Last week, Kaiser Health News published a thought-provoking article, “Words Can Wound: How The Media Describe The Mentally Ill And Disabled.” The article addresses the importance of language usage when referring to mental health. Although the article primarily focused on the media’s language usage, it reminded me that despite our progress to de-stigmatize the concept of mental health, there is still work to be done. Words like “psycho,” “crazy” and “nutjob” continue to perpetuate stigma and negative stereotypes.
The Hogg Foundation created a brochure entitled “Language Matters in Mental Health.” It emphasizes that language is critical and that the words we choose and the meanings we attach to them can significantly influence our feelings, attitudes and beliefs about mental health.
Everyone deserves to be treated with respect. That being said, a mental health condition is not something that just “that person has.” It is estimated that one out of every four people will experience a diagnosable mental disorder in their lifetime. One in four! People with mental health conditions are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters… you get the point.
Respect the people around you by thinking about the words you use and develop the skills necessary to communicate respectfully. Join us in changing our language usage when describing a person with a mental health condition.Our society, our communities, our family members and you will benefit from it.