By Caitlin Stark
CN: Feeling low, suicide, self-harm,
bipolar, psychosis, anxiety
‘How would you rate your mood today, on a scale of one to ten?’
It’s a question I hate, but we are creatures of categorisation and putting numbers on mood is, in my experience at least, a staple of accessing mental health services. Mood scales are so often defined by what question the person in front of you thinks is best, with a helpful smattering of society’s love of 5 and 10 point scales. But the person in front of you is not inside your head, and counting systems weren’t created with this in mind. To reclaim the mood scale into a genuinely useful day-to-day tool we must define what is right for each of us individually. This can be a daunting task, so here are some steps to get started writing a scale which works for you.
- Decide the purpose of this scale, or the ‘question’ the scale is answering. Something that rates your general mood level that day will be different to something used to communicate how you are at that exact moment. Something you want to use when you’re in a bad place may have to have fewer categories, and so fewer decisions, than something you’ll be using when you’re more on top of things.
- Work out the different answers first, and then allocate them numbers/colours/whatever. We tend to arbitrarily mark everything out of ten and this often isn’t helpful. Do you really know the difference between a three and a four? Does someone trying to help you know the difference?
- Acknowledge the imperfection. Your mood is complex, and cannot be perfectly reduced to a single functional scale. The aim of this exercise is to create something which is useful in making communication, either with other people or with yourself, easier and more effective. It doesn’t have to be perfect to do that.
The first usable system I encountered. It’s a pretty good general scale, and a good starting point.
The idea of this one was to make asking for help through text or Messenger easier; helping friends to gauge how severe things are.
|Are you up to going out this evening?|
|2||Don’t really feel like it, but I also think it would be good for me to get out and do something.|
|3||Yes – let’s go|
This was worked out during a holiday. I’ve included it to show just how simple you can get – this provided exactly the functionality and level of detail I needed of it at the time.
A useful scale by Bipolar UK.