that moment but also retain those coping skills for other times. No guarantees in life, right?
For some children (and adults) the need is more complex. The difficulties are present for a significant period of time. The intensity is such that it causes emotional pain and an inability to function within normal parameters. This pain and dysfunction over a significant time frame classifies it as more than a problem, as an illness. The key is that a person’s normal everyday functioning is affected.
In my case, cleaning carpets with a toothbrush is relaxing (because it feels very clean to me) but I can get by with a vacuum cleaner. On very hectic days, I don’t even think about cleaning the carpet.
Describing someone’s behavior as ‘mental, demented, loose, and mad’ are insulting and offensive-not because it is politically incorrect but because it is lacking in human dignity.