December 10, 2013

"Behavioral Health?" What does that even mean?


That's the term for what I guess I don't have.  At least not right now.

Long ago, the head of a social services agency told me that "behavioral health" was meant to be a kinder, gentler term than "mental health." 

Well, I think it's demeaning.  And I told him so.  To me it sounds like, "If those crazy people would just behave better, they wouldn't have all this trouble."

The term has been around for years, but what does it mean?

Definition of "behavioral"


Definition 1a in the Merriam Webster online dictionary defines "behavior" as "the manner of conducting oneself ."  It also lists synonyms for "behavior" as "actions, address, bearing, comportment, conduct, demeanor, deportment, and geste."  "Behavioral" is listed as an adjective related to behavior..
 
An article in the online Encyclopedia Britannica defines "behavioral science" as "any of various disciplines dealing with the subject of human actions . . ."

Definition of "health"


And definition 1a for "health" in Merriam Webster online is "the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit . . . ." 

Britannica calls it "the extent of an individual’s continuing physical, emotional, mental, and social ability to cope with his environment."  

Definition of "behavioral health"


So let's put that together.  "Behavioral" describes human actions and "health" means sound and able to cope.   

As near as I can figure it, then, "behavioral health" would mean that my actions are sound and allow me to cope adequately with my environment.

So what does this have to do with depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other so-called "mental illnesses?" 

Nothing!

Does "behavioral health" mean that if my actions were sound I would be able to cope with life without getting a mental illness?  That's sure what it sounds like.  Well, that's incorrect.  And it pisses me off.

If we talk about breast cancer, the absence of the illness is called "breast health."  And for those with diabetes, there is a magazine called "Diabetes Health." 

Since the term for such diseases as major depression and schizophrenia is "mental illness," why not just call the absence of such diseases "mental health?"  Or, since these illnesses are brain disorders, how about "brain health?" 

But, please, I beg you, don't call it "behavioral health."




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