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Do We Label Too Fast?

Do We Label Too Fast

Nowadays, it can sometimes seem almost everyone has a mental health issue or learning disorder. But, are we too quick to label people, or is it that we are more aware of the problems? This article looks at some of the issues surrounding these sensitive questions.

Forty years ago, an unruly, disruptive child was just that and would probably be punished for naughty behaviour. A withdrawn, surly teenager was also seen as best ignored and left to grow out of it.

Today, parents and teachers know that such behaviours may indicate a mental health problem that might need medical intervention. A doctor might give the unruly child a diagnosis of  ADHD or the surly teenager with depression. They might receive treatment with psychotherapy or medication.

While we once judged and punished anyone who didn’t fit in with the standards required by society, our increased awareness of mental health has led to a more supportive, compassionate view. This is good. Whatever the origins and nature of challenging behaviours, people need help to cope with their problems.

The outcomes of labelling

The question remains: are we too quick to label and apply a medical model to troubled individuals? Labelling, especially the labelling of children and young people, will have repercussions because kids are intuitive and very quick to pick up on things. So there are situations where labelling is appropriate and others where labelling might not be the best solution.

Positive outcomes

• Identifying special needs

Some children require individualised attention to fulfil their potential in life, both at school and in the home. Labelling allows teachers and parents to identify children with additional needs and provide the resources they require.

• Education plans

Thanks to the labelling mentioned above, teachers and caregivers can develop individual plans to assist these youngsters with their education. One of the most significant positive outcomes of labelling is the provision of extra support where it is required.

• Funding

With a label or medical diagnosis may come government support and funding to finance the resources needed to help these children.

• Behaviour

Finding out what is causing a particular behaviour or personality trait is a positive result of labelling as it promotes more understanding and tolerance from others.

• Support groups

A diagnosis or label allows those with similar experiences to come together in a peer group. Support groups are helpful not only to the individuals concerned but also to their families.

Negative outcomes

Labelling can also have negative effects:

• Low self-esteem

Labelling sometimes makes youngsters feel they are stupid and will never be able to do well. As a result, they may develop “learned helplessness” and low self-esteem.

• Bullying

Labelling can cause kids to be treated differently and can lead to bullying for being different. Being marginalised amongst classmates and peers because of a label is totally unacceptable, but sadly, it can still happen.

• Mapping out their life

Hearing the same label over and over influences a child’s self-image, whether or not the label is accurate. The child may then have difficulty reconciling the real world with the false label that their family has embedded in their mind.

• Lowered expectations

Labelling youngsters can lead to lowered expectations from their parents and teachers. And if caregivers have low expectations, the child will also expect to fail.

• Teasing

Like bullying, the child might find their classmates making fun of their learning disability. So the child may not make friends easily or not want to go to school.

• Labels stick

While children grow and continue to change, it’s hard to shake off labels. Negative reputations tend to be remembered, and this hampers a child’s emotional and mental development.

• Pressure

Positive labels can also present a problem as children can feel under pressure to perform well all the time. For example, if a child is labelled as gifted and talented in an academic subject, they may find that the pressure on them increases as they get older. This pressure may become unbearable, reaching a breaking point in their later life.

• Understanding

Following on from the above, children might not have the capacity to understand that labels are not permanent. If they are continually labelled a certain way, they start believing it. This makes it hard to change the path that has been set for them. For example, a youngster who has been called musical from their early years might start to feel guilty and anxious if they realise that they are not as interested in music as they used to be. They can feel they are failing and losing their sense of purpose.

A final thought

Labels are very useful as a tool and are essential when an individual requires special support. However, we should never forget that some people may use them as a weapon, and there are some cases where “emphasising normality” may be more helpful than a medical diagnosis.

For both children and adults, it is vital to remember that no one is just a label or diagnosis, and no label is the person. The diagnosis is merely one aspect of the individual. They will have many other qualities and traits in their personality. So parents and teachers should first consider the child as a whole before exploring the ways in which labelling might affect them.


Sources:

https://www.nursingtimes.net/roles/mental-health-nurses/mental-health-diagnosis-looking-at-a-grey-area-through-a-critical-lens-20-09-2021/

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/24/mental-health-labels-diagnosis-study-psychiatrists

Created by Tom Vermeersch ()

Tom Vermeersch

Tom Vermeersch is a certified Psychologist and Bach flower expert with more than 30 years of experience.

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Do We Label Too Fast?

Do We Label Too Fast?
Do We Label Too Fast

Nowadays, it can sometimes seem almost everyone has a mental health issue or learning disorder. But, are we too quick to label people, or is it that we are more aware of the problems? This article looks at some of the issues surrounding these sensitive questions.

Forty years ago, an unruly, disruptive child was just that and would probably be punished for naughty behaviour. A withdrawn, surly teenager was also seen as best ignored and left to grow out of it.

Today, parents and teachers know that such behaviours may indicate a mental health problem that might need medical intervention. A doctor might give the unruly child a diagnosis of  ADHD or the surly teenager with depression. They might receive treatment with psychotherapy or medication.

While we once judged and punished anyone who didn’t fit in with the standards required by society, our increased awareness of mental health has led to a more supportive, compassionate view. This is good. Whatever the origins and nature of challenging behaviours, people need help to cope with their problems.

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The outcomes of labelling

The question remains: are we too quick to label and apply a medical model to troubled individuals? Labelling, especially the labelling of children and young people, will have repercussions because kids are intuitive and very quick to pick up on things. So there are situations where labelling is appropriate and others where labelling might not be the best solution.

Positive outcomes

• Identifying special needs

Some children require individualised attention to fulfil their potential in life, both at school and in the home. Labelling allows teachers and parents to identify children with additional needs and provide the resources they require.

• Education plans

Thanks to the labelling mentioned above, teachers and caregivers can develop individual plans to assist these youngsters with their education. One of the most significant positive outcomes of labelling is the provision of extra support where it is required.

• Funding

With a label or medical diagnosis may come government support and funding to finance the resources needed to help these children.

• Behaviour

Finding out what is causing a particular behaviour or personality trait is a positive result of labelling as it promotes more understanding and tolerance from others.

• Support groups

A diagnosis or label allows those with similar experiences to come together in a peer group. Support groups are helpful not only to the individuals concerned but also to their families.

Negative outcomes

Labelling can also have negative effects:

• Low self-esteem

Labelling sometimes makes youngsters feel they are stupid and will never be able to do well. As a result, they may develop “learned helplessness” and low self-esteem.

• Bullying

Labelling can cause kids to be treated differently and can lead to bullying for being different. Being marginalised amongst classmates and peers because of a label is totally unacceptable, but sadly, it can still happen.

• Mapping out their life

Hearing the same label over and over influences a child’s self-image, whether or not the label is accurate. The child may then have difficulty reconciling the real world with the false label that their family has embedded in their mind.

• Lowered expectations

Labelling youngsters can lead to lowered expectations from their parents and teachers. And if caregivers have low expectations, the child will also expect to fail.

• Teasing

Like bullying, the child might find their classmates making fun of their learning disability. So the child may not make friends easily or not want to go to school.

• Labels stick

While children grow and continue to change, it’s hard to shake off labels. Negative reputations tend to be remembered, and this hampers a child’s emotional and mental development.

• Pressure

Positive labels can also present a problem as children can feel under pressure to perform well all the time. For example, if a child is labelled as gifted and talented in an academic subject, they may find that the pressure on them increases as they get older. This pressure may become unbearable, reaching a breaking point in their later life.

• Understanding

Following on from the above, children might not have the capacity to understand that labels are not permanent. If they are continually labelled a certain way, they start believing it. This makes it hard to change the path that has been set for them. For example, a youngster who has been called musical from their early years might start to feel guilty and anxious if they realise that they are not as interested in music as they used to be. They can feel they are failing and losing their sense of purpose.

A final thought

Labels are very useful as a tool and are essential when an individual requires special support. However, we should never forget that some people may use them as a weapon, and there are some cases where “emphasising normality” may be more helpful than a medical diagnosis.

For both children and adults, it is vital to remember that no one is just a label or diagnosis, and no label is the person. The diagnosis is merely one aspect of the individual. They will have many other qualities and traits in their personality. So parents and teachers should first consider the child as a whole before exploring the ways in which labelling might affect them.


Sources:

https://www.nursingtimes.net/roles/mental-health-nurses/mental-health-diagnosis-looking-at-a-grey-area-through-a-critical-lens-20-09-2021/

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/24/mental-health-labels-diagnosis-study-psychiatrists


Marie Pure

Other articles


Can you accept things you can't change Take our quiz!

Can you accept things you can't change? Take our quiz!

Your relationship ends, or you lose your job, and you get stuck in a rut of negative thoughts and suffering. How good are you at letting go of grudges and accepting that some things are beyond your control? Take our quiz to find out!

Read the complete article

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Going back to school during a pandemic is a new experience for everyone, and it's understandable if children are feeling anxious about it. We take a look at some of the issues and how you can help your child to get ready for returning to the classroom.

Read the complete article

Six things we think will make us happy, but don't!

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When you think about things that will make you happy, what are the images that come to mind? Wealth, beauty, a dream house, long holidays, a top of the range car? Happiness is not a constant and how happy we feel depends on the way we choose to live our lives. 

Read the complete article

Why a life without stress and obstacles is unrewarding

Why a life without stress and obstacles is unrewarding

Stress can be both good and bad; it’s up to you how you look at it. But too much stress can be dangerous. Read more about stress in this article!

Read the complete article

verleden-loslaten

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Lynn Anderson told it very nicely in her song “I beg your pardon; I never promised you a rose garden”. Life isn’t all roses and everybody experiences something they would rather not once in their life.

Read the complete article

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It's often difficult to say no, but some people never do! So how do you know when to say no and when to say yes?

Read the complete article

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It's natural to compare our own lives with those of others - weighing up the pros and cons of situations helps us make decisions. But there can be a downside when you find you're constantly comparing yourself with others, envying their seemingly perfect lives and wondering why they are luckier, more prosperous, and better looking than you.

Read the complete article

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