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  • Kennedy McLean

Positive Power of a Label

I often hear “labels put people into boxes” or “labels are pathologizing.”

I understand that having a diagnosis or label can feel limiting. For some, it can feel like a life sentence. By being assigned this label they are now doomed to a life of misery. I would add that the misery is often the reason for the label in the first place rather than the other way around (at least with respect to mental health diagnoses), but getting back to my point.


What if this diagnosis instead could be re-framed? Rather than being viewed as a life sentence, it was regarded as a valuable tool. Imagine if we saw a diagnosis as a key that gives us access to information about what is going on, what might be helpful, and what won't be.


Here is an example:

If you are depressed and are complaining that you are tired and your doctor just tells you to sleep more without recognizing that you have depression, you probably aren't going to get any better. Sometimes the diagnosis does matter.


Having a diagnosis also might be important for example if you are fatigued at school or work and your performance is suffering. Your teacher/ boss may assume any number of things that reflect poorly on you or your dedication which may not be the truth.

Of course, it is always your right not to disclose a diagnosis, but having that choice is important. Being able to explain how depression affects you is important. Without the label, you can’t do this.


I would say the same for social events. I won't pretend that your friends will all understand mental health but you may find that they are more receptive to you if they know you are depressed than if you just repeatedly tell them you can’t make their birthdays, baby showers or other important events.


There is never a guarantee that others will meet your needs but the more you are educated about your own needs and able to vocalize this, the more opportunity there is for others to meet you where you are at.