Words Matter

Focusing on use of language is often the first place to start addressing social exclusion and discrimination against people with mental illnesses.  Stigmatization, prejudice, and discrimination are deeply embedded in our language, in our beliefs, and in the way we interact with one another. Though a mental illness is only one aspect of an individual’s life, all too often the label alone bars that person from achieving a self-directed life with meaningful connections to his or her community.

Words can limit potential. People with mental illnesses want to be known for their skills, talents, and abilities, not for their diagnosis or "label."

  • Avoid labeling people by their diagnosis. Instead of saying, “She’s a schizophrenic,” say, “She has schizophrenia.” 
  • Terms such as "crazy" or "nuts" reinforce the discrimination and negative attitudes associated with mental illnesses and often keep those who need and want help from seeking treatment.

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