Language is a huge part of our lives that we use every day. But are we looking at the effects it has and the stigma behind it? Our language these days can come off negatively and contain stereotypes when it relates to mental health challenge(s). How do we break these stigmas and negative stereotypes?
“Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) describes stigma as negative attitudes (prejudice) and negative behaviors (discrimination)” (MHFA, 2022). In order to break the stigma, society needs to have different attitudes when it comes to mental health in a more positive manner. Maybe that starts with society learning more about mental health and the mental health challenges there are. “1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year” (NIHM, 2022). With these statistics, something needs to change. One way we can start by breaking the stigma and stereotypes is by changing our language.
“Studies show that a better understanding of the experiences of people with mental health and substance use challenges can reduce or eliminate stigma and discrimination. Using person-first language is a great place to start, as it helps validate individuals’ experiences without reducing them to a diagnosis or condition. It also fosters greater understanding, dignity, and respect for everyone, whether they are experiencing mental health challenges or not” (Mental Health First Aid).
Let’s break some common stereotypes used in language toward mental health.
Instead of this.. Try this.
|Crazy||Person living with a mental health challenge|
|Depressed||Person living with depression|
|Addict||Person with a substance use challenge|
|Drug Abuse||Substance use challenge or crisis|
|Committed Suicide||Died by suicide or lost to suicide|
|Failed Suicide||Attempted suicide|
By using these new phrases instead of the old phrases that we are so used to, we can start the process of breaking the stigma and negative stereotypes about mental health.
If you are trying to learn more about stigma and language towards mental health or more about mental health conditions visit Mental Health First Aid, National Alliance on Mental Illness, or visit this link so you can practice using person-first language.
Use Person-First Language to Reduce Stigma
NIMH » Mental Illness
Prevalence of Any Mental Illness (AMI) Figure 1 shows the past year prevalence of AMI among U.S. adults. In 2020, there were an estimated 52.9 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States with AMI. This number represented 21.0% of all U.S. adults. The prevalence of AMI was higher among females (25.8%) than males (15.8%).
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